So lately I have noticed a lot of bizarre references to Public Allies in the blogosphere. Barack and Michelle Obama were involved with the Chicago program, so it’s pretty obvious the attacks have been politically motivated.
For example, one blogger referred to Public Allies participants as a “band of taxpayer-supported social misfits.” Another says of the program: “its real mission is to radicalize American youth and use them to bring about ‘social change’ through threats, pressure, tension and confrontation….” According to one, the national service program is connected to a “boot camp for radicals who hate the military.”
So after coming across so many offensive references to Public Allies (a group that has co-sponsored our Idealist.org graduate admissions fairs for several years), I am glad to see this note in the Chronicle of Philanthropy‘s web site shedding some light on the attacks. For more information, read the fact sheet Public Allies posted on its site about its relationship with the Obamas.
Participants in national service programs are prohibited from taking part in political activity during service hours or while wearing the AmeriCorps logo. Here is a good summary of other prohibited activities for AmeriCorps from the Serve Illinois web site. Further, people of all political backgrounds are inspired to become involved in their communities and take part in national service.
The conversation about the Service Nation Summit this week has been forcefully nonpartisan, people of all political ideologies will be involved with the event, and Summit volunteers have been encouraged to keep the conversation neutral. I get it that people who are in favor of smaller government resent the notion of government-funded volunteer programs, but I regret the tone these blogs are taking against citizen service.
During my time as an Public Ally in Chicago, I was partnered with the American Red Cross. My fellow Allies, co-workers and supervisors were some of the best folks I have ever had the privilege of working with. At the ARC I trained for and taught First Aid and CPR, HIV/AIDS awareness classes. I also helped build a Youth Leadership training program that enabled teens to teach ARC classes in their communities.
As an Public Ally I was also part of community outreach team with several members of my class of Allies. Our service project that year involved create a Community Resource guide for a low income community in the SW side of Chicago, enabling community resident to more easily find access to service, like low cost medical assistance and day care groups. We also partnered with several community groups to make sure the guide was updates by and for community residents. Teach a man to fish principle.
This was my experience as an Ally. Rarely in all my adult life, have I ever felt as connect with so many communities, as I felt during my time as an Ally. I felt and still feel that I truly made a difference in the world during my tenure as an Ally. In fact I continue to work in the non-profit arena, not because I reject the for-profit field but because I love being involved with the welfare of my community, my city and ultimately my county.
Waste of taxpayer money…I think not.
Thank you so much, Monica, for your service, and for sharing this!
Thanks, Amy, for this piece. I lived with a couple of Public Allies in Chicago a couple of years ago and felt so much more connected to the city because of their knowledge, work, and service. I’m going to pass this on and see if they want to chime in.
I hope they do, Julia!
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