Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Making Black History Month a White House Priority

Snow aside, on the evening of February 9, 2010, the President and the First Lady celebrated Black History Month with a musical tribute to one of the Civil Rights' most powerful tools and its lasting legacy...the songs and the music. White House staff must have worked hard on Wednesday evening to dig a path through the white stuff to make it possible for Bob Dylan, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Yolanda Adams, Natalie Cole, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon and more to make it to the White House for "In Performace at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement." If you missed the NPR bit, be sure to watch the footage of this impressive event on PBS starting on Thursday.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Breaking Down the Definitional Argument Against Marriage Equality

By Zack Shaeffer

As a recovering Evangelical, with family and friends who are current Evangelicals, I have definitely heard (and perhaps made) the definitional argument before. "Allowing gay men and women to marry would fundamentally change the definition marriage has had for all of human history!"

The rejoinder that I have recently made to this challenge is that while same-sex marriage would have once been a non sequitur, the definition of marriage has already changed in key ways that make it illogical to exclude same-sex couples from the praxis of marriage in Western culture. For instance, marriage has largely ceased to be regarded primarily as a vehicle for property inheritance, a means of producing heirs, or a way to cement economic partnerships between families, businesses, or nations. Women's entry into the workforce, and increasingly competitive earning power, has also made women less economically dependent on men (whether their fathers or their husbands), opened up the patriarchal social structure based on male-headed family units, and provided economic choices and independence that were once available to hardly any women at all. Widely available birth control has also given women and couples the power to choose when they will reproduce, and increased social tolerance of out-of-wedlock births has made terms like "illegitimacy" almost quaint. The waning of illegitimacy as a social and legal concept reveals once again the importance inheritance by legitimate heirs had in the past social structure of marriage. The ability to adopt or to utilize artificial insemination makes it easy for gay couples to have kids and start a family. I am sure more examples could be cited, but the point is that the essential elements cited by the traditional marriage crowd are already open to unmarried people and same-sex couples, whether they are married under the law or not.

In short, the definition of marriage in Western society has already been steadily changing for the past hundred years or more, to the point that today marriage is primarily defined as an elective union, based on mutual affection, between two people who wish to commit their lives to one another. Inheritance, dependence on a single breadwinner, and even reproduction are no longer regarded as essential aspects of the marriage relationship (although they certainly remain important on a individual preferential basis). Therefore, marriage has become a social reality that does not exclude same-sex couples by definition.

This, I think, is the essential reason why Focus on the Family and similar groups fit opposition to gay rights within the complex of resistance to social changes in gender roles and relationships. For them, the family is essentially a male-headed and male-dominated enterprise, which is profoundly threatened by women's liberation and gay rights. If you want to get all Freudian, this all boils down to castration anxiety. For those in society who don't share these commitments to a 1950s, or even medieval, patriarchal social structure, it is difficult to come up with a good logical reason why the definition of marriage should exclude loving, committed, same-sex partners.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dental Care for Those in Need

Oral health care is finally starting to get some attention from the philanthropic community as an area of serious need for the uninsured and medically underserved. Oral health is deeply connected to systemic health and is particularly critical for management of chronic diseases including diabetes.

And while I usually get annoyed by online voting processes related to grants (I know, so undemocratic of me), Tom's of Maine Foundation is letting the public vote on one of 16 nonprofit oral health projects across the country. The top 5 vote-getters will each receive a $20,000 grant.

Each organization includes a short video presentation - shot with hand-held cameras provided by the foundation. Get online and check out these cool programs.

And obviously, vote for the Spanish Catholic Center in Washington, DC. The clinic, in operation since 1975, serves over 2,000 low-income, uninsured adults and children from the Hispanic and immigrant communities of Washington, DC each year.

The Spanish Catholic Center's brief video presentation:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Giving in Mean Times

The Washington Post gives a shout out to corporations who stepped up during this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Open Government

By Pilar Oberwetter

OMB blog, ostensibly maintained by Peter Orzag (OMB Director), pointed me towards another very interesting development from President Obama’s White House—the Open Government Initiative. Although still in-process, the website that describes the rationale for this initiative and the actions that have been taken and have been planned are absolutely worth checking out. As described, they are interesting in theory, and if successful, I believe that this initiative is capable of prompting an entire paradigm shift in our government’s approach to policy and the role of the American people in shaping it.

I am curious why this effort has not gotten more attention from the press.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Refusing Silence

In a place where being openly gay might soon mean imprisonment or even worse, a lesbian in Uganda takes her story live.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Access to Care, Access to Funds

Great news that the President continues to roll out stimulus funding to the tune of $600 million for community health centers across the nation.

It's particularly nice to see the administration emphasize the importance of revamping and upgrading outdated electronic medical record (EMR) systems and to push for more demonstration projects on the "medical home" model, a model proven to reduce health and health care disparities for racial and ethnic minorities.

Ok, so what's missing?

Well, what's missing is stimulus funding for the great many community health centers out there who are not designated as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC).

There are many valid reasons why a community health center would elect not to become an FQHC, not the least of which is that it allows the clinic to focus on serving the needs of low-income patients who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, including many in the immigrant population.

For these centers, who serve the poorest of the poor, there is no stimulus funding.

