Monthly Archives: January 2012

Jane Addams Was Tough, Played Politics – America’s Nonprofits, Take Note

With the demise of Hull House one of the issues that lingers over the disaster is how nonprofit leaders have strayed so far from Jane Addams fighting spirit. From The Chicago Tribune:

“Chicagoans know Addams as a leader of the social settlement movement and co-founder of Chicago’s famed Hull House, which abruptly closed Friday after 122 years. But she was so much more. She was a tireless and strident peace activist, an invaluable voice demanding the right of women to vote and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She became one of the most famous women in America and one of the most famous and highly respected Americans of her time.

She strongly felt that social services meant more than just feeding mouths and clothing bodies. Addams created a community, living with and getting to know the people she helped. She respected immigrant cultures, and provided education, training, citizenship classes and child care for working parents. She fought to improve their employment and living conditions.

But the gentle Jane Addams, whose father had been a banker and state senator, also turned out to be a politically savvy, down-in-the-wards street fighter, who wasn’t so gentle when it came to public corruption.”

The story recalls how she took on local ward boss Alderman John Powers and challenged his corrupt reign over the 19th Ward.

If America’s nonprofit leaders and Illinois’ nonprofit leaders had the will to fight that Jane had, perhaps our country and our state would not be in the pitiful state they are in. If Chicago’s nonprofit leaders had been in the political arena as Jane had been – perhaps there would’ve been more interest and support for Hull House as it hit the skids.

Let Jane have the final word (from Twenty Years at Hull House)

“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.”

Good Bye, Jane. Shame On Chicago. What Now?

So Hull House closed on Friday without a whimper. No one put up a fight. So maybe it deserved to die. Over 635 people have signed the online petition to save Hull House by the time of this writing but no one organization took the issue on.

I spoke to or reached out to leaders of organizations that had Jane Addams in their names. UIC’s Jane Addams College of Social Work (http://www­.uic.edu/j­addams/col­lege), the Jane Addams Hull House Museum (http://www­.uic.edu/j­addams/hul­l) – both creatures of the University of Illinois at Chicago and therefore PUBLIC institutio­ns supported by our tax dollars and the Jane Addams Senior Caucus (http://www­.seniorcau­cus.org). They had no interest in pushing back.

What about the professional associations of social workers around the world and the ones that represent Illinois social workers? Nothing.

What about schools of social work, schools of public policy, schools of public health and schools that teach about good government? Nothing.

Did the legislators of Illinois and Chicago who lavish hundreds of millions of PUBLIC dollars on greedy private companies raise a stink or offer solutions. Nothing.

Shame on them. Shame on all of us.

OK, that’s the past – what about the future?

What can we learn from this sad story?

Who will bring us together to discuss public priorities and public disasters such as this one?

 

 

Save Hull House!

I just learned of this terrible news. How did it happen? We can’t let Hull House, founded by social justice pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jane Addams, go out of business. Sign the online petition to SAVE HULL HOUSE!

If you work in the nonprofit field or care anything about social justice, child care, public health, fighting corruption and open government, reforming the justice system, immigrant rights or old-fashioned community building – then Jane was there first.

From The Hull House web site -

“Jane Addams Hull House Association is the direct descendent of the settlement house founded by Jane Addams in 1889. In the words of our founder, our purpose is to “Aid in the solutions of life in a great city, to help our neighbors build responsible, self-sufficient lives for themselves and their families.” We carry on this mission today as one of Chicago’s oldest and largest social and human service agencies.

Miss Addams established her residency in Hull House based upon several basic principles:

Live in the community as an equal participant in the local issues of the day.Unlike the social workers and society matrons who visited the poor and then returned to their middle class homes every evening, Miss Addams and her colleagues lived where they worked. The settlement concept was central to the success of the Hull-House community, and the practice of neighbors helping neighbors became a cornerstone of the Hull House philosophy.

Believe in the fundamental dignity of all individuals and accord every person with equal respect regardless of their ethnic origins, gender, age, etc. Miss Addams believed that if people – of any age, race, gender, ethnicity – were allowed to develop their skills, that person could not only make a better life for himself but contribute to the community as a whole.

Believe that poverty and the lack of opportunity breed the problems of the ghetto. Ignorance, disease, and crime are the result of economic desperation and not the result of some flaw in moral character. Miss Addams promoted the idea that access to opportunity was the key to successful participation in a democratic, self governing society. The greatest challenge and achievement of the settlement was to help people help themselves.”

