Chicago — In its Sunday editorial on October 6, 2013, the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune encouraged readers to help craft a new plan of Chicago by submitting proposals that addressed the city's many challenges holistically, not one by one. Midtown Educational Foundation responded with the following idea, signed by Executive Director Glenn Wilke.
To: Tribune Editorial Board
435 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Re: A New Plan of Chicago
The iWILL Chicago Campaign:
Inspiring a Renewed Sense of Personal Responsibility
for the City of Chicago and Its People
Scan the pages of the Chicago Tribune online or in print every day of the week and you’re likely to find an endless array of finger-pointing on the topics that the Tribune’s Sunday editorial addressed. Conflict is the name of the game today, and it’s no different on the streets of Chicago than in the halls of Congress or the hallways of Springfield. It’s almost always “the other guy’s fault.” Conversations shut down, stalemates ensue, and thorny problems persist with few workable solutions in sight.
Isn’t it about time that the prevailing negative attitudes and behaviors that people manifest toward one another change from “I won’t” to iWILL? Isn’t it time to instill a renewed sense of personal responsibility among all the people who call Chicago home?
iWILL is a mindset that many progressive, forward-looking, and action-oriented Chicagoans already possess. Chicago wouldn’t be the great American city that it’s become if it weren’t for the Burnhams, McCormicks and other leaders in the civic, business and philanthropic community who paved the way. There’s a strong foundation of good will and civic-mindedness to build on, even today.
But there’s serious work to be done if the city and its people are to overcome present-day challenges. And it could start with a strong assist and support from the Chicago Tribune – at little to no expense – as an editorial and promotional platform with a clear call to action.
Remember the long-running and highly successful I Love New York campaign?
“iWILL” is Chicago’s answer, rooted in solid Midwestern values without the bravado.
The “i” stands for every individual who calls Chicago home, as in “I’m a Chicagoan, and as a proud Chicagoan, I have a personal stake in the future of the city and a personal responsibility to my family, community and myself to make a difference.” It’s a lower case “i” because in the true spirit of service, it’s not about aggrandizing oneself but in truly helping others.
WILL represents intent – an action, a state of mind, a response that opens dialogue, fosters conversations, promotes the common good and leads to successful outcomes. WILL can take as many forms as needed to address Chicago’s ills as well as its plentiful opportunities. “iWILL, for example, take personal responsibility for:
♣ Tutoring a child.
♣ Schooling my children at home.
♣ Helping others become better parents.
♣ Continuing my education.
♣ Persevering to find a new job.
♣ Respecting the opinions of others.
♣ Reaching compromise.
♣ Volunteering my time to a worthy cause.
♣ Becoming self-sufficient.
♣ My actions.”
Success doesn’t have to be measured in gigantic gains, but in the many thousands of small acts of kindness and concern that Chicagoans everywhere can and should exhibit toward others in need every day. Perhaps the Chicago Tribune could drive this effort itself, getting the public and private sector to rally around it in meaningful ways. Together with community partners and corporate sponsors, for example, the Tribune could promote this call to action in a tangible way through an iWILL logo and branded products. Chicagoans could pledge to take one or several such actions, qualifying them to purchase and wear t-shirts, buttons, stickers, etc., benefiting organizations supported by Chicago Tribune Charities and the McCormick Foundation. The campaign would raise awareness of the message and encourage Chicagoans to WILL to make the city a better, brighter place.
As Executive Director of the Midtown Educational Foundation (MEF) in Chicago, I’m proud of the WILL and personal responsibility that our staff, volunteers, instructors, advisers, and parenting coordinators have demonstrated in serving at-risk Chicago children and families since 1965. As a team of individual contributors, they help:
4th through 6th graders develop study habits associated with high achievers.
7th and 8th graders prepare to enter college prep high schools and ultimately college.
9th through 12th graders explore career options and prepare for college entrance exams.
Students at every level acquire the attitudes of successful people of good character.
Parents deal with the complexities of raising their children in a tough environment.
Sunday’s editorial made points that resonated with me and underscored the value of MEF’s distinctive approach to youth development, which integrates academics with character, and individual attention with parental involvement. “Single parents don’t have the drive, the skills, the time, the money to give their children the uplift that every parent wants and every child needs.” Furthermore, “children are starved for authority figures and role models.”
Since MEF programs deliver benefits on both counts, iWILL pledge the following as a sign of my own personal commitment to Chicago urban youth and parents:
To share MEF’s business model and character-building program with every other youth development organization in the city and state, as a means for more effectively and collectively addressing the critical needs of urban youth and their parents.
Midtown Educational Foundation
P.S. A copy of this proposal also has been e-mailed to PlanOfChicago@tribune.com