Spirit of the Heartland

There was a Spirit of America meeting at the Heartland Brewery on Manhattan’s Union Square Tuesday evening, organized by Sean Doherty, Richard Vermillion and Peter Anderson. If you have a chance to go to an SoA event, don’t miss it. They attract some smart, dedicated, thoughtful people.


Richard Vermillion, one of the fundraiser’s organizers, counting the take for SoA’s Iraqi clients

There were several themes expressed. The first was that this is the most important thing we can commit ourselves to. After all, is there any urge more basic than for our life to be of consequence? No matter how we define consequence, most of our instincts and actions seem aimed towards it.

This imperative seemed to motivate many of the people there, who have reacted as I did, saying that this campaign of ours is the best chance we have to win the hearts and minds of people who only know America through our misleading broadcasts and the propaganda they are fed by their rulers.

A part of this spirit is a yearning to do something, felt since the afternoon of 9/11/01, and still not satisfied. On 9/12/01, Americans woke up determined to do something – anything – to put the world back the way it had been. It’s understandable but unfortunate that the government failed to harness the awesome collective force of the American people. It was a bureaucratic failing, since government has no way to engage people spontaneously, assuming wrongly that government IS the people.

We wanted to give blood, haul trash from Ground Zero, donate blankets, etc. Instead we were told to go to Orlando. That may have been sound economic advice, since it was our economy that needed a transfusion, but it didn’t satisfy the part of us that yearns to reach out to neighbors in need.

Bureaucrats don’t inhabit the web, so they have no way of knowing how people can reach across geographical and ideological boundaries to lock arms and do amazing things. To be fair, the power of the web to gather and focus people power was less clear three years ago.

Spirit of America uniquely scratches our itch to be useful. By an incredible stroke of luck, it appeals equally to people who support a pre-emptive foreign policy and to those who oppose it.

Most of the people at the meeting had contributed and are keen to do whatever they can. Two people said that Spirit of America is the “something” they’d been looking for – I got the sense from some that this was a contrast to their job which is, well, merely their job. One person said that when the Spirit of America weekly newsletter hits his inbox, he stops everything and reads it through.

The Vision Thing

I had a pleasant walk down from 2nd & 38th with Robert Tolmach, Founder and CEO of Glasses for Humanity (GfH). Kerry Dupont, Spirit of America’s Logistics Goddess, and Robert and I have been structuring a way to distribute used eyeglasses in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we feel it will be a straightforward project to put into place.

Esther Dyson, who serves on Robert’s impressive Advisory Board, sent her regrets from Colorado. She had realized there’s a natural fit between SoA and GfH even before introducing us at Jerry Michalski‘s weekend retreat in Toronto six weeks ago. It took Robert and me a while to see how to make it work, but Esther probably had it figured out last month. After all, she’s Esther.


Lt. Col. “Rudy” Rudolf gave Avery Stirrat a private briefing

Lt. Col James M. “Rudy” Rudolf, USMC, told us how vital the Spirit of America is becoming for the troops who can deploy its benefits: how it’s saving real lives by moderating the passions that define the Iraqi experience. Rudy’s totally committed to advancing the SoA initiative. He reports that all the Marines working the far end of the SoA supply chain are convinced that this system can have huge benefits. Now that it’s been working for over six months, They are dedicated to stepping it up a notch. Part of that means refining the granularity, exposing the troops at the unit level so they understand how to spot needs and file project requests.

Taking it to the Web

The organizers of the event were glad to hear that Spirit of America’s new web site, to be rolled out in early September, will give them a powerful suite of tools to form teams, coordinate their efforts, schedule events and issue invitations to SoA members, organized by ZIP codes within a desired radius. They felt it would have been useful to have an announcement on the SoA web site, so people would know there was some relationship to the organization. Next time they will.

Thanks, guys for putting this one together, even though you had to use duct tape and baling wire. We’re getting the new model ready and we think you’ll like the way it flies.

8:25:04 AM    

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