Come on Illinois – come on, America. We bailed out the banks for trillions and they paid themselves with billions and are not lending. In Illinois we showered hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange AFTER the City of Chicago gave them $14 million in our property taxes to renovate their HQ – the same one they said they would vacate unless they got more public subsidies.

The 99% continually bail out and prop up the 1%. Our elected leaders play us for suckers and say we’re broke. But there’s always money for the insiders who have the electeds in their pocket.

The media and many political leaders, including Mayor Daley, made a big fuss when Marshall Field’s was acquired and it looked like we going to lose Frango Mints. Even the Chicago Cubs, owned by a billionaire family, has asked for public subsidies. A fuss was just made over the announced move of Aon Insurance’s global headquarters to London.

Hull House and Jane Addams are even more iconic Chicago originals and they have done much more to help advance the common good than have Frango Mints (as much as you may like them) or the Cubbies (no matter how stubbornly you root for them). I would say loosing Hull House is as worse as any announced or completed corporate re-location.

Right now (Sunday, January 22) I’m trying to find out what happened and why. I’ve left two messages for Stephen Saunders, the Hull House Board President, and he hasn’t returned my calls. I’ve emailed the heads of social service professional associations and the deans of social work schools alerting them to this disaster and asking them to join together to Save Hull House. Mary Bragg, the President of the Illinois Association of School Social Workers was the first to reply and I’ve asked her organization to jump into this organizing.

I intend to call Louise Smith, Hull House’s President on Monday and offer to help. I have never worked for Hull House and never received any service from them. But I feel I’m in debt to Jane Addams and her crew of tireless and creative social justice champions. We need their passion and efforts now, more than ever.

Whatever financial difficulties Hull House finds themselves in, they must not be allowed to blink out of existence without a fight – a BIG fight. In a way, the decision is really not solely up to the staff and board of Hull House. They hold Jane’s legacy in trust for all of us. We need the spirit of Jane Addams among us now – big time.

Here’s what one person said who signed the online petition:

“I grew up next door to Frances Molinaro, a woman who grew up at Hull House as a child and went on to work there for 45 years. Dad used to send us over to play Chinese checkers with Frances (her favorite game) “to get educated.” My dad was brilliant, and through all the stories that soft-spoken, tiny Italian woman shared with us, we learned more about the world and our responsibilities in it than any civics class could ever teach. We also got to hear first-hand an oral history of the Industrial Revolution; America as a melting pot; the Labor Movement; the Social Reform Movement; Chicago culture, society and politics … you name it. (Frances poured tea for Eleanor Roosevelt, marched in the first Garment Workers’ Strike next to Ellen Gates Starr and Harold L. Ickes, and was asked to run as the first female Chicago alderman, but opted for 1st Ward Committeeman instead – pretty cool!) The impact Hull House had on Chicago and our country, through advocacy and the millions it’s served, is immeasurable. My Jane Addams! My Hull House! My Frances Molinaro who serve over 50 YEARS at Hull House. This should be a National Monument like the Statue of Liberty who harbored the poor, the weak, the hungry. Save Hull House. Chicago….Help! My best friend, Frances Molinaro, served the Hull House community her whole life. Please do not let the lives of those who lived to serve have their work lived in vein. Jane Addams & those who served with her made a difference & that needs to be estabished as a permanent beacon to us all. The stories! My dear Frances Molinaro made Benny Goodman practice his clarinet! She sewed ALL the draperies at Hull House, organized community affairs, marched the Hart, Schafner & Marx strikes….got those girls to come down out of their jobs & march!, served tea to Eleanor Roosevelt. My Lord, My Lord…SAVE HULL HOUSE.”

Save Hull House! Sign here.

It’s Official – Income Inequality Near Record High

Alan B. Krueger, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told us all in a speech on January 12 what we have all experienced – namely, that income inequality in America is at all-time high.

“My theme in this talk is that the rise in inequality in the United States over the last three decades has reached the point that inequality is causing an unhealthy division in opportunities, and is a threat to our economic growth.” You think?

It’s never been better to be in the 1%. Here’s the slide deck – review it for yourself.

The Rise and Consequences of Inequality in the United States: charts

How about a public bank for Illinois to make our money work FOR us and restore a little fairness and equity to our economy?