Wednesday, September 03, 2008

RNC - Community Organizer Not a Real Job

Gov. Palin scorned Sen. Obama tonight for working in Chicago as a community organizer. She said that, unlike Sen. Obama, she had "actual responsibilities."

Wow. That seems like a low blow - a double insult to Sen. Obama and the community he served. So what did he do as a community organizer?

One report puts it this way: In 1985, he moved to Chicago to work with local churches organizing job training and other programs for poor and working-class residents of Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project where 5,300 African-Americans tried to survive amid shuttered steel mills, a nearby landfill, a putrid sewage treatment plant, and a pervasive feeling that the white establishment of Chicago would never give them a fair shake.1

In Sen. Obama's words: In theory, community organizing provides a way to merge various strategies for neighborhood empowerment. Organizing begins with the premise that (1) the problems facing inner-city communities do not result from a lack of effective solutions, but from a lack of power to implement these solutions; (2) that the only way for communities to build long-term power is by organizing people and money around a common vision; and (3) that a viable organization can only be achieved if a broadly based indigenous leadership — and not one or two charismatic leaders — can knit together the diverse interests of their local institutions.

This means bringing together churches, block clubs, parent groups and any other institutions in a given community to pay dues, hire organizers, conduct research, develop leadership, hold rallies and education cam­paigns, and begin drawing up plans on a whole range of issues — jobs, education, crime, etc. Once such a vehicle is formed, it holds the power to make politicians, agencies and corporations more responsive to commu­nity needs. Equally important, it enables people to break their crippling isolation from each other, to reshape their mutual values and expectations and rediscover the possibilities of acting collaboratively — the prerequi­sites of any successful self-help initiative.2

Obama served as a community organizer from ages 24-27 between 1985-1987. It sounds like he had "actual responsibilities" as a community organizer.

At that time, Palin wasn't mayor as she implied in her speech. She was finishing her undergraduate degree in journalism, getting married and working as a TV sportscaster.

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1 Source: Kenneth T. Walsh, On the Streets of Chicago, a Candidate Comes of Age, 8/26/07,

2 Source:, citing After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois (1990).