The Nancy Milio Collection
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Search for Coherence

Nancy speaks on the pattern of needs. Full interview available on Audio page.

Nancy Milio

Search for Coherence

Nancy Milio, PhD

I wanted to make dent in the world, as I wrote in 9226 Kercheval in 1970. I thought that was less presumptuous than trying to change the world. I don’t know if I did make a difference in people’s lives, the community or beyond. I’ll let others and time decide.

I do know the Kercheval experience changed me irrevocably from the well-intentioned girl I was, to a young woman who learned that good-intentions are not enough. That episode in my life was like eating the fruit of knowledge and then being required to leave the comfortable Eden of untested trust never to return. There was no way to forget what I’d seen and experienced on Kercheval, nor did I want to. That ongoing story is documented in my personal diaries of 60 years.

As a Visiting Nurse I’d seen how families struggled to survive in their homes. This was what initially impelled me to try to make things better in that ghetto neighborhood. But the Mom and Tots Center was more than offering services where none had existed. Throughout its evolution as a child care and health center, I saw not only the difficulties of families’ lives, but their strength, growth, capacity to work and create, to persist in the face of disappointment and impending failure, and joy while doing it all.

I also learned about the world, the real inside world of some of the professionals in whom I’d believed, leaders whom I thought would put people’s interests, before their own power struggles and prestige. I later attempted to develop a manuscript about that world, but found no one was interested in publishing it.

Having experienced the power game, I eventually concluded that it was policy change that would facilitate and support local community health. So began my journey into public policy, eventually to lead me to realize how the broad scope of policy affected health; how environmental, farm, food, housing, education, substance abuse, employment, tax and social welfare, and cross cutting civil liberties and rights policies as well as media were critical parts of the equation. Health requires so much more than just health care alone. All these could promote or constrain the health of individuals, groups, and communities. This understanding infused my writing, research, teaching, consulting and organizational work, a straight line, anchored in my education at the storefront on 9226 Kercheval and the people who made it.

One thought that never occurred to me in those early days was that we as a nation would or could move backwards, undo the social progress that had been made and paid for at such high cost in the movements of the Sixties and before. So it was sobering to live through the retrenchments, beginning especially in the Eighties, increasingly in the Nineties--with some respite—followed by the abrupt, wrenching changes in the new Century. Militarization became the priority solution to national and world problems at the expense of civil liberties, rights, and social justice. Most recently, while gay rights have moved forward, a severely conservative Supreme Court majority has done damage to minority rights by in striking down voting and affirmative action protections, monetizing elections to the benefit of the wealthy and effectively allowing denial of health insurance to millions of low income people in its health care ruling of 2012.

But as I always tell my audiences and friends, when we win and celebrate or when we lose and commiserate, the next morning is the same: we get up and work to move forward, up that mountain toward social justice and peace, because the meaning and joy in life is in the journey, in the faith that “we shall overcome,” together.