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.