Published September 20, 2019, by Michele Brown
We’re glad that neither T-shirts nor the notion of “LIVE UNITED” have gone out of style. Black shirts emblazoned with the words across a map of Alaska were a hit with guests at our September 10th kickoff luncheon for the United Way of Anchorage Community Campaign.
We’re counting on the message to last longer than the shirt though as it’s been the spirit of our mission for more than 60 years. Current events will put our unity to the test. Budget cuts (with the promise of more) and BP Alaska’s impending departure have made doubt part of the prevailing winds lately, and they’re blowing against us.
Headwinds like those are just that much more reason to join hands. So, we’re raising the bar a notch or two. In 2018 you supported United Way of Anchorage with $5.2 million in the community campaign. In 2019 we aim for $5.5 million, a 3.8 percent increase.
Counter-intuitive? No, vital. It’s up to all of us – donors, volunteers, partners, staffers, friends and allies, Red and Blue voters, even dog and cat owners. Everyone from the six-figure philanthropist to the brother or sister who can spare a dime. That’s because the work we’re all doing together for the education, health, and financial stability of everyone is Alaska serves all of us. We all want health and good prospects for ourselves and our children, no matter what our politics, religion or livelihood. We want to live in a community where those high quality of life is the norm.
With our partners, United Way of Anchorage remains true to these goals in all seasons. We aim to be that consistent convener and conduit for many, to tap the multiplier effect for both lasting change and urgent need. Common ground is what we till best.
Common ground shouldn’t be hard to find, especially with the speed and range of communications at our fingertips. Yet as our luncheon keynote speaker William Browning of United Way Worldwide pointed out, there’s a paradox in the hyper-connectedness technology gives us today. While we can get in touch with ease, philanthropy, empathy and charity are in decline. Real-time communications serve to mobilize us into warring camps rather than communities of care – or at least that’s how it sometimes feels.
Just as we can’t build that care alone, we can’t just claim to rise above division and unyielding partisanship and not deal with the world as it is. So how do we find that common ground?
Browning spoke at the luncheon about one way to get there:
He described frequently contentious discussions he had with his father-in-law. Browning described himself as a center-left voter, and his father-in-law as a staunch Republican. Many of us know first-hand how these differences play out during Thanksgiving dinner as debates get lively when the only thing we agree on is the gravy.
But Browning then told of what changed when his father-in-law became seriously ill. They departed politics and policy for values, for what truly mattered to them, that the people you love get care. There was no death-bed political conversion for his father-in-law, nor did Browning have a change of heart. When the issue went from abstract to real, they simply began to talk about the human need for good health care.
It was no longer a matter of winning the argument but finding the way.
That makes all the difference. The people who shared lunch with us a few weeks ago covered a range of the political spectrum from right to left in varying shades. Along with a good meal they shared the desire to do some lasting good in the community, to encourage the benefits of increasing high school graduation, housing for the homeless, access to health care and financial stability. In that room there you could find plenty of diverse opinions about how we do it. But you could also find a fair consensus about why we do it. There’s no contradiction in the terms compassion and self-reliance; no conflict in doing right by your neighbor in need and building a stronger economy.
We welcome you to join us as we find the way.