"I'm just one person; what can I do?"
That's a common refrain among citizens these days, especially in a state with such intractable economic and political problems as Illinois.
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It doesn't have to be that way. Never did, really. Newspapers are constantly filled with the stories of individuals who stepped up to make a difference -- take Erin Merryn, for instance, the 27-year-old Schaumburg woman who was recognized earlier this month for her continuing efforts to export Illinois' anti-sexual abuse legislation that bears her name to all 50 states.
Yes, such achievements can require extraordinary commitment and uncommon effort. But, again, it doesn't have to be that way. Opportunities abound for everyday Illinoisans with everyday time constraints and the pressing demands of work and family to make just a small commitment to an issue or cause that, in conjunction with small commitments made by thousands of others, can make a big difference.
In the realm of Illinois politics, several organizations have worked for years in the interest of reform. CHANGE Illinois, the Coalition for Honest New Government Ethics, brings together civic, business and social leaders to fight political corruption. You can read about the group's work and sign up to help out at www.changeil.org. If campaign finance issues are what particularly frost you, you can follow the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform at www.ilcampaign.org and even volunteer in a variety of ways at its "Get Involved" link, http://www.ilcampaign.org/get-involved. Interested in schools? Look up Advance Illinois at www.advanceillinois.org/.
Want to make an impact in all these areas and play an active role in a let's-roll-up-our-sleeves-and-start-doing-things-differently spirit? A new site launched Monday that aims to channel the collective contributions of citizens, reformers and, yes even newspapers, into meaningful actions on pensions, education, the business climate and waste in state government. The site is Reboot Illinois. Check it out at http://rebootillinois.com, where you'll find a range of opportunities to engage in both the activities and the discussions that can lead to substantive change in how government operates in the state of Illinois.
None of these efforts -- all of them nonpartisan, by the way, or better yet, multi-partisan -- substitutes for the engagement in local and state affairs that newspapers like the Daily Herald and our online services can enable. But they can supplement our work in ways that help put information into action.
Change does not happen magically. If "I'm just one person" is an excuse for you and not en expression of frustration, change will not happen at all. Politicians will go on behaving as they always have. Special interests will go on influencing them as they always have.
And you'll get the government you've always gotten.
But we'll say it again: it doesn't have to be that way. Reboot's launch is a reminder that an array of opportunities exist to remind us all of the answer to the question "what can I do?"
That being "plenty."