Remarks at Adler Planetarium on the National Day of Civic Hacking

Adler PlanetariumToday I kicked off the National Day of Civic Hacking at the Adler Planetarium. Here’s remarks:

Hi everybody.

It’s great to see you here at one of the premier places for science in Chicago, the Adler Planeterium.

This morning, you are joining thousands of colleagues— and they are your colleagues— in more than 100 cities in the National Day of Civic Hacking.

The National Day of Civic Hacking joins technologists, entrepreneurs, developers and other people like you to improve our communities and the governments that serve them.

Let me ask you now— how many people consider themselves to be developers? How many want to be technologists or web developers when you grow up? How many just want to hang out on the Internet and do stuff? I’m with you.

This is the second annual event, and the Adler has played a unique and critical part from the get-go. They have deliberately included young people in this day.

I’m Dan O’Neil and I run the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology.

One of our core words— our founding principles that we endlessly abide by— is everybody.

It’s super-important because when you’re trying to make technology that serves people, and don’t include people, bad things happens. Things go off the rails.

It happens all the time.

So I’m really happy that the Adler has such great programs to include youth like you in technology and to teach you real skills. It is a missing link in the chain of everybody, and they’re doing a great job in filling it, and I’m proud to say that we work together with them at Smart Chicago to do that.

Every culture has their stories, their tropes, their narratives of self-identity. One of the great stories we tell ourselves here in the United States is that every young person can be anything they want when they grow up.

We sometimes have trouble delivering on that as a country. Class lines get hardened. Simple geographic markers in neighborhoods become impenetrable barriers to individual progress. Lack of meaningful opportunity leads to decades of piled-on trouble.

The Internet, and the technology industry, is one of the great pathways in the ideal that we hold dear. In the technology industry, you really can grow up to be anything you want.

And I want you to help me. Help the Adler Planetarium, and the Smart Chicago Collaborative, and the dozens of huge organizations that are a part of the National Day of Civic Hacking. Help build our little part of this world— the civic innovation sector of the technology industry.

The part where we try to make new apps that make living together better, that allow us to make our government more accountable and effective, the part where the goal is to improve lives.

Thanks for showing up today. Get to work.

Gordon Tech Inspiration Celebration: 2014 Inspiring Minds Award

This evening I was honored at my alma mater. Here’s some details:

Gordon Tech College Prep will host the 2nd Annual Inspiration Celebration honoring minds that inspire. The gathering will showcase the school, its talented community and its unique partnership with DePaul University which started in October of 2012. The event usually draws 300 Chicago area business and civic leaders, philanthropists, educators, clergymen, prospective and current families.  The event will raise $250,000-$300,000 in support of student academic scholarships and programs. The 2014 honorees are: Priests and Brothers of the Congregation of the Resurrection (award received by Fr. Gary Hogan), the founders and sponsors of Gordon Tech College Prep and 3 gentlemen from the Class of 1985: Alderman Harry Osterman, 48th Ward, Daniel O’Neil, Executive Director, Smart Chicago and Barry Rodgers, Principal, Lake Forest High School and former principal of Northside College Prep.

I wrote a blog post in preparation for the evening. Here’s a snip:

I’ve written quite a bit about the focus of my Catholic energy here: Easter Morning for an Urban American Catholic in an Age of Misplaced Catholic Energy. This was written prior to the ascendency of Pope Francis. You can understand that I’m stoked about him and his social justice agenda. Some other links:

I am passionate about helping Gordon Tech move into their future as DePaul College Prep, Fr. Gordon Campus, so I am going to be tweeting/ posting/ going on about this event for the next couple of weeks. Thank you for your patience and buy your tickets now.

Here’s remarks by Mary Dempsey, Vice Chair of the Gordon Tech Board of Directors and President of the Philip H. Corboy Foundation upon presenting the award:

Daniel X. O’Neil After graduating from Gordon Tech, Dan O’Neil went on to receive a BA in English and Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He has focused his work in Chicago on the integration of the Internet and technology with public policy, strategy, and communication for the benefit of nonprofits, schools, small and large businesses and government.  As a result, Dan has been at the forefront of initiatives that keep people informed and make their lives better.  He’s the creator of CTA Tweet and CTA Alerts which are used by thousands of Chicago commuters every day.  He’s also one of the cofounders of EveryBlock, which brings government data and information to the public in meaningful and accessible formats and represents one of the more innovative journalism initiatives of the last decade.  Currently, Dan is the first Executive Director of Smart Chicago, a civic organization devoted to improving lives through technology.  Smart Chicago focuses on creating and supporting open technologies that connect Chicagoans with data, opportunities and information that improve health, education, government and quality of life.  Dan has been extraordinarily helpful to Gordon by facilitating a significant grant from the Voqal Fund that will allow us to upgrade our applied sciences equipment in the woodshop and engineering spaces, technology and art studio to create a 21st century Maker Space this summer.  Dan is also deeply committed to Catholic education.  He teaches religious education in area CCD classes and supports the role of Catholic schools as integral to the future of our city.  For his work to bring technology and information to all people and for his dedication and support for Catholic education, we are proud to present Daniel X. O’Neil with the 2014 Inspiring Minds Award.

Here’s some pics:

Here’s more info from the Gordon Tech website:

As a Catholic, co-ed, college preparatory institution, with 4 straight years of enrollment growth, Gordon prides itself on offering an innovative and highly personalized approach to learning. The school currently boasts a 99% graduation rate and 99% college acceptance rate. The students are a diverse group, coming from over 42 different zip codes and 15 different countries. Gordon students are 37% Hispanic, 24% Caucasian, 16% African American, 10% Asian and 13% Multi-Racial. This year alone, Gordon seniors have been accepted into great universities across the country including: Marquette, Loyola, Babson University, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, DePaul, Bradley, and the University of Iowa. This list continues to grow.

In October 2012, Gordon and DePaul University announced an academic partnership which has already yielded tremendous results, including collaborations with DePaul’s Schools of Education, Music, and Theatre; open use of the University Library; development of a new strategic plan, vision and mission statements; and the initiation of an International Baccalaureate candidacy.

This year we have hired a top-notch principal, secured grants for Connected Learning and Maker Spaces, and revamped the college coaching program, among many other initiatives, as we work to provide a top-tier educational option. We are thrilled by the new programs and progress at the school, and wish to extend an invitation to support the Inspiration Celebration and to join us on May 12th at Gordon Tech College Prep as we pay tribute to our remarkable honorees.

At Gordon, we are dedicated to providing the finest academic opportunities to our students. Tuition alone does not cover our costs and so we are turning to you to help us raise the funds we need to continue the momentum and energy already underway.