“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
Edmund Burke’s words seem especially resonant this fall when I think about people and initiatives committed to civic engagement. At a time when so much threatens to divide us, I am inspired by so many efforts to inform, to engage, to welcome, to bring people together …
Charitable grants to the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications are supporting a “Solutions Journalism” series on addiction and behavioral health in the New Hampshire Union Leader, which means that veteran reporter Shawne Wickham has the time to inform readers much more deeply on these complex problems, and explore real solutions to them. Reporting was never an easy job, and it is more difficult now than ever. The Foundation is committed to supporting nonprofit media outlets where people work hard every day to gather and disseminate the information on which an engaged citizenry relies.
At a forum held by the Center for Ethics in Business and Governance at Saint Anselm College, I observed planners, developers, and policymakers engaged respectfully across their differences to tackle the state’s acute shortage of affordable housing. That session was facilitated by New Hampshire Listens, which brings people together for meaningful community conversations about policing, race, schools, and families and more. And it was informed by Housing Action New Hampshire, which educates about housing and homelessness.
When I think of the myriad ways that new Americans enrich our state and our lives, and the unfortunate rhetoric about immigration, I am buoyed by the courage of people like Eva Castillo of Welcoming New Hampshire and Kate Bruchacova and so many others who continue the efforts started by the Immigrant Integration Initiative. I am proud that we are supporting their work.
It’s inspiring that the New Hampshire Statehouse is the kind of place where an ACLU of New Hampshire lobbyist is praised by a prominent Democrat and a prominent Republican on the same day, and that our Foundation is funding their essential work preserving individual rights and liberties guaranteed in the Constitution.
Not long ago I heard 15 participants in the Community Practitioners Network (CPN) describe why they are engaged in North Country civic life. An old friend who spent decades in the region was also there. His voice choked with emotion, he said: “Hearing all of you today I have more hope for the North Country than I have in ten years.” Similarly, Leadership New Hampshire and its sister regional initiatives have helped thousands of residents connect and learn so they can become more effective civic leaders.
And in a state that prides itself on high participation in government, the NH Women’s Foundation is inspiring engagement through its nonpartisan Women Run! campaign; and Citizens Count’s voter’s guide lists all candidates regardless of party, and many of their positions, in 432 New Hampshire state and federal races.
More stories of civic engagement that matter are here. I hope they help spark an idea for the part you can play, even it feels like only a little. It all adds up.
The Foundation’s Vision for New Hampshire reads, in part: “We envision strong, just and inclusive communities where residents are informed, engaged and connected, and participate meaningfully in civic and community life.” Civic engagement is not only equal in importance to the other aspirations of our vision — health and well-being, education, arts, environmental protection, and economic opportunity; it is a prerequisite for them.
Edmund Burke was a Whig political philosopher from the 18th century, which explains the quote’s outdated pronoun, and he has his critics. But it’s useful to remember that in his time, and since, he was admired by liberals and conservatives alike.
That’s something else that resonates today.
And, of course, be sure to vote.