The Ideal Can Be Real

In the early 1990’s, I had the opportunity to participate in the creation of AmeriCorps, the federal national service program. One of the people I worked with and continue to admire is  Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year and candidate for US Senate in Massachusetts. There will be a special election on December 8 to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat. New York Mayor Bloomberg and the Boston Globe have endorsed Khazei’s candidacy.

Alan is someone who has left a lasting impression on me. In fact, I think about him almost every morning as I walk my children to the bus stop.  I remember him telling the story of his mom who blew kisses and yelled “I love you Alan” as he got on the school bus everyday.  My 8 and 10 year old kids now know Alan’s story too. I had to tell them after a bus stop bully made fun of the fact that my husband and I still like to hug and kiss our kids goodbye.

What the bus anecdote and Khazei’s interaction with Stephen Colbert during a January 2009 interview represent to me is a hope that our Senate will be transformed not only by Khazei’s astute politics but his everyday practices and background in national service. While Khazei did not transform the cynic in Colbert, Khazei did not curb his own optimism when contested.  He just kept going. He did not worry about being identified as a hopeless dreamer or an unrealistic idealist. Systematically, he proves contrarians wrong. We need a senator on Capitol Hill who is not afraid to act on his or her idealism.

On a university campus, I benefit from an engagement with critical theory. Sometimes, however, I forget that with critique comes the responsibility to act. With action comes a mandate to bring relief and joy to others.  A union of powerful personal practices and the courage to be positive is what I  can cultivate in my own everyday life.

Alan’s campaign reminds me to act. Vote for Alan Khazei in the primary election on Tuesday, December 8.


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4 responses to “The Ideal Can Be Real

  1. Edith Buhs

    I love this! (and I love that your kids know the “Alan, I love you!” story and that you still kiss and hug your kids. Hurrah for you!)

    Alan is gaining in the polls and we have one week to the primary (which is the real decider in a state like MA). Please send this to everyone you know who lives in Massachusetts as an email and ask them to vote for Alan and to talk to their friends as much as they can in the next week. The personal touch is what is making his campaign tick.

    be well my friend!


  2. peter lynch

    ACT? you can’t be serious, actually DO something? when it’s so much more fun to sit around and sound smart(-assed) and so much funnier than some idealistic dweeb who thinks he can mobilize people to change the world? i pity the cynics. what gets them out of bed in the morning–the chance to write another tasteless joke about people risking their reputations, even their lives on the proposition that it matters to contribute? even michael moore gets it. a student or three of mine worked for khalzei, one for several years until she moved on to the children’s workshop, where she continues to contribute. what right do the cynics have to trash such commitment when one of their own has just won a bruising senate race in minnesota? air america was so much easier. why is steven colbert so afraid?

  3. Brian

    Imagine a world in which humans couldn’t imagine why they would demand payment to help someone or some cause if they didn’t need the money to support their basic material needs. If more Americans, including me gave more than lip service to the ideal of community service, then we would all experience less suffering. As long as humans build excess material wealth beyond their immediate requirements those humans will continue to suffer just as surely as the neglected poor. Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi, MLK, Mother Theresa and Khazei set high standards and we don’t need to achieve their levels of accomplishment to make a difference in our communities or our ability to lead happy, meaningful lives. However as long as we build excess wealth to protect against future needs we will not experience sustained joy. Furthermore, if we squander our time, talents and treasure and make money our god, we have no one to blame but ourselves for our suffering.

    This is, I believe, more than a belief; it is Truth and the foundation of spiritual growth. Do you agree?

  4. Ellen

    Great post, Julia.

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