Friday, February 6, 2009


"Community organizers are the new oilmen."

David Montgomery, "Community Organized: Grass-Roots Activists Mobilize to Maximize Obama's First 100 Days, The Washington Post, February 5, 2009.

What a strange comparison. What could it possibly mean? Are organizers the new wild-catters, rugged, cutthroat individualists, "swaggering" in the halls of Congress? Remember Oil by Upton Sinclair. Is the new "oil" the economic stimulus, access to a fellow oilman in the White House? Are we to imagine a Dallas of community organizers? A band of prospectors rushing to DC to lobby, build coalitions, show off?

Meanwhile, in Chicago and elsewhere celebrations are getting underway for the 100th birthday of Saul Alinsky, the modern founder of community organizing in Chicago and of the Industrial Areas Foundation.

I like this quote from Alinksy: "A liberal has his feet firmly planted in thin air." Let's hope community organizers are better liberals, progressives, or whatever.

Here's a definition of the organizer."In Alinsky's method, the organizer is a facilitator and agitator. It works because the targets, people of power, are hit with an unaccustomed force: ordinary people loudly demanding the right to be heard."

Ron Grossman, "Alinsky's organizing legacy lives on," Chicago Tribune, January 30, 2009.

We need to remember that the roots of community organizing are at home around kitchen tables. The real work of the stimulus will be in our backyards.

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