Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Remembering Roosevelt, watching Obama

We are staying in a cute Bed and Breakfast just 12 blocks short of the White House but it was looking like I'd only see it from the back of a cab en route to yet one more meeting. But today our lunch meeting was rescheduled and we had a couple of hours to kill. So a hot dog or the White house? I ditch the lunch.

I was also keen to see the Memorial to FDR - one of the greatest of the American Presidents and whose New Deal projects should be a model for our Government today. It's a memorial spread over 7.5 acres and incorporating panels that remember his achievements and record his speeches.



One panel commemorates the founding of the Conservation Corps. This is an idea for this century too. The "green army" we have been urging on our Government. The great thing about FDR was his vision, ability to think big and to deliver. The contrast with the tentative £9.5m volunteering plan from DWP is stark. The Lecture I gave with DEMOS talked about the role of the Works Progress Administration. They created a massive jobs programme, even funding arts and culture. A real achievement. And a great Memorial.

Our first meeting was with the CEO of the American Society of Association Executives. 75,000 members and a Centre for Association Leadership. We have links and talk about work together in Europe. They "connect great ideas and great people" so they say. A neat strap line; just ripe for plagiarism.

But the most fascinating meeting was with Directors of the National Democratic Institute. They work across 100 nations but we particularly talk about EUCLID's work in the Balkans. We will work together on ideas for expansion. We talk about the role that civil society leaders can play and how the leadership role needs support.

Dinner with Richard Brewster, formerly CEO of SCOPE, and now lecturing in the States on Non-Profits. He follows the news from home and I am able to fill him in on the latest battles and gossip.

Back in time to watch Obama's televised Press conference. What is amazing is how the entire Press conference is carried on main TV. Inconceivable that the BBC would run other than a small extract of a PM press conference in the UK. He talks about "finger pointing" though not orgies. Has he been reading my Blog? He looks tired and got tetchy with one reporter, though most questions are tame and unctuous. No John Humphreys there I'm afraid.

He has started to get real criticism. But he is still clearly hugely popular. Difficult to avoid the shops stacked with the T Shirts and the memorabilia.

Logging in to do my Blog I notice a posted comment from Saul Alinsky's biographer. Apparently it is his Centennial and just six weeks ago the celebrations started with a commemoration at Chicago University. She is interested in coming to the UK to have a celebration of Alinsky here. That would be cool. I hope to make contact. Let's make that happen.

1 comment:

Janet F said...

Stephen,
Reading your Washington posts with more interest than usual, sounds like some great input for sharing on this side of the water (although I'm not convinced about having no need for 3-year plans - we should keep them; it's how you adjust them as you go along that's important).
Will we be able to pick up some more detail/links on the various ideas, e.g via the blog, or acevo's website, on your return?
Keep it coming.