The election is over! Whether you are happy or unhappy about the results, we can all agree that the campaign itself was a long and grueling slog. I personally am looking forward to no more attack ads, no more fundraising emails, and no more robocalls. I’m as big a political junkie as anyone, and even I was exhausted by this election season. The pundits called Virginia a “battleground state,” and that’s exactly what it felt like: a battleground, full of conflict and noise.
In addition to swing-state fatigue, I was also frustrated by the fact that the campaign was so petty, bitter, and divisive. By their nature, elections are about drawing contrasts, picking a side, standing with your team and opposing the other team. And in modern politics, too often, the way we draw contrasts is by highlighting the negatives of the other side, rather than the positives of our side. I’m a person who would rather focus on what we have in common rather than what divides us, and I prefer to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
Happily, RCA has the perfect tonic for the division and negativity of the campaign: our Citzen of the Year award, one of my favorite events on our calendar. We’re now accepting nominations for the 2012 award.
John Lovaas and I revived the Citizen of the Year award in 2008, restoring an RCA tradition that began in 1976, precisely because it’s a purely positive event for RCA and for Reston. And it’s become an entrenched tradition because we enjoy spotlighting the work of dedicated citizen volunteers and civic activists who work behind the scenes, and providing them the recognition and appreciation they’ve earned. Regardless of our political beliefs or our issue positions, we can all agree to honor those citizens who are making Reston a better place.
In 2008, we gave the award to Hank Blakely, a longtime lay minister and social justice activist (now an RCA Board member!). In 2009, we feted Sue Pinkman, former president of the Reston Community Players. In 2010, we gave a long-overdue award to a true pillar of our community, the late Dave Edwards. Our Citizen of the Year ceremony was one of Dave's last public appearances, and I'm very proud that many community dignitaries turned out to celebrate Dave's life and work. (For more detail on those past ceremonies and the history of the Citizen of the Year award, see my post from last year.)
Last year, we honored Nick Brown, who’s been doing volunteer work in Reston for decades. Despite being a well-renowned scientist with a high-profile career, he’s still found time to help out in the community, working with groups from Reston Interfaith to FACETS to the Cub Scouts to the South Lakes Band Boosters. He’s helped kids get interested in science, and he’s helped the elderly by providing one-on-one support and handyman services.
At the ceremony, he challenged the community to do a better job reaching out to the lower-income elderly, who may not be poor enough to receive social services, but too often find themselves isolated and in need of help with day-to-day expenses and tasks. And he concluded his moving address by saying, “You’re welcome. I’m glad I could be of help.” For over three decades, Reston has benefitted from Nick’s selfless and generous help.
As you can see from the list of past winners, this year’s award winner has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, there are so many dedicated and hard-working volunteers that I’m sure we will find another worthy winner. If you know someone who would qualify, please submit a nomination! These are the criteria for selection:
1. The nominee has been a Reston resident for at least 5 years.
2. The nominee’s actions are consistent with the goals of Reston, and of RCA.
3. The nominee’s actions have contributed to the quality of life in Reston.
4. People in need of help have benefited from the nominee’s actions.
5. The nominee’s deeds were done without thought of personal benefit or recognition.
6. The nominee is not currently serving as an elected public official or a member of the Board of a major community organization (RA, RCA, or RCC).
If you know someone who meets these criteria, we would love to hear about him or her. Within the next few days, you’ll be able to download the nomination form from the RCA website; if you'd like to get started early, contact me and I'll send you the form directly.
It’s understandable that we get excited as election approaches, especially one as close as this year’s. But now that Election Day has passed, it’s time to remember that, red or blue, whatever our position on national or local issues, we’re all united in a desire to make Reston a better place to live, work, and play. I look forward to celebrating our common virtues, and recognizing another of Reston’s tremendous volunteers, at this year’s Citizen of the Year ceremony.