Center for Democracy and Citizenship
People in Minnesota have the talents, creativity, and energy to needed to solve our problems - if we work together. The Center for Democracy and Citizenship is building networks of people and organizations around issues that are important to them, from transportation to health care to education. This long-term effort is called Minnesota Works Together.
The Warrior to Citizen campaign is the first statewide initiative of Minnesota Works Together. The second statewide initiative is a new public conversation on health.
Clayton Rask is a senior majoring in communications studies and a member of the men’s golf team at the University of Minnesota. He is from Otsego, Minnesota.
When I signed up for an independent study class in community organizing this past fall, I thought that I was getting in over my head with something that I had no idea about. When our class first met, we were told that we could work on whatever we wanted within the community. When I found out about the Warrior to Citizen Campaign, I became really intrigued because some of my friends are serving in the military right now.
I joined the Warrior to Citizen Campaign working group, and agreed to serve on a sub-committee that is developing a coin to give to Minnesota veterans as a symbol of appreciation for their service (in the military, coins have special meaning). The coin will also create a way for businesses to honor the service of veterans through discounts and special offers.
Casey Hudek is a junior majoring in political science at the University of Minnesota. He is originally from Madison, Wisconsin.
Over the past semester, I served as an active member of the Warrior to Citizen Campaign working group, partnering with other University of Minnesota students – including student veterans – to organize a campus-based response to returning veterans. My work gave me a stronger sense of the strengths of one-to-one engagement in comparison with the less in depth and more numbers-based organizing work I had done in the past. While mobilizing a large base of people is important to further a cause, this strategy is limited when citizens are not activated to take concrete steps in making change. Work with the Warrior to Citizen Campaign is premised on a deeper level of engagement and is leading to meaningful power-building in the context of renewing civic life in Minnesota and re-incorporating veterans into it.
The Bloomington Sun Current covered the Community Stand To for veterans and their families at the Minnesota National Guard armory in Bloomington, Minn., on Saturday, Jan. 12. The event was organized by Bloomington resident Karen Eileen, and others active in the Warrior to Citizen Campaign including National Guard Capt. John Donovan, state Sen. John Doll, Bloomington Mayor Gene Winsted, and a consortium of Bloomington Lutheran churches.
As one example of how the event connected community members, Northwestern Health Sciences University - which wanted to diversify the client base in its student-run clinics - will offer pro-bono chiropractic and massage care to veterans over the next year.
"Janet Drewiske (left) and Amiee Elizabeth (right) of Northwestern Health Sciences give chair massages to Minnesota National Guard troops during the Community Stand To at the Bloomington Armory Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008. The Community Stand To event was a chance for community members and businesses to show support for the troops as they transition home." (SCOTT THEISEN - SUN NEWSPAPERS)
Each time we hear from our partners and colleagues, we’re energized by your commitment and by what you can teach about doing the work of democracy. As we begin a new year, we decided to look back at our work close to home, and name some of the other things that gave us energy and taught us powerful lessons.
Voices of Hope: The Story of the Jane Addams School
At the Humphrey Center one evening in April, volunteers who looked like an impossibly diverse group of secret agents wore headsets and spoke into small microphones. They were providing simultaneous interpretation in Hmong, Somali and Spanish for many of the more than 100 people listening to authors read from their work in Voices of Hope: The Story of the Jane Addams School (another interpreter signed American Sign Language). This book launch was a celebration of the democratic work and learning of Jane Addams School participants – including new immigrants of all ages – over the past 10 years. Twelve authors contributed to the book, which was edited by Nan Kari and Nan Skelton.
Through the Eyes of a Soldier is a lecture series sponsored by the Veterans Transition Center at the University of Minnesota tomorrow night, November 29th at 7pm in Vincent Hall, Room 16. Local veterans will share their stories of facing war--the perspective that is often not explored by the media.
Come to hear the stories, deepen your understanding of our current war, and support local veterans in your community.
The Hastings Democracy Project is an example of what is at the heart of the Minnesota Works Together intiative: citizens and government working together to tackle issues in cities and communities.
Located 30 minutes south of St. Paul, Hastings is a small city on the Mississippi River with a historic downtown. The city is experiencing rapid growth on its periphery as more people seek a small-town way of life and housing that is less expensive than in the nearby metropolitan area. Like most people, Hastings residents want to have a say and a role in making their community the best it can be.
