Happy 4th of July! Today, we remember what it means to be Americans and celebrate all that entails—including the right to represent ourselves in the political process.
The Mikva Challenge believes that youth voice and participation matter, and that our region’s civic and political life will be stronger when youth participate and help shape their own destinies. Through programs and initiatives, they challenge high school students throughout the Chicagoland area to be active participants in the political process through elections, community problem solving and policy-making programs.
[pullquote]“Good giving requires good listening”: Q+A with Mikva Challenge ED Brian Brady[/pullquote]
The Trust sat down with Brian Brady, executive director of Mikva Challenge, to talk about philanthropy and why getting young people involved in the democratic process matters.
Q: Why is teaching civic empowerment and political participation to all young people important?
A: All the problems that we are confronting as a society today—from global warming to joblessness and from education to urban violence—require young people (and a lot of them) to help solve these important issues. The future of our democracy and the health of our city and nation will depend on how well we train our young people to be civic doers and problem solvers.
Q: What inspires or motivates you to do good for others?
A: I always think that no human interaction is just one way. When I am doing good for someone, he or she is usually helping or enlightening me in some way too. We are all one human family and our lives are interconnected so when we help others we are also helping ourselves.
Q: What is the greatest act of kindness or giving you have witnessed?
A: The simple ones I see everyday. I once saw a mentally ill older white woman cussing out a CTA maintenance man—calling him racial epithets at the Lake transfer station. This African-American gentleman didn’t get angry and instead took out his wallet and handed her $20. Now that is grace. I see it often in regular Chicagoans who do the right thing without looking for credit.
Q: How do you think giving creates stronger communities?
A: Giving is getting. It builds relationships and helps everyone be connected, stronger, and linked together practically and spiritually. Good giving requires good listening. Listening—real listening—is the simplest and often most powerful act of kindness we can give one another.
Q: You are a philanthropist—what advice do you have for others who want to do good?
A: I would say learn before you give. Give to empower others and not just to feel good. Look beyond your comfort zone too and examine racial and economic injustice issues and try to give in ways that change systems and people to be more just and generous.