Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Activism -- when citizens exercise leadership

By Carol Gee

What are the qualification of a Citizen Activist? It is not very easy to find a good definition. But here is an example. When Senator Barack Obama got out of law school he worked as a community organizer in Chicago, teaching people how to become citizen activists. Robert Kennedy's words below probably say it best. The Gleitsman Foundation gives awards for it, so it might be worth a try:

Citizen Activist Award

Statement of Purpose

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself;
but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and
in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation."
--Robert F. Kennedy

The Gleitsman Foundation Citizen Activist Award is designed to encourage individual commitment and leadership by recognizing the exceptional achievement of people who have initiated social change. The award recognizes activist efforts in the United States to confront, challenge and correct social injustice. These individuals, because of their courage and persistence, have become leaders in efforts to change the way we live. . .

Who qualifies? Are you one already? If you are trying to change things, you probably qualify. This grieving mom became one by establishing a foundation to help stop bullying after her child committed suicide. Am I one? What you are reading here is my version of activism. "Is Scott McClellan one," I asked at Forum: Lucidity. Could you use a Citizen Activist Toolkit to become one?

Here are some examples of organized campaigns: Anti-arms trade; On Citizen Science; Overcoming Consumerism; The Daily Gotham - grassroots news for activist New Yorkers. I recommend the following article because it is so very inspiring and uplifting. It is from After Downing Street,* "A Radiant Message, Two Beautiful Forms, And The Backbone Campaign," submitted by davidswanson on Sun, 2008-05-25, by Diane Wittner, May 24 2008. Summary:

transcript from talk at
Building A New World Conference, Radford, Virginia

Progressives belong to a propositional movement
with the leaders and ideas to run the country.

. . . Some of the Conversations on developing an effective progressive movement have clarity, poignancy and a poetic quality. And a young radio producer once described some of our policy Conversations as "wonky." As an artist and writer, I was new to this kind of work, and I considered that description to be a compliment. We were indeed achieving our objective: to discover our country's diverse leaders and gather from them, in audio form, their nation-healing policy ideas.

This citizen activist uses the sheer power of the written word. I recommend this recent post from a fine writer, Deanie Mills: Military Mom: The Loneliness of Speaking the Truth on Iraq," at The Huffington Post.

Another form of activism is the use of public exposure. Read this example from Multinational Monitor* "Neither Honest Nor Trustworthy: The 10 Worst Corporations of 2007" (Nov-Dec, 2007) by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman.

When citizens exercise leadership, when they act on behalf of those in their community or their nation, things can actually change. Today is the first day of Barack Obama's national "change" campaign to become the first African-American President of the United States. In a strange way Obama is a kind of personification of citizen activism.

*Hat tip to betmo at life's journey for several of the links.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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