I pledge allegiance…
Many of us remember being in Elementary School and memorizing the Pledge of Allegiance. Memorizing this ‘Pledge’ did not involve any reflection on its meaning – the goal was to memorize it and say it as quickly as possible so we could do something ‘more fun’.
In this summer of divisive political conflict, many Americans are focused on being ‘patriotic’ and an individual definition of being an American. Too often, our definition of being ‘American’ is self-defined by some specific issue and does not include all points of view.
I think we could benefit as a country if each of us:
• Committed to saying the Pledge of Allegiance at least three times a day.
• Recited it slowly, with no malice or anger in our hearts
• Paused at short intervals, as written in this column
• Reflected daily on how we practice being an American as described in this Pledge
…to the Flag of the United States of America
At Piedmont Health we have begun several initiatives that address some of the basic values and goals we all share as Americans – voting and expressing what we think, are two of the foundation blocks for Americans. Two initiatives we have implemented to put the Pledge into practice are: a Voter Registration Drive and an Advocacy Initiative.
The Voter Registration Drive began June 1 and is being conducted at all 10 of our community health centers and our two Senior Care sites, as well as a few sites in the community such as the University of North Carolina Medical Center and the Interfaith Council for Social Service Soup Kitchen.
Piedmont staff – with the help of two nonpartisan civic groups, You Can Vote and Democracy North Carolina – are visiting these sites several times each week. During these visits, we set up tables where we give patients and visitors help and information that allows them to participate in the democratic process.
So far, we have registered 142 people to vote.
…and to the Republic, for which it stands
Our Advocacy Initiative is part of an ongoing nationwide effort – known as “100K in 100 Days,” – that is being coordinated by the National Association of Community Health Centers. The goal is to boost the number of health center advocates — people who are trained and prepared to contact elected officials when issues impacting health centers and our SeniorCare programs come up.
There already are tens of thousands of health center advocates around the country; “100K in 100 Days,” launched in May, aims to boost the number to 100,000 advocates just as National Health Center Week wraps up in mid-August.
Already, we are an Advocacy Center of Excellence at the Bronze level, meaning we have achieved certain measures of advocacy success and demonstrated ongoing commitment to advocacy by making it an organizational priority. We are aiming to achieve Silver status soon; we’re looking to be the second community health center in the country to do so.
Why are we doing all of this? The rhetoric that we have been hearing during the political campaign – from both sides – shows that too many of us have forgotten what it means to be an American. Too many of us pledge allegiance to a particular cause or issue that divides us rather than to the flag that unites us.
Our Voter Registration Drive and Advocacy Initiative are built upon the foundation of the pledge of allegiance. By promoting participation in the democratic process, we are providing a vehicle for people to live the principles of the pledge.
I am proud that we have either registered to vote or arranged for an absentee ballot for many of our Senior Care participants. This is the group of Americans that deserve our help to exercise their American right to vote. Most of them will use absentee ballots in the upcoming election and will have their voices heard. They feel great pride in being able to vote and let their voice be heard.
We know that we are registering Democrats, Republicans and Independents. In our advocacy efforts, we are not aiming at any particular political party, any particular gender, any particular ethnicity – we are just trying to involve Americans.
…with Liberty and Justice
It would be enormously helpful to our country if we all got back to the spirit of unity contained in the Pledge of Allegiance. So please join us in saying the Pledge of Allegiance three times a day – imagine how much that would help our nation.
Brian Toomey, CEO