American values

American valuesAs United States Senator John McCain prepared for his death he wrote a message to America and the world. We share a few of his words as a call to our higher selves, a reminder of our humanity – and fragility – and as beacon of hope.

I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life… To be connected to America’s causes – liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people – brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

The nonprofit community represents one aspect of what makes the United States a country that is so good and unique in the world. It is our willingness to give back and to work with those individuals who need help. Our collective mission, vision and goals represent aspirations that seek to better humanity.

Look at the words of the IRS in granting tax-exempt status to nonprofits: organizations whose purposes are  charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and the prevention of cruelty to children or animals… relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erection or maintenance of public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.

That is a wide net! There are so many of us advancing a higher calling. We join Senator McCain in calling for us to remember our common values, and to not let political discord enter into the life of our nonprofits. The management and support of our nonprofits has to maintain the ability to cross “both aisles” in our highly politicized environment. We cannot be driven by ideology and hidden agendas. We cannot let our nonprofits – who constantly represent what is good about America – be consumed by the ugliness of political partisanship.

Calling on the Senator’s words we encourage you do all in your power to make sure political divisiveness does not contaminate our nonprofit community and erode its values. Here are a few things to keep an eye on. Does political affiliation – or ones position on a specific political issue enter into the following?

  1. Selection of board members
  2. Distribution of grant funds and technical assistance
  3. Selection of volunteers and paid leadership
  4. Offering of in-kind resources and services
  5. Allocation of government grants to nonprofits by both local and national agencies
  6. Community input and outreach processes
  7. Acknowledgement and recognition

As Senator McCain wrote, We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

We can live into the promise of America, and the vision of our nonprofit sector. We have to keep our eyes, ears and hearts open, and to think before we speak.

The full content of Senator McCain’s message is available online at

Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

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