Join or Die
by Byron Jackson
The non-profit agency, Possibilities, Inc., and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber recently partnered to show the documentary film, Join or Die at the Yale Event Center. Join or Die, one of Dead Center Film Festival’s 2023 featured documentaries, is a film about why you should join a club and why the fate of America may depend on it. The documentary follows the half-century story of America’s civic unraveling through the journey of legendary social scientist, Robert Putnam, whose groundbreaking “Bowling Alone” research into America’s decades-long decline in community connections could hold the answers to our democracy’s present crisis.
The film highlights a handful of long-standing, credible, community organizations, one of which is Rotary. The documentary shared the story of how Rotary started with the vision of one man, Paul Harris, the Chicago attorney who formed the club in 1905, so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. The message of this film may strongly resonate with Rotarians and specifically those in OKC’s Club 29 where through our involvement as members, we have experienced the benefits of deepening community involvement, personal and professional connections, and opportunities for collaboration.
The film demonstrates the irreplaceable value clubs and organizational memberships offer in that no matter what is happening in our country, they give people a place to belong and a platform to maintain a sense of community. However, according to Putnam, civic engagement peaked in the early sixties. Since then, that number has declined in subtle but profound ways. Religious and civic involvement numbers are down. And to note, my own original Rotary group disbanded for lack of involvement.
Might I leave you with this thought…as you attend Rotary, never lose sight of our vision, a place for citizens to belong and a place to be a part of something bigger. Motivation for the Chamber and Possibilities to collaborate and show this film came from respect for a shared mission. The Chamber is the visionary organization in the region giving voice to each business in the community and a platform to connect while Possibilities mission is to make sure we create human connections that make our communities vibrant, alive, and meaningful.