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I too, was part of the war on poverty program in the 1967 beginning as a federally sponsored “intern” with the Urban Renewal program, moving to Model Cities, then to Planned Variations (I bet few people have heard of that one!). I also led a neighborhood association in an inner city neighborhood originally populated in the 1900s by white Irish merchants who slowly abandoned it as inner cities declined and suburbs emerged, where the large houses were then broken into student apartments, then later transitioned to a black neighborhood and in the 1960s received renewed interest by young, mostly white professionals like myself who wanted to save beautiful homes and create an integrated neighborhood. A recipe for disaster, but how could we have known that? What did happen however was that a core of black leadership arose, but these leaders were not necessarily more enlightened about what to do than their vision-less and incompetent white predecessors. Lesson learned: without visionary, and very competent leadership, coupled with broad citizen participation, these efforts won’t work.
I got into politics to change things (after being fired by the City Manger for trying to change things)—and helped to elect Jimmy Carter. I went to Washington and decided to try international development work, believing that my local community development experience and lessons learned could be applied to our foreign aid programs. I tried, I married, I tried, I lived for almost 10 years in Asia, I gave up. The problem was the same: Lack of visionary, committed rigorous-thinking and competent leadership that was unable to drill down into the bureaucracy or partner with NGOs, PVOs or other governments or donors on a smart and mutually respectful basis. Amen.