Dolores Kazanjian O'Brien began her speech at the 70th year anniversary celebration of the League of Women Voters, Port Washington/ Manhasset branch, by profusely praising the LWV and then continued with suggestions for increasing membership and making the public aware of issues.
According to O'Brien, the LWV is "one of the few places where we can find clear, analytic thinking about the issues of the day." Addressing the audience of members at the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club she continued, "You all care passionately about preserving and strengthening American Democracy - that sometimes seems to be scarce these days. When I attend league meetings, I am constantly impressed with the level of the dialogue. It is at least equal, and sometimes superior, to the dialogue that I hear in academic settings and political meetings. The thoroughness with which league members research issues, which cover such a tremendously wide area of topics, is legendary."
She then described reasons for dwindling membership of this great organization. There is less community-mindedness for several reasons, including isolation brought about by the growth of suburbia, she said. "Being active in civic and political affairs has definitely diminished," she said. However, O'Brien sees hope in activities such as the Schreiber High School students successful effort to repeal the Village of Port Washington North's Halloween curfew law. Online political action groups like moveon.org and pacforachange.com also give her hope.
O'Brien talked about a dangerous trend as, "the incredible consolidation of all media. Almost all of the information that comes into our homes no matter what the medium: print, broadcast television, cable, radio, books - even movies and video games, is owned and controlled by a handful of corporations and conglomerates. Many, if not most of them, include defense contractors: is it any wonder that we are always at war somewhere or other?" O'Brien asked.
The Internet, she said, " is about the only place where we have true democracy in action." The LWV needs to have a strong online presence to get its message out, she said. O'Brien praised the LWV state and national websites but feels that's only a start. Pleased with the independent coverage in the local media found in the Port Washington News, Manhasset Press and The Sentinel, she would like to see on the LWV website (http://members.aol.com/Lwvoterspwma) links to the news articles which are online. There is a link from the library site to the Port Washington News when you go to "Community." LWV could make more use of blogs, she said, citing examples of two excellent ones being dailykos.com and Arianna Huffington's huffingtonpost.com. Writing letters to the editor and op-ed and opinion pieces can be very effective in publicizing the organization and the critical issues that the LWV wants the public to be aware of and take action on, said O'Brien, whether online or in print.
Dolores Kazanjian is currently employed by the Port Washington News as an assistant editor. Arriving in Port Washington 17 years ago, she has been active in many civic groups such as the LWV. Her previous jobs included working on the international editions of LIFE magazine and writing articles and columns for a variety of professional publications as well as countless monographs and research reports. For over 30 years she was self-employed as a management consultant specializing in government and nonprofits and as an adjunct professor of Public Administration at John Jay College. She also taught at other colleges and universities. She was one of the founders of New York City Agency for Child Development, later serving as its Assistant Commissioner for Policy Analysis.
Other activities at the luncheon were the presentation of two citations congratulating the LWV on their 70th anniversary, one from the New York State Assembly presented by Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel and another from Nassau County, presented by legislator Wayne Wink.