The sheer volume and speed of the news over the past year or more has left many of us feeling like our heads are spinning. Just when a lull appears to be coming our way, another domestic or international crisis hits. The upheaval has left many people feeling uprooted and dispirited, or at least wondering how they—and, we as nation—can make our way forward. There’s no better time for a re: union in America than now.
“Re: union” is a powerful idea. In our personal lives, it often invokes the good feelings of a “family” or “school” reunion. In public life, this little word makes a big entreaty to us. It asks us to do something—but not just anything, something meaningful: to step forward, to join back with others we have lost sight of or turned away from, to put something back together again; to re-create something we can do only together.
We live in a time when technology allows us to connect with anyone, at anytime. And yet, despite this ability to connect, so many people feel disconnected from one another and especially from those who are different from us. There is a gnawing sense among many people of being isolated and fragmented. So many of us are running faster and harder, but worry we are somehow falling behind. Our politics and public life are toxic—filled by acrimony and divisiveness, with too many people thinking only about themselves.
Still, as I travel the country, I find a deep yearning among people to re-engage and reconnect. People want to come back into the public square. They want to join with others to make a difference. They want to work not simply for their own good, but the common good.
In short, people want a re: union.
But nothing is automatic. We know this, especially now. Simply wanting something and fulfilling it are two different things entirely. The fulfillment of our aspirations will take hard work, deliberate action, and each of us rolling up our sleeves.
Indeed, to bring about a re: union—or, put a better way, to create a path on which we are moving toward re: union—will require that we engage with each other differently. We must see and hear one another. We must learn to listen. We will need to create new avenues for making progress. All this will require that each of us steps forward and open ourselves up. This is the hard work we must do, and we must do it in ways that actually addresses core concerns people hold about the economy and jobs, education, health care, and other pressing issues.
The good news (and there is good news!) is that my own work in communities across the country provides plenty of evidence that Americans are ready, even willing, to take a new path. I plan on writing about the people I’ve met and spoken with in my travels and their path forward in this blog. Moreover, State of the Re: Union, through its programming, is giving voice to people’s own struggles and aspirations and the steps they are taking to make life better. The show is all about how people are living their lives today, and how people can come together to create a better society – for themselves, and for all of us.
That’s why I am so delighted that The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is partnering up with State of the Re: Union.
So, let’s keep moving, and through our words and actions let’s demonstrate what’s possible. It’s time, for a re: union.
A dynamic public speaker, Rich Harwood is a frequent keynote for foundations and national organizations. He is an expert contributor on national and syndicated media outlets including MSNBC, NPR, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN’s Inside Politics, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Special Report with Brit Hume, C-SPAN, and many others. He is also the author of Hope Unraveled: The people’s retreat and our way back (2005), Make Hope Real: How we can accelerate change for the public good (2008) and numerous studies, articles and essays chronicling vital issues of our time. His most recent written work, Why We’re Here: The Powerful Impact of Public Broadcasters When They Turn Outward, is being published and distributed in Spring 2011. You can follow him on twitter @RichHarwood and facebook.com/richharwood.
You can read Rich’s posts every Tuesday on State of the Re:Union’s website.