If the health care bill passes without a provision for the care of immigrants, for example, these clinics will continue to face increasing demand and will be one of the only lines of defense between this underserved population and our local emergency rooms.

FHQC or not, all high-quality community health centers deserve equal access to stimulus fund competition.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Picture Can Be Worth a Thousand Words

By Pilar Oberwetter

Articles and news footage of global issues paint a picture, but not a full one.Check out the New Yorker online for a peek into a portfolio of portraits of world leaders by photographer Platon. The faces of these powerful men and women tell a very different story than many of the reports of their policies and actions. For me, looking through Platon’s lens, I feel as if I have been given an insider’s view of their reactions to their wide-reaching actions.

You can also learn more about the portrait series on the NPR website.

Mr. President, Keep up the Good Work

Is it just me or does it seem like the entire country is dissatisfied with President Obama? I must say that even as a constant critic of President Obama and his administration, I am disturbed by the negativity that seems to follow every decision he makes.

In watching the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, I took a step back and appreciated President Obama's process of deliberation, including his intellectual curiosity that should accompany such a grave decision. Add to this, the agreement of NATO countries to send more troops, and I think we are seeing the dividends of having a president who has invested in (re)building our nation's reputation and relationships.

Of course there is a lot of work to get the country to where we need to be. The economy still needs to be "fixed," healthcare needs to pass, DADT needs to be repealed, and unemployment needs to return to four to five percent. The list can continue. However, I for one would like to credit the president for being on the right track.

It's no easy job but I wish him all the best, for his sake and ours!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why Being Gay Costs More

The Tax Policy Center and the Williams Institute are collaborating to host an event on December 17th entitled, "The Higher Cost of Being Gay."

The public discourse over same-sex marriage often frames the issue as a primarily social one. It is critical, however, that the economic consequences of same-sex marriage (or the lack thereof) also be understood and publicized.

Even if cold data on taxes overpaid and retirement challenges doesn't change hearts and minds, gay people need to be armed with information to meet these obstacles while continuing to wait for the laws to catch up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Praying for Progress

By Pilar Oberwetter

Help is available to churches that want to promote social justice and environmental stewardship from the pulpit.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Philanthropy Minus the Grey Hair

The trials and tribulations of being a trust fund baby who cares, live from Washington, DC.

John Brown's Story

I'm grateful for the coverage in NYT yesterday of the 150th anniversary of the death (by hanging) of the famous abolitionist John Brown.

I visited Harper's Ferry, W. Va., the sight of John Brown's famously short-lived slave rebellion (the photo displays the fire house where he was captured), for the first time two weeks ago. Harper's Ferry would stand alone on its own geographic merits by virtue of its striking location at the convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. But it is history that is seeped in this place and makes it truly unique.

John Brown's raid on the Harper's Ferry armory is thought to be the major catalyst for the Civil War, a war that John Brown himself ultimately saw as inevitable.

Whether he is considered to be a "freedom martyr" or a "terrorist" in our contemporary world is inconsequential and, quite frankly, does not make for a very compelling discourse (as intended by The Times).

John Brown's story is about the junctures of history in this country. He represents the passion, the independence, the hope, and ultimately the violence that is the American story.

Let's leave John Brown's body where it lies. His story goes on.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stamping Out Stigma

Food stamp use is up and stigma is down. This is a great example of a legitimate federal response to helping low-income individuals and families (including hard-to-reach populations) make it through the economic downturn.

Hey DC Schools — How about Less Talk and More Action

By Pilar Oberwetter

The Washington Post reported today that Prince George’s County school district in Maryland awarded merit pay to its teachers. This DC resident, and huge advocate for extreme education reform in my city, thinks that the leadership of DCPS should spend less time in the headlines and more time implementing real reforms. They just need to look to their neighbors in Prince George’s and up the road in Baltimore to see examples of Superintendents who focus on implementing their policies rather than just talking about them.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Protecting the President

The Obamas hosted their first state dinner this week, in honor of Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. The most interesting aspect of the event was not the menu or the decor, rather it was the breach in security by a Virginia couple: Michaele and Tareq Salahi.

The Secret Service has since apologized. However, it is more than slightly disturbing that two people can pass security screening and come face to face with two heads of state inside the White House.

On an unrelated note, I also was disturbed by The New York Times story on the breach, which devolved into a story about the Salahi's quest to star in The Real Housewives of DC. I love the Times and have been a lifelong reader, but seriously? These tangents belong in a separate feature story, not in a story of potential national significance.

Photo credit: White House photo taken from TalkingPointsMemo

Friday, November 27, 2009

Check out...

By Pilar Oberwetter
...a blog that the NY Times picked up on. I dug it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Give Thanks

By Pilar Oberwetter

Some say that New Year's Eve is the time to reflect upon the last year and to plan for the coming years. This ReGenerate prefers to review her life in the present and her year that has passed on Thanksgiving.

For me, spending a day with family and friends and preparing food in my home or elsewhere, reminds me of how blessed I am that my basic needs are met. However, I also remember that not everyone in this world has a home, a family, food, or any other of the myriad of good fortunes that I enjoy. So, while I give thanks, I am also compelled to consider the things that I could be doing to share a bit of my own gifts of thanks with others.

Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in the United States-- let this day remind you that to 'give' is a part of being thankful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009