Article first published in The Hill: “For lasting change, we need to build off momentum of marches and #MeToo”
Poll after poll shows most of us disapprove of how Donald Trump runs the country. It’s up to us, the American people, to pull ourselves back up. Are you ready to up your game?
We have felt the surge of our own power. By every measure, citizen activism is exploding through the roof, as witnessed by the Women’s Marches this past weekend. The #MeToo Movement has also caused a seismic shift in the way we talk about and deal with sexual harassment and assault.
For more proof, just look at your own mud-caked marching boots, feel the hoarseness in your citizen voice and rub the callouses on your social-media-savvy fingers. We have won and lost battles, and have endured backlash, but this is how progress is measured.
Whether you’re experiencing anger, elation or compassion, it’s time to channel that passion into planning for the year ahead. What would 2018 look like if we each upped our game by 5 percent or 10 percent, concentrating on getting out the vote or helping our society in other ways?
When we work together in our communities and across our nation, we can bring about real change and make our country a better and more humane place. Start with a personal inventory, listing your contributions to society in 2017, as a citizen and a human being.
Organize them into categories:
- Thoughts: how you learned, got educated and stayed inspired
- Words: your speaking, calling, emailing, texting, posting, writing and other means of communicating
- Money: your donating, contributing and financing others
- Actions: doing positive things with your time
Scan your calendar and social media to jog your memory. And consider all types of giving, not just attending marches, lobbying Congress, campaigning for candidates and working with citizen-action groups. Also list donations to charities, volunteer work and additional efforts to help others.
Take a minute to appreciate how you helped defend the rights of fellow human beings. Take stock of what you did. Then write out your action plan for 2018. Upping your game will add to our rising collective power.
Political activism will be even more important in 2018 because of the midterm elections for local offices, state legislatures, governors’ mansions and congressional seats. In addition to pressuring all levels of government, we must get more involved in other ways. Educate yourself on the issues, and then help educate others. Get your friends and family involved.
In these days of Citizens United, money does most of the talking. But your contributions don’t have to be monetary. Your words, time and behavior can be just as important. Keep track of the news, do community service, talk about injustice when you see it, be kind to people around you. And yes, engage with those who have different viewpoints. You probably won’t change minds, but you may find you agree on more than you expect.
In 2017, we collectively harnessed our power. And now that our citizen power has been awakened, we can never go back to apathy.
This is not just a short-lived movement. We are here to vote, campaign, run for office, donate, lobby, volunteer and march to make an America that serves everyone. While millions of us are engaged and empowered, our movement is just beginning.
Everyone must understand how critical our individual actions are, how every vote counts. That means taking action. If we do this, our country will be a much better place, one that truly reflects who we are and who we hope to become.
Use these worksheets to measure and/or plan to increase your citizen activism, comparing one year to the next or creating a brand-new plan for moving forward today. Need ideas? See this handy list of action items. Download and print these PDFs. Let’s get to work!
Michelle Belfie is a writer, filmmaker and co-founder here at movingStories, working to bring people together and inspire citizen action.
Anne Elixhauser, PhD, is a researcher and writer, recently retired from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after nearly 30 years of service.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax