2,100 voices speak loudly
A just cause, well-researched, well-intentioned and well-focused, is worth paying attention to.
A just cause, well-researched, well-intentioned and well-focused, and endorsed by a room full of 2,100 people of different races, ages, religions and political affiliation, is a powerful call to action.
That’s what the Charleston Area Justice Ministry had in mind when it assembled the crowd last Monday night to make a case for addressing two social problems: inadequate early education and juvenile detention.
Those in attendance didn’t claim to have the answers. But they had resolve — and they had community leaders on hand who they hope will come up with the answers. And follow through with them.
They got Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley on record promising to take to the county school board the group’s specific goals to expand early education. And while Dr. McGinley will still have to deal with a $10 million funding gap and competing requests for other educational programming, she will be able to address the board with the weight of 2,100 community members behind her.
Similarly, the area’s top law enforcement officials were at the meeting, and they all agreed to take part in a task force to reduce juvenile detention in Charleston County by 65 percent by the end of 2014.
Like expanding early education, this is a worthy, but difficult goal. But law enforcement officers, who often struggle to earn the trust and respect of citizens, are starting this quest with at least 2,100 people on their side. Surely that will inspire them to rise to the task.
Too often well-meaning groups vow to eliminate racism and poverty, save the family, provide a college education for every child and ensure world peace.
By narrowing the focus to two interconnected issues, and narrowing those issues to specific goals, the Justice Ministry avoids the “it’s-too-overwhelming” factor.
By setting deadlines (the juvenile detention task force is to produce a report in time for a meeting in October), and by their sheer numbers and their diversity, they are signaling the community that they are serious about effecting change.
After the meeting, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley told our reporter Adam Parker that he’s “never seen anything like that. ... If out of this we can get strong community support for early childhood education, this will have been the best meeting ever.”
He said that early education would help solve problems associated with juvenile detention.
Who can argue with preparing students to be successful in school and keeping youth out of jails where they become school dropouts and financial burdens to the taxpayers?
At least 2,100 people are determined that reason and strong leadership, with wide public support, will make it happen.