Last week I posted about my belief that as aging Americans we have to stretch beyond our comfort zones and connect with younger Americans and share our wisdom if we are to address the imbalance in our society and government. I got lots of feedback from this. One theme stood out. How to take action?
The events that shaped my political awakening began with the election of John F. Kennedy, and continued with the Civil Rights movement, and the War in Vietnam. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, originally from