Dave Schwinghamer, a participant in the first Hastings Democracy Project meeting, wrote a reflection that illustrates both the importance of community discussion and citizen action.
The global ferment to recreate grassroots democratic institutions has bubbled up in Hastings. On October 24, responding to suggestions from local citizens, Mayor Paul Hicks convoked an informal meeting to launch the Hastings Democracy Project. Thirty-four residents responded to the mayor’s invitation.
"War changes people, and that extends to their work lives. For some returning veterans, the challenges and responsibilities they experienced in Iraq will lead them on new career paths."- St. Paul Pioneer Press, Nov. 9, 2007
As Minnesota National Guard members return to their civilian lives, they are faced with putting the pieces back together again with family members, friends, and eventually with their jobs. For some, the pieces don't quite fit together anymore, and some are left searching for how they want to contribute to their communities.
For many soldiers, the jobs they held before their deployment don't hold the same meaning or excitement anymore. An article in the November 9 Pioneer Press, Working class heroes, tells the stories of three Minnesota soldiers and their return to the job market or the classroom.
On November 5, Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning show with Kerri Miller explored Finding work after war. As the show's guest, job search expert Amy Lindgren gave ideas and suggestions for veterans in the midst of transition. Click on the link above to listen to the full show.
Two free government resources for veterans looking for work are www.hirevetsfirst.gov and the U.S. Department of Labor websites. Resources at hirevetsfirst.gov are divided into an employer zone – including 10 Reasons to Hire a Veteran – and a veteran zone, which includes job postings by state, a military skills-to-civilian life translator, and a resume builder. Both Hire Vets First and the Dept. of Labor site have information about federal benefits for veterans and military spouses, and contact information for local assistance.
"On All Saints Day, think not just of church fellows but also of those who have died in war." This compelling Star Tribune editorial about veterans and their public service by Nancy Victorin-Vangerud highlights the Warrior to Citizen campaign. It also encourages all of us to remember those whose lives have been lost this past year in the war in Iraq. Victorin-Vangerud comments that "too often their faces pass too quickly and the day's business returns."
Read Nancy Victorin-Vangerud's full editorial.
On Saturday, October 6th, the CDC hosted a Public Work Institute entitled: Powerful People Building Healthy Communities at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. This institute was a part of the Center's initiative called Minnesota Works Together.
The goals of the day were for participants to learn something that would enhance their own public lives, build relationships across communities, and commit to a specific action in their communities. The day was a success with participants coming from many different groups: Second Shift Youth Commission- St. Paul, SPEAC from Hope Community, ISAIAH, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, African Network for Development, Jane Addams Schoo for Democracy, St. Bernard's School, and the Minnesota Legislature.
Kari Denissen from St. Paul's Second Shift Commission facilitated a role-play with participants.
Activities of the day included a thought-provoking role-play about power, work on Public Achievement, a session with youth documentary filmmakers, a power mapping session, a youth organizing meeting between Second Shift Youth and SPEAC, a session on Warrior to Citizen campaign, and a meeting of citizen environmentalists.
Participants walked away from the day having committed to several actions: SPEAC and Second Shift are going to reconvene and further their collaboration; many participants at the Public Work Institute committed to having one-on-one discussions with people in their communities and new people they met; some people committed to further involvement in the Warrior to Citizen campaign; and others are going to talk about Minnesota Works Together.
The Warrior to Citizen campaign is a statewide grassroots effort designed to build community capacity to support and engage Minnesota's veterans. In the spirit of this campaign, teachers, faith leaders, employers and others can follow the lead of our mental health professionals by working to ease the difficult transition many veterans face in going from warrior to citizen.
As reported in the Star Tribune, a mental health conference that brings military and civilians together convenes today. The topic reflects an increasing concern: improving Minnesota's ability to care for veterans encountering the psychological impacts of war. This conference takes an important step in pointing out that "It's time to share the burden in caring for the state's combat veterans and their families" amongst all Minnesota citizens.
Click here to view the entire article, Trained to Kill... but what happens when they come home?
A Public Work Institute, hosted by the Center for Democracy and Citizenship
Saturday, October 6, 2007
9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
There is no cost to register for the event, but RSVPs are requested to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, October 1. For more information, contact Kristin Farrell at 612-625-0142.