(Detroit) I am here for a conference on “Generations: Rethinking Age and Citizenship.” In my keynote, I will try to argue that civic engagement, properly understood, is a solution to our grievous, chronic, “wicked” problems, the problems that national politicians, for all their alleged polarization and heated disagreement, almost all ignore.
Detroit is an appropriate place for that discussion because its population is about half what it was in 1950, the exodus compelled by a permanent closing of factories and the service industries that once supported factory workers. Detroit’s high school dropout rate is 75%. Michigan incarcerates five times as many people as it did in 1973 and spends 20% of its state’s general fund revenue on prisons. Detroit’s traditional industry has contributed badly to global warming.
I don’t happen to know the city but would always begin a serious analysis by looking for local assets and productive projects, rather than simply listing problems. I hear that many important positive experiments are underway here; Declare Detroit is an example.