Primary Thoughts: The Clock Winds Down in Michigan•
“It’s halftime in America,” declared Clint Eastwood with his classic grimace to millions of Americans watching on Super Bowl Sunday. Despite the gravity of these words, Detroit’s – and indeed the nation’s – recovery is not merely a game. Our leaders, both in politics and in our communities, are going to have to find solutions to some of these grave challenges.
Primary season is approaching Michigan, and with it the opportunity to understand local issues of national importance. Detroit was ravaged by the economy’s suppression of its auto-industry, and as a result Michigan’s citizens struggle every single day with deeply rooted barriers to economic opportunity and social mobility.
As if further evidence was needed, the Opportunity Index reveals that the state of social mobility and economic opportunity in the state of Michigan is currently ranked 36th in the nation. But hope and progress can be found in the most unlikely of places.
Breannah Alexander, an Opportunity Scholar with the Opportunity Nation campaign, works every day to improve this score. Ms. Alexander recognizes that “when policy makers fail, it is up to the rest of the community to fix it.” She understands that education is a critical input to develop vibrant opportunity, which is why she is pursuing a “pipeline of opportunity” that would see more parents invest in pre-school education for their children well as “connect local employers to career centers and high schools.” These initiatives create an infrastructure within communities for an education that translates to real, concrete jobs and opportunities.
Breannah’s work promoting the Opportunity Index as a valuable tool and jumping off point continues to serve her community. “The response,” she says, “has been positive, as leaders and everyday citizens recognize the need for a change. The spirit of collaboration is gracing our efforts… so now it is the everyday citizens’ turn to make the necessary adjustments.”
Michigan will hear a lot about auto bailouts, the economy, and the social values of the candidates, but for many Michiganders it goes beyond partisan bickering, moral platitudes, or even a job – their future as a state, as communities, and as families and individuals comes down to access to opportunity. For them there is no game-clock, there’s no countdown to an election day, but only a future promising plenty of potential but no clear route to a victory.