How Abner Mikva Taught Us That ‘Democracy Is a Verb’

Walking into the Mikva Challenge office this morning, I had a flashback to when I was 10 years old in 1976 and walked into Ab Mikva’s campaign office in Evanston. Back then, as now, there were young people everywhere coming to work at a place where young people are valued. Today I saw teens heading to their posts on the Mikva Challenge Mayoral Youth Commission, Chicago Housing Authority Youth Council, Teen Health Council, Juvenile Justice Council and other Mikva Challenge youth councils and summer fellowships (part of a 208-strong youth cohort we hired this summer for public sector internships). The staff was buzzing around, the phone was ringing, journalists were waiting in the lobby, and there was a wonderful energy of controlled chaos. It felt like going back home, it felt like community—that unique Mikva kind of community that is unapologetically working to improve the world and participating passionately in our civic life. During Ab Mikva’s long public service career, he built community, he nurtured young people, he fought for equality and justice, and [pullquote position="left"]he valued the role of the regular citizen who participates in our democracy. As Senator Richard Durbin said yesterday, Ab Mikva was our “North Star” and a role model for him and countless other public servants. Ab’s honesty and integrity were unassailable, and he inspired thousands of “Mikva disciples” to get involved in public service and activism. Through the Mikva Challenge, he now has an even bigger army of tens of thousands of followers jumping into public service, eager to improve their country and world. What a legacy, what a model of a life well lived. He is a guide for all of us on how to participate meaningfully in civic life. What many might not know about Abner Mikva is that he was an even better husband and father than he was a public servant. The entire staff at the Mikva Challenge extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Zoe, their children, and their seven grandchildren. Information about a public memorial for Ab will be available later this month. We salute you, Ab. You walked the walk, and you showed us how we could, too. May you rest in peace.
Brian Brady
Brian leads the Mikva Challenge with the vision of bringing civic empowerment and political participation to all young people, especially low-income youth of color who are often left out of the democratic process. Coming from a family that was very civically engaged, Brian understood early in life the transformative impacts of learning civics by doing ...

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