As I look back over the last several years, I am struck by the changes that I have witnessed while doing the business of township assistance. In 2007, the early days of my administration, the Great Recession was just getting started, and it would become the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. Here at the Wayne Township Trustee Office we could barely keep up with the demand for our services. People who had never had to ask for help before were forced, by job losses and foreclosures, to seek assistance. Today, after a long, slow climb out of those darker days, an economic recovery seems to be upon us. Instead of having more clients than we could help find jobs for, we are now seeing the opposite—more job opportunities than clients—and that is wonderful thing. But my life experience and the stories of our clients keep me from becoming complacent.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign, a multicultural, multi-faith coalition organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. in early 1968. The campaign was carried on by his followers in the months following Dr. King’s assassination in April. June of ‘68 brought thousands of Americans living in poverty to the national mall in Washington, D.C. to demand better living conditions and higher wages. This was a moving demonstration that captured the nation’s attention.
Dr. King was really on to something in his fight for economic justice. Today, fifty years later, the movement continues. On Monday, May 14 of this year, hundreds of people took to the streets in cities across the country continuing King’s movement to challenge poverty in America in a kickoff to 40 days of planned demonstrations across the country called the “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.”
Why do we need such a campaign now especially since things are looking up? As I have heard time and again ‘the poor will be with us always,’ but an important lesson I think many people learned in this last recession is that poverty can come to us all. In these times of greater and greater income inequality (a situation that is worse today than it was fifty years ago), fewer and fewer of us can claim safety from a personal economic downfall. One medical crisis can mean the loss of economic security for all but the wealthiest of us.
I am happy that people are getting back to work, and I am hopeful that wages and benefits can keep up with our living expenses and help our children get ahead and do even better than their parents. I also want to keep a clear view of what it takes to make it, economically, today and I am thankful that our community has resources to be a safety net for us all. Keeping hope for the future and remembrance of the past; that’s my motto.
I hope to see all of you, once again at the Waynedale Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 28. What better way to remember our veterans than coming together as a community for a parade.