Written by: Director Robert Groves
I just met at headquarters with a set of census partners from around the country to discuss how to more effectively promote the census. Were they great! They represented faith-based organizations, community groups, cultural interest groups, ethnic minorities, and other groups committed to ensuring that their constituents are counted accurately and in the right locations.
We learned how these communities are telling their folks that participating in the census is safe. This issue is a particular concern for those representing recent immigrants, who will be participating in the U.S. Census for the first time. When we talked about the strength of the law that guards census data, how it trumps the Patriot Act, they were comforted.
I told them a story from the nation’s history to reinforce the point. When Harry Truman was president and the White House was being remodeled, the president’s family had to be moved to another home. After finding a suitable home, the Secret Service asked the Census Bureau for the census forms of the president’s new neighbors. Citing the law protecting census data, the director of the Census Bureau refused to provide the data. That refusal was upheld because of the strength of the law, even though the issue at hand was the safety of the president.
The partners are planning all sorts of interesting and creative things to get the word out. Ex-NFL stars are talking to high school kids in central cities; census booths are staffed at ethnic festivals; school children are building collages with their handprints (one of the logos of the 2010 Census) and signing their prints as part of a giant 2010 Census poster; there are t-shirts galore with individual Indian tribe logos and local insignia. The level of enthusiasm was phenomenal. If all of us had 1/1000 of the energy of this group we’d have 100 percent return rates on the 2010 questionnaires.