2015-01-01

By: Charlie Rose, Senior Vice President and Dean, City Year, Inc.

A new year brings anticipation and a great deal of individual resolve to make improvements and changes. It is a fresh start and a brand new slate. It is often a time to make plans, to slim down, to firm up, to eat and to live healthier, to treat others better, and to eliminate bad habits. All of that is well intentioned and good and hopefully it works. For me, more often than not, my “resolutions” are fleeting, and tend to fade fairly quickly into the year.

This year, my New Year’s thoughts are much more macro and have to do with some of the serious challenges our country is facing. The recent deadly clashes between law enforcement officers and citizens in the Ferguson case and the Staten Island case as well as several other recent incidents have brought to the fore deep seeded issues that, I believe, we as a society need to deal with. 

My hope is that 2015 is the year in which our country decides to get serious about justice, fairness, equality, and equity. My hope is that we engage in a national dialogue around issues of race and incarceration, as well as other issues of crime and punishment. 

I believe we have the opportunity to make significant progress on these and other pressing national challenges. We can be the country of “liberty and justice for all” but in order to do so we need to work actively. This can be the year where we decided to take on these challenges and bring hope and faith to millions of people. 

All of this leads me to reflect on the City Year value of Ubuntu. Ubuntu conveys the idea that a person cannot be complete if others do not enjoy full humanity. The spirit of Ubuntu resonates so strongly that if one group within society is denied its humanity, then no individual in that society can fully realize his or her own humanity. The urgency to change injustice becomes paramount.

We can put the spirit of Ubuntu—respect, human dignity, compassion, and community—to work in our daily lives through our interactions with others, from greeting others as we pass them in hallways or on the street, to ensuring that all segments of society are included in social welfare policies so that each person has the means to lead a life of dignity. Ubuntu has the power to help us build an inclusive, respectful, and vibrant community, nation and world.

On a personal level, I will embrace the spirit of Ubuntu and encourage our AmeriCorps members and the students they serve to do the same. I will do whatever I can to build and to develop City Year’s efforts to carry out President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper  initiative. Here is the President’s statement on the initiative: “That’s what ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is all about. Helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works – when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.”

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