This I Believe

Ivan - Hartford, Connecticut
Entered on June 13, 2006
Age Group: 65+

This I Believe

As an escapee from the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, I have been haunted all my life by the question of why was I saved? Was I spared for some purpose?

After much searching, the answer for me was to live a life of service to others. Specifically, I believe in service to strive for more justice and peace and peace in the world. I have been fortunate to have headed a neighborhood improvement project in an impoverished section of Hartford, Connecticut, on behalf of four non-profit institutions: a large hospital, Hartford Hospital; The Institute of Living, a prominent psychiatric facility; Connecticut Children’s Medical Center; and Trinity College, a leading liberal arts college. These institutions have virtually contiguous campuses. In cooperation with neighborhood residents we worked to improve housing conditions, employment opportunities, street and traffic improvements, as well as recreation and education for young people. The goal of these initiatives was to support increased equity and opportunity. I was fortunate to be paid for work I loved to do and believed in.

Of course, volunteers with whom I worked were not compensated, which made their efforts all the more remarkable and praiseworthy. Volunteers contributed substantially to the improvements of those with limited opportunities. But it became clear that to affect permanent improvements, further resources and commitments of institutions and government were needed for necessary systemic changes to occur. I believe that along with the individual efforts of volunteers, the basic values of equity and justice must be reflected in the beliefs, decisions and actions of community leaders. The entire community and country need to support these traditional American values when dealing with local and national problems.

Unfortunately, I believe that these values are being threatened by our national excesses of materialism and greed, as well as by our misplaced priorities of producing an ever-greater quantity weapons at the expense of essential human services, especially education. The United States of America was founded on a bedrock of justice and opportunity, but these values are being threatened by the widening gap between our poor and our wealthy, with the middle class trying to keep up. Unless we ensure justice and opportunity for all our citizens I believe that America will become increasingly distrusted and marginalized, and eventually will decline as a leading power. I do not believe that this course is inevitable, but I believe we must return to being a more just and equitable society before it is too late.