As I’ve spoken to news commentators nationwide this past week about the themes in my new book, a question came up that is worth addressing. Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” posed it with his trademark tongue-in-cheek humor.
I said, “We were built as a nation different than any other nation because we have decentralized individuals and communities working together.”
Stewart’s response: “What you’re saying is we need more, I guess, community organizers?”
When some hear about people getting involved in local communities, they jump to a vision of collectivism—of common ownership and false equality propped up by extensive federal government programs. But we can starkly contrast collectivism with individuals serving and loving the people they know in their own neighborhoods.
I discuss in the book how, for my family, our local church became an integral part of our life together. With other church members, we became more involved in volunteer activities throughout our community.
I found myself serving on many local boards and community groups—all as a result of my relationships with members of my church. We worked together to improve our local schools, health care, and roads, to help the needy, and to attract new businesses to our community.
One of my fellow volunteers was a community banker who, with just a handshake as collateral, gave me a loan to start my own business, a market-research firm. Some of the people I met through my volunteer activities helped my business grow by becoming clients.
I developed a deeper knowledge of my community and a genuine affection for it, and I had the satisfaction of making it a better place to live and work.
Yuval Levin at the Ethics and Public Policy Center reveals how progressives often distort Americans’ long-standing practice of serving locally:
Community organizing, in a sense, is the organizing of communities so that they will better fit the vision in which nothing stands between the individual and the state.
But progressivism is deeply opposed to the notion that there can be legitimate centers of power between the individual and the state, centers of power that are not democratically answerable, and that don’t serve the vision of the good that the elected government has.
You can see the true spirit of community in the story of Francis Nuthalapaty and his family. For them, becoming American citizens through the legal process was only the first step. Coming to America from India, he and his parents discovered a sure path to see the American dream come true: hard work and personal sacrifice.
Today, Dr. Francis Nuthalapaty serves as an OB-GYN and medical school instructor in Greenville, S.C. In his most recent academic term, he received the O’Neill Barrett Teaching Excellence Award from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. He has served on several outreach trips overseas and works every day to build his community.
So the next time someone asks you to join a community group or get involved locally, don’t think about collectivism. Rather, think about Dr. Francis Nuthalapaty—a family man who loves his neighbors and knows from experience the power of a helping hand.
Learn more about local leaders finding real solutions in the new book Falling in Love with America Again by Jim DeMint and The Heritage Foundation.