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Progressive Values Stories: Scott Henderson on the Common Good

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Providing for the common good, making people feel secure in their communities and homes - this is the central job of government. it's why all of us are here serving our state and our people.  John Baldacci

I interviewed Scott Henderson in Los Angeles. Scott  told me the Common Good was the most important progressive value and 'we're all in it together'.  He tells a story about growing up in the 50's and feeling a sense of community, but that we've lost that now.  He thinks conservatives characterize progressives as wanting to be supported by the state and thinks conservatives have good intentions and mean well, but don’t fully comprehend the importance of all of us supporting each other.

Progressive Values Stories: Scott Henderson on the Common Good

My name is Scott Henderson from L.A.  My main political focus right now is the Clean Money Movement.  In California there’s Assembly Bill 583 which has passed the Assembly, a pilot program which would prove hopefully the viability of a large state like California being able to run Clean Money elections.

The underlying value here is, “Are we in this together, or is it every man for himself?”  My value is that I believe in the common good and think we should be in this together.  It’s a value that’s usually attributed to Christian values, but I believe it’s also a very progressive liberal value – support for your fellow man and helping each other out. 

We had that back when I was a child in the 50’s.  We’ve lost that, especially starting in the 80’s.  I remember right after WWII, it was very difficult for an Asian family to buy a house in our town in Orange County, which was pretty conservative and very Caucasian.  For example, a Japanese family wanted to buy a normal track home, but the realtors kept shuttling them off into the ghetto in Orange County.  So, our church got together and we put pressure on the realtors to sell this family a reasonably nice middle class home.  We were successful.  I felt that worked toward the common good.

There were other examples – the recreation department where I grew up, provided a nice summer activities for kids to go to school, and we could play baseball, do arts and crafts.  That was a type of thing supported by the city, so kids had places to go and interact with each other, develop social skills, have fun and stay out of trouble.  But I feel those kinds of programs aren’t being funded any more.  You don’t know what you’ve lost till it’s gone.  A Joni Mitchell phrase that’s really true.

Another example of camaraderie or sense of common good was that California supported education, not only from kindergarten to high school, but through college.  When I went to school, we didn’t have tuition.  We paid fees, but it was usually less than $100 a quarter. 

Progressive Values Characterized As? Scott Henderson

I think conservatives think we’re selfish because we want to be supported by the state.  I guess that is what they’d say, that everybody wants to be on welfare.  There are at least two groups of conservatives – the conservatives more profit driven, and the conservatives looking at social issues, the fundamentalist Christian kind of conservatives.  It’s hard to lump both of them together.  I would guess the fundamentalist Christians think we’re all a bunch of crazed hippies that want to do drugs and feed off the public trough, and the corporate conservatives look at progressive values as interfering with their capability of making a profit.  There the ones who want to bring in cheap labor in the U.S. and send our jobs overseas, because they don’t really care about Americans but mostly about lining their wallets.

Edwin:  What’s the value there, they would say?

Answer:  I think they’re a complex group.  Some would say we’re undisciplined.  Others that we’re the devil.  It depends which conservative you’re talking to.  Our job is to try to convince them that what we’re really looking out for is all of us together collectively.  We the people with the Constitution.  Somehow I think the other side has forgotten that.  You know – liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  You can’t pursue happiness if you’re impoverished or if you have to watch behind your back for losing your job, or you’re sick and are going through bankruptcy. 

I think we need to recover the reason why we founded this country, and that was based on the common good. 


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Founder of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy. The Culture of Empathy website is a growing portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, (more...)
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