Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cincinnatus on Connecticut Avenue: A Day for Greatness

by Peter Brusoe

I generally write about politics, but today I want to reflect on the Greek root of that word, “πόλις” (polis), meaning citizenship or city. It differs from “δμος” (demos) in that citizenship generally indicated a higher moral duty to your neighbors and a higher civic obligation than merely living, but actively contributing to the welfare of the entire city. Monday was a great day to see citizenship on display in our Nation’s Capital.

My favorite quotation of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is this one:
“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve.”

This quotation goes to the core of what it means to be a citizen. Too often in a town that is filled with politics, we forget the Greek root of that word; Mayor Gray’s outstanding staff at ServeDC put together a wonderful event at the Martin Luther King Library. This event brought the DC Government together with Transitional Housing Corporation to prepare welcome packages for families in transition. This event involved everyday people, like you and me, putting together packets for families they may never meet but who were in need. This event brought together Washingtonians from all eight wards who volunteered their time and energy to put together welcome packages for families in transition.

While our fellow Washingtonians were hard at work, students from American University, George Washington University, Howard University, and the University of the District of Columbia planned other service projects with children, seniors, as well as school beautification projects. These students could have easily spent their day off from classes, studying or reading or doing other things. Instead they gave up their day off to perform deeds of service.

Up in Montgomery County, thousands of people filled the Marriott, some a few months old, others a few years short of the centennial mark. Some of them put together sandwiches for the less fortunate, others made greeting cards for veterans, and still others made these awesome hats for the homeless.

What made these events so special was the variety of people from all ages, all races, all parts of our community, coming together to serve and to make our community great.

How amazing would our city be if every day was Martin Luther King Day? Thanks to the talented staff at ServeDC and the thousands of nonprofits in Washington, DC, it could be. I encourage you to go visit ServeDC or the Montgomery County Volunteer Center to find an activity you could participate in.

Salute to a Civil Servant

In keeping with the theme of service, this month’s Salute to a Civil Servant goes to Jeannie Moran. Jeannie is the interim Director of ServeDC and has been overseeing the office since January 4, 2011, before which she was overseeing the emergency preparedness program for ServeDC. It was under her leadership that ServeDC successfully pulled off their weekend of service, and she did a simply stellar job.

I would note that Jeannie is an alumna of American University. While I did not know her during her time there, I am reminded of a quote that the Vice-President for Campus Life often said: "We teach our students to think about ideas, and then to transform those ideas into action, action into service.” I am hard pressed to think of anyone who better exemplifies that ideal of service expressed so eloquently by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.

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