Project HOPE Executive Directors Speak on Greenwood Panel on Civic Engagement

It can be “frustrating.” It can be “lonely.” But, as panelist Susan Sachs put it, “I can’t imagine a life if service were not part of it. I don’t know what the meaning would be.”

Sachs was one of four who spoke at Lander University Wednesday night. The Panel on Civic Engagement was organized to show students and the Greenwood community that “citizens must and should do much more than show up on Election Day,” host and Lander professor Ashley Woodiwiss said.

In a country where few bother to show up on election dayespecially young adults, that comment may have seemed unlikely to resonate with the audience.

Sachs disagreed.

“This is exactly the kids of audience we need to be speaking with,” she said. “People who’ll heard our message and say, ‘I can do that. I want to do that.’”

The panelists were selected to demonstrate the variety of ways and means of serving one’s community.

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, a Republican, is now a leading proponent of free-market solutions to climate change. To that end, he hopes to convince 25 House Republicans and 15 Senate Republicans to support “meaningful climate action” by 2022.

The Rev. Christopher B. Thomas, director of the Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site had his own goal: Create 100 African American school teachers from Greenwood County.

Lisa Lane and Sachs, co-founders of the Project HOPE Foundation, detailed the incremental progress they have made in making Applied Behavior Analysis, an effective, yet expensive, therapy for those diagnosed with autism, widely available.

“The reason that we came to this level of civic engagement is because we’re moms,” Sachs said. “This was trust upon us.”

Each of the panelists described their work as filling a void, stepping in where nobody else would, not even government.

The panel was one event in a series titled “Achieving the Promise: Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” funded in part by SC Humanities.

Part of the inspiration for the series, Woodiwiss said, is the concept of “new localism” discussed by scholars Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak.

Woodiwiss said the panelists’ actions exemplified this new localism, which is defined by is transcendence of partisanship.

“The posture is that of the citizen who sees others different from them not as foes or combatants but as fellow citizens,” Woodiwiss said. “They have one shared identity: love of their local community.”