Elevating Chicago

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A Change I Do Believe In


I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

As I currently sit in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I find myself thinking about the speech I just heard given by the University of Michigan graduating class of 2010's commencement speaker: President Obama.  (For full text and video of the speech, go here.)  We all know that Obama's platform during the campaign was "a change we can believe in," and at the graduation, he spoke about this point.  In this post I will discuss his commencement message and how it relates to many aspects of life, including "Elevating Chicago."


It is true that President Obama did not discuss the matter of transportation or livability once in his commencement speech, he did however talk about a few key things that relate to our goals as both Americans and Chicagoans: first, the need for patience when it comes to change, and second, the need to be proactive.  The student-elected commencement speaker made the first comments of the slow but steady nature of change.  He spoke in terms of U of M and Rich Rod (the underachieving "boss" of their football team, not to be confused with the underachieving "boss" of the CTA), but also in terms of adapting to life after college.  In Obama's case, he spoke more in terms of being patient with the changes made in our government.  In our instance, change will come to Chicago transportation, but we cannot expect it to fix our problems right away.  Many solutions will take one step back to take five steps forward, and there is no skipping the steps in-between.

Being proactive however, was Obama's second and key message during his speech.  Many young adults, like me, have come to a point in our lives where we are so sick and tired of politics as usual, that deep-rooted apathy and cynicism have become the norm.  Many think that because little ever gets accomplished in politics, all there is to do is to complain about the dilapidated state of our country, state, and city.  Obama says that if we want to make the change that we speak of, we need to be the ones that make it happen.  I applaud you all for staying up to speed on transportation issues in Illinois and Chicago, and reading and writing all that you can, but the question remains: what are we going to do about it?  I am maybe the guiltiest person of all because even though I write a blog, I don't really try to get anything done about what I have to say.  While it may be true that starting the discussion is important for creating an even greater discussion and awareness, it stops there.

The solution: write to our Senators, write to our Congressman (those in Washington and Springfield), write to our city board members and mayor, write to our alderman, and especially attend neighborhood meetings.  (Another option is to do something as far-out as some bike enthusiasts in Dallas.)  You and I might find ourselves wandering through the blogosphere, but I guarantee you that Dick Durbin, for example, doesn't.  He is well informed and may have similar views as us, but he needs to hear our concerns directly.  In a city like Chicago which has so much potential to be one of the most livable cities in the country, if not world, now is not the time to sit back and merely read and write all we can about what's wrong. We need to be proactive and make the changes that we seek.  Making things happen will not be easy or fast, but as Obama said, change, especially the most important kind, never comes easy.



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