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Where Have All the Joiners Gone?

Where Have All the Joiners Gone?

A fascinating, though not so recent article in the New York Times* has a lot of pertinence for Hawaii today Starting with de Tocqueville's observation in the early 19th century that we are a nation of joiners, the author (Shaila Dewan) shows how far we have strayed from that tendency. In fact, says Dewan, things are bad enough that the New York chapter of the League of Women Voters, then 81 years old, announced that its office would be closing for financial reasons.

Nationally, it was noted that the average age of the League's 130,000 members was over 50. It is probably older in Hawaii.

New organizations are springing up, said Ms. Dewan, but none are being founded as the League was, "as a replacement for rural gatherings like barn raisings and quilting bees." Citing Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, she adds "It is personal participation that has made these organizations so integral to preserving both society's fabric and individual health" -- and it is participation that is missing from a number of the organizations that are replacing the older ones.

Given Hawaii's abysmal voting records, the officials found guilty of corruption, and the lack of faith in public institutions on the part of the public, there can be little doubt that the League is still as much needed here as it has ever been. But it is a challenge to attract those young people who are so much needed. Maybe a good time to go recruiting?

*"A League of Its Own," New York Times, December 31, 2000

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