By Bill Street, Neighborhood Leader Coordinator, Clackamas County Democrats
Our Neighborhood Leader Program has been wildly successful. Attend any of our Clackamas Democratic Central Committee meetings and listen to the self-introductions. No matter how they begin their introduction: be it State Senator, State Representative, County Commissioner, or precinct person, almost to a person that introduction ends with, “And I’m a Neighborhood Leader.”
Why does everyone want it known that they, too, are a Neighborhood Leader? Is it because they know that our Neighborhood Leader program was instrumental in defeating Tea Party crazies who just a few years ago ran our County?
Is it because they know that our Neighborhood Leader program was key in creating a Democratic super majority in Salem? After all, we were the only County (or parts thereof) where incumbent Republicans were defeated.
Is it because of the satisfaction and impact when a Neighborhood Leader has voter turn out in their turf often exceeding average turn-out by 10 per cent or more? As impressive as each of these outcomes are, that is not the reason the program is as successful as it is.
The heart and soul of the Neighborhood Leader program is not measured by voter turn-out or even election results, but rather the relationship between the Neighborhood Leader and their neighbors.
The program continues to grow with new neighborhood leaders joining the ranks of experienced ones returning year in and year out. What keeps Neighborhood Leaders coming back every year is the knowledge that what they are doing makes a difference: a difference in their neighborhood, in their county, state and country.
What is this difference? In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it is a commitment to social justice through social action. We as Democrats may disagree on how to approach any single issue. We may disagree about which issues should be addressed first and which second. But where we have complete unity is the belief in justice and the willingness to pay any price, bear any burden, support any friend, and oppose any foe that inflicts injustice on our family, our neighbors, and our citizens.
Our own U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley exemplifies this with his unending fight to stop the inhuman treatment of migrants at our southern border. Our Governor took considerable political risk to mitigate the injustice of global climate change. Almost all of our candidates stand united for universal health care against the injustice of for-profit medical care where the wealthy get better treatment than everyone else.
Our Oregon Democratic Platform under the Article “Social Justice” reaffirms our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document which led to the development of the UN in its current form. This document was spearheaded by Eleanor Roosevelt. It calls for equal protection under the law, the ability to seek asylum, and equal pay for equal work.
The document demands that everyone who works has a right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. Workers have the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests.
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control. To help secure these rights education shall be free and for elementary education compulsory.
This is what we stand for. This is why we are Democrats. This is why we are Neighborhood Leaders. Social action, the second aspect of the FDR quotation, occurs every time a Neighborhood Leader knocks on a door. The message conveyed is, “If you share our core values, join with us, if you want the world to be a better place, join with us”.
While our own contribution to a better life for all Americans may seem minute, consider that single drop of rain high up in the Cascades. When combined with thousands of others it becomes the Clackamas River, which joins the Willamette and eventually the Columbia to become a force so powerful it can be identified ten miles into the Pacific Ocean, along the way providing the basis of life for a majority of Oregonians.
Our Neighborhood Leaders help elect leaders dedicated to our cause, people who pledge to fight against injustice in all its forms. Every new Neighborhood Leader adds to our force for change. We know we are stronger together. We know that by visiting our neighbors just one more time before the election, by talking to just one more neighbor, we are working together for positive change, for social justice.
That’s why we’re Neighborhood Leaders.