Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World

Reviewed by Regina Raboin, Science and Environmental Studies Reference Librarian

by Jonathan M. Tisch with Karl Weber
Crown Publishers, New York 2010
Tisch Library Call Number HN18.3 .T57 2010

The Light on the Hill burns bright and is spreading across America.

Jonathan M. Tisch’s (with Karl Weber) new book, Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World, invites private citizens, public servants, non-profit organizations and corporations to transform old models of civic action into new. In asking the question, will 20th century thinking hold back 21st century progress? Mr. Tisch is hopeful that new ways of perceiving and implementing civic activism will answer 21st century challenges. Throughout the book, Mr. Tisch and Mr. Weber weave examples of citizen activism, social and professional entrepreneurship, and corporate philanthropy, bringing to the forefront transformative thinking and new partnerships between people, organizations and corporations.

The authors profile Tufts University’s Tisch College of Active Citizenship and Public Service, illustrating how private organizations foster social activism through integration of active citizenship across all facets of the school (including curriculum), connecting academic rigor with learning outcomes focused on root causes of societal problems and modeling how social activism is open to everyone. Quite simply, Tisch College outlines ways in which America’s education system can develop active citizens.

Corporate leaders such as Pierre and Pam Omidyar, Bill Gates, Alan Solomont and Alan Khazei are presented as examples of how great wealth and corporate social leadership can address social problems using unique and sustainable partnerships.

Public servant leadership is also explored using Michael Bloomberg’s (and others) New York City (NYC) Service program as an example of “a city of citizens”. Mayor Bloomberg believes that active citizenship combined with non-profit, business and city government assistance can help in creating sustainable urban neighborhoods, “…citizen service can make the difference, bridging the gap between what government can do and what needs to be done.” (p. 108)

From a practical point of view each chapter provides sections entitled “Food for Thought, Seeds for Action”, ideas and information on how to pursue and realize civic engagement. The concluding chapter, “To Learn More”, lists fifty-two ways (along with contact information) to become an active citizen.

It’s not surprising the majority of Citizen You’s featured social activists or organizations are Tufts alumni, students, faculty or affiliated organizations. Tufts University is recognized nationally and internationally for promoting social activism through its Tisch College, student organizations, centers and institutes and curriculum. Tufts is known for graduating students who seek positions in fields that are dedicated to civic engagement and activism – and I think that’s something to write about – don’t you?