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PARSA CF University: What Is Civic Participation?

Source: PARSA Community Foundation

John Gardner, the late civic leader who led federal cabinet agencies and founded citizen organizations such as Common Cause, spoke and wrote extensively about the importance of citizen engagement in the life of the country. One of his most thoughtful observations on the role of civic life was this: "Freedom and responsibility, liberty and duty. That's the deal." 

Civic participation in the United States is like a contract - we are afforded freedoms, liberties and rights, which we can only exercise if we are informed of those rights and make use of them. At the same time, we are afforded great responsibilities and duties that if we fail to exercise undermine the basic functioning of our society.

PARSA Community Foundation defines civic participation as the exercise of both our rights and our responsibilities as citizens and residents of our communities. These responsibilities include voting, serving on juries, and participating in non-profit and civic organizations, among many other things.

This notion is especially important for diaspora groups such as the Iranian-American community, where civic participation can serve as a stepping stone to civic integration.  And as we become more engaged in our communities as active citizens, our culture, history and values also become more deeply integrated into our American communities.
There are many ways to get involved, often via public policy or community organizing: 

  • Voter registration, voter education activities and get-out-the-vote campaigns
  • Meeting and communicating with elected officials to make sure that your vote and voice counts
  • Community organizing to identify the most critical issues affecting their community, developing solutions and carrying those solutions out

These can be done either as an active individual or as part of an organized group of people, whether through a community or cultural group, a nonprofit organization or government organization.
One of the first steps and easiest ways to make a difference is to register to vote if you are an American citizen. Voters have power in numbers, and through consolidating power in states with sizeable Iranian-American communities, we can affect the outcomes of elections and make our voice heard through supporting elected officials. If you are not a citizen or if you are too young to vote, you can still be involved in activities to mobilize and educate voters in your community.
Keep in mind that the deadline for voter registration and some rules for who is eligible to vote are different depending on which state you live in. Get access to information on voting in your state by clicking here. If you are already registered it is also worthwhile to confirm your registration and polling place, especially if you have moved or changed your registration status recently.

However your vote doesn't stop counting after election-day. Your elected officials need to be held accountable to their constituents who voted them into office, and this can only be done through ongoing involvement: phone calls and letters to your representatives are a simple and powerful way to help ensure that they continue to represent you and your communities interests - and remember that a faxed or posted letter is even more effective than an email.
Not only do the civic participation activities that our communities and nonprofits sponsor serve as vehicles for mutual assistance and build a sense of community, they also serve as advocacy groups and influence the decision-making process among policy makers. Whether through voting or through community organizing, by educating ourselves about issues important to Iranian-Americans and taking action, we can weave the Persian thread into the fabric of American society.

PARSA Community Foundation Announces Its 2008 Persian Garden Gala!

Please join us for PARSA CF's 2008 Persian Garden Gala this November 15 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, California. It will be a festive evening featuring a performance by Bijan Mortazavi and Master of Ceremonies Dan Ahdoot.

November 15, 2008
Westin St. Francis Hotel
San Francisco, California


... Payvand News - 10/27/08 ... --

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