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October 24, 2008

Thoughts on Living United

This last month has been like few I have experienced in the last thirty five years. As we conduct the annual campaign we have the opportunity to visit a number of very diverse companies and talk to people who are working for minimum wage, others who are part of the middle class and many professionals who are well compensated. People from all walks of life are deeply concerned and genuinely fearful about the future. People understand or at least clearly see that there are no silver bullets that can fix the financial mess we are experiencing. Some try to blame the greedy Wall Street elite and others blame the borrowers of the sub-prime mortgages, but those arguments are short lived as no quick fix solutions emerge from the blame conversation. Fear takes over as people consider the very real possibility that we have lost our way, maybe lost our moral compass and it’s time to reconsider our values and what really matters.

I believe we have arrived at a “tipping point” in this country and in Greater New Haven. I think we have arrived back at the place that Alexis de Tocqueville identified one hundred and eighty years ago. We once again understand that in this American democracy our individual success is only sustainable when we pay attention to the common good. We are seeing that it is not society’s job to support the economy but rather it is the economy that has been created to support society and in a sustainable way. We all have the right to study hard, work hard, to sacrifice, or do whatever it takes to thrive and succeed but we don’t have the right to keep others from having the same opportunity. The tipping point will begin to show up in community conversations about what we value and what we see as a possible future for our children and grandchildren. It will show up in a wave of volunteerism and personal giving that will make us all proud.

In the presentations we make to employee and civic groups we talk about what it means to “Live United” – to understand that when we reach out a hand to one person in need we influence the condition of all. We talk about how we are all diminished when a teenager turns to a life of ignorance and crime or when a family looses their home and finds themselves living in their car before they find a shelter. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we are all stronger when a fourth grader finds a mentor he respects and for the first time has a glimpse of hope or when a young mother graduates from high school and enters higher education with a path to a job and career. We are seeing this Live United message about the common good engage people in a manner we have not seen in a long time.

As the crisis we face with economic conditions causes hardship for our fellow citizens, we must Live United. We must come together to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens have the help they need right now while we continue to focus on the action that leads to longer term stability for all through educational opportunities, job training, stable housing and health. United Way of Greater New Haven is grateful for all of the contributions we have received during this campaign and we ask those who have not yet given to Live United and make a gift to this community campaign.

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