Discover Why a Civil Society Matters

Civic leaders drive initiatives that promote a better quality of life for every person living in a community. Their goals are certainly noble, but it’s easy to take their efforts for granted. Discover why civic leadership is so important and why it matters to people today.

There’s a World Without Civic Leadership
Civic Leadership
Image via Flickr by dhendrix73

Take a moment to imagine what American history may have looked like in the United States without civic leadership. It would be a history without Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, Harriet Tubman, or Clara Barton. Imagine if our present or future didn’t feature these people, men and women who stood up, wanted to change the world and decided to make a difference.

Even though we’re in the 21st century, major parts of the world operate with even the weakest form of civic leaders. These societies still have people who engage with social issues and are passionate about making the world a better place. However, without civic leadership, there is no one these people can look to. There is no one driving the initiatives that result in change. The environment in areas without civic leadership is a world where most people do not have their voices heard, and opportunities to improve the lives of all people is hindered.

Reshaping America’s Civic Leadership

In 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981. This important piece of legislation stated, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” The roots of civic leadership coincide with the realization that, despite this decree, all Americans did not receive equal treatment or opportunity, even when serving their country in the military. Civic leadership looked to change this situation.

Martin Luther King Jr. became one of the first civic leaders when he orchestrated the bus boycott in Montgomery in 1955, as a response to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus. As president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, he looked to improve life for people in his community and later the nation. His efforts launched a civic movement which now fights for equality for people of all races, religions, sexualities, abilities, and more.

In 1964, King’s famous dream began to be realized when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into legislation the Civil Rights Act, ending the legal segregation of public places and banning employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  Congress added supporting legislation, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which supported efforts at bringing equal treatment to African Americans.  Neither King nor President Kennedy, who proposed the Act, lived to see the fulfillment of their civic battles—but the outcome of those efforts forever reshaped the lives of millions.

Civic Leadership Today

While people live in a world that’s arguably more equal than it was decades ago, civic leadership is crucial for driving progress. Today’s civic leaders have the advantage of formal education through a Master of Public Administration degree program, designed for developing civic leaders. This program of study teaches students public administration principles, leadership techniques, and procedural and strategic competencies necessary to be effective civic leaders.

The growing economy also puts more financial resources at the disposal of philanthropic organizations. Public sector leaders collaborate with nonprofit organization leadership to decide how to use these funds for the greatest impact. While nonprofits have greater access to funds, people are still in need. More than 15 percent of Americans live in relative poverty. On a global scale, the 80 richest people in the world have more wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion combined. Exceptional civic leadership is crucial to create a greater balance of power.

Many Americans have a good quality of life, but work to enhance the lives of all citizens here and abroad continues. Civic leadership is as important now as it ever was, and its contemporary contribution cannot be underestimated.

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