Monday, December 21, 2009


Tavis Smiley asks, in the introduction of ACCOUNTABLE: MAKING AMERICA AS GOOD AS ITS PROMISE: How do we encourage people to exercise the rights of private citizenship? How can we keep voters informed and involved in the political process long after the polls have closed? What does it take to keep our democracy active? How do we invest the engagement dividend that we've now realized?

Smiley quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. stating: "Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes from the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood."

He arms readers with "Promise Charts" designed to evaluate the administration, our elected representatives, our community leaders, and ourselves. iPromise focuses on the role of individuals.

Questions to ask yourself when creating a promised action (specific and measurable) as an iPromise Contributor (gathered from ACCOUNTABLE):

  • Do I eat a healthy diet?
  • Do I exercise regularly?
  • Do I know where the health facilities in my community are and what services they offer?
  • Do I have a primary physician whom I see at least once a year?
  • Do I see myself as the best advocate for my own health?
  • Do I understand the importance of cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other health screenings, and undergo the appropriate tests at the recommended intervals as determined with my doctor?
  • Do I talk to my family, neighbors, children, friends, and community members about important health issues - insurance coverage, access to services, and making health care affordable for all Americans?
  • Do I talk to my family, neighbors, children, friends, and community members about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as the value of eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and seeing a physician at least once a year?
  • Do I read more than I watch television?
  • Do I read to my children?
  • Do I have internet access at home?
  • Is my child at the appropriate reading and math levels for her/his age?
  • Do I watch too much television at home? Do I allow my child to watch too much television or spend too much unsupervised time on the Internet?
  • Do I monitor the music I allow my children to listen to and limit the amount of time they spend playing video games?
  • Am I on a first-name basis with the principal of my child's school and his or her teachers?
  • Do I regularly attend Parent-Teacher Association meetings?
  • Do I know the children with whom my children are friends?
  • Do I know the names of the parents of my children's friends and talk regularly with them about our children?
  • Do I talk to my family, neighbors, children, friends, and community members about important education issues?
  • Do I talk to my family, neighbors, children, friends, and community members about the value of education?
  • Have I volunteered at a school in my community, whether through a career day, school event, or fund-raising activity?
  • Am I aware of the different educational options for my child at every level of schooling?
  • Do I attend parent-teacher conferences each semester and always discuss my child's progress with him or her?
  • Can I advocate for my child if he or she needs extra services, such as tutoring, enrichment, or special education services?
  • Do I know the skills and materials my child is responsible for this year and educate myself about those topics so that I can help support my child?
  • Do I check my child's homework every night?
  • If I am not a parent, do I support children in my family or community by providing advice, positive reinforcement, and a strong role model?
  • Do I insist that teachers and administrators establish classroom environments that promote excellence for every child?
  • Do I educate myself about the events occurring in my community regarding crime?
  • Do I talk to my friends, family, children, and neighbors about these issues and events?
  • Do I know how the criminal justice system in my community, state, and nation functions?
  • Have I ever visited a courthouse or jail in my community?
  • Do I talk to my children about how to deal with an encounter with any law enforcement official?
  • Do I know where and how to report police misconduct if it should occur?
  • Do I attend community meetings about issues related to crime and criminal justice?
  • Do I know how to find out what the law is in my community?
  • Do I know if my community has free legal services available to residents?
  • Do I know the Bill of Rights?
  • Do I read the business section of my newspaper?
  • Do I prepare a monthly budget and stick to it?
  • Do I monitor my credit rating at least once every six months?
  • Do I work toward eliminating debt?
  • Do I pay my bills in a timely and consistent fashion?
  • Do I have a savings account and dedicate a percentage of my earnings to it monthly?
  • Do I talk to my family, neighbors, children, friends, and community members about important economic issues?
  • Do I talk to my family, neighbors, friends, children, and community members about the value of understanding the economy and how it affects us?
  • Do I understand the issue of global climate change and how it will affect our world?
  • Do I recycle at home and at work?
  • Do I use public transportation and reduce driving to save money and help the environment?
  • Do I use energy-efficient light bulbs?
  • Do I own a hybrid or energy-efficient car?
  • Do I sometimes ride a bike?
  • Do I talk to neighbors, family, children, and friends about the importance of environmental issues?
  • Do I know the names of my elected officials?
  • If possible, am I registered to vote?
  • If possible, do I vote, even if voting requires obtaining an absentee ballot?
  • Do I talk to my friends, family, children, and neighbors about the importance of voting?
  • Do I educate myself about issues that matter to me and my community so that I can make an informed choice at the polls?
  • Do I engage in honest discussion with others about the pluses and minuses of political issues and individual politicians and find ways to compromise?
  • Have I volunteered to help my democracy through participating in a voter registration drive, helping those in my community to register, providing rides to the polls on Election Day, or helping to educate others about the importance of civic engagement?
  • Have I served as a poll worker?