Being heard: the struggles of the working poor

Today, millions of Americans are struggling to stay afloat economically. Many of them are working full-time, but they cannot make their paychecks stretch to pay the bills for basic necessities. What has come of the American Dream? Is it still true that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will prosper?

These questions will be discussed at the Russell-Roosevelt Policy Institute next week. For the first time ever, the Richard B. Russell Library – a political archive and center for research and study of politics and policy – and the Roosevelt Institution at UGA – part of a national network of student think tanks dedicated to influencing national policy – are presenting the Russell-Roosevelt Policy Institute. The Russell Library will also serve as a repository for materials related to developing civic engagement programming and is available to interested groups.

The Russell-Roosevelt Policy Institute fosters civic engagement and deliberation among diverse audiences and gives participants the skills to tackle important issues in their own communities. It offers training in a range of skills essential for building an engaged and informed community of citizens, and it gives participants an opportunity to discuss solutions and issues related to the working poor.

The Russell-Roosevelt Policy Institute is modeled on the National Issues Forums Institute, first known as the Domestic Policy Association. This forum was created in 1981 and has evolved over more than 25 years to foster constructive civic participation and dialogue among citizens. Examples of issue forum topics that have been addressed over the years at National Issues Forums include economic issues, energy and the environment, health and well-being, children and families, civil rights, education and many other subjects.

Three related events are scheduled as part of the inaugural institute. First, a forum will consider three perspectives on the question of what can be done to ease the financial problems that plague both the working poor and many middle-class families. This June 23 event is free and open to the public in room 214 of the Student Learning Center from 10 a.m. to noon. The topic is “Making Ends Meet: Is There a Way to Help Working Americans?” Additionally, two events are scheduled to complement the Public Policy Institute. Both will be held at the Russell Library in the Main Library on North Campus. A lecture about affordable housing will be presented by Andrew Carswell in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences on June 22 from 5:30-6 p.m. and a reception for the opening of the exhibit, “A Place for Us: The Challenges of Housing in Athens and Surrounding Areas,” will be on June 22 from 6-8 p.m.