I believe in me.
I believe in my students writing an independent newspaper and I believe in the homeless woman downtown shouting into a microphone. I also believe in the old man picketing a used-car dealership.
Back in college, I remember feeling aimless. I idolized heroes from my parent’s generation and felt out of touch with my own. There seemed to be no more worthy cause for which to fight. Then a friend took me to protest something called apartheid. My first political rally, I learned about injustice and cruelty an ocean away. Suddenly the appropriate movement presented itself.
I hosted fundraisers and gathered signatures urging businesses to divest from South Africa. I held signs outside such companies, yelling with friends that violating human rights would no longer be tolerated. I spent hours phoning radio stations berating musicians who still played Sun City. My car looked like a moving billboard with multiple bumper stickers calling for an end to legalized racism. Then something remarkable happened. Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the dismantling of apartheid laws began.
I helped make apartheid history. I did it – along with concerned citizens from all over the world. Oh, victory tasted sweeter than cynicism! I was hooked.
I organized boycotts against corporations testing cosmetics on animals and protested supermarkets that carried such products. It wasn’t long before labels became popular that promised “No Animal Testing”. Soon after, I campaigned for a progressive Southern governor who wanted to be President of the United States. Young people came out to vote in record numbers and Bill Clinton was sworn into office. Afterward, I rallied for laws that made it easier for people to stay home with sick family members or register to vote while picking up a driver’s license. I felt proud and important. It was a good time to be idealistic.
A wise woman once said I would learn more from defeat than victory. I’ve learned much from both and while the last few years have been challenging, I am more optimistic than ever about the role we play in our evolving planet. At a young and impressionable age, I experienced firsthand the power of the people. I will never forget it. And I will never stop believing that I can change the world. You can, too. My students and the homeless woman and the old man as well. We all make a difference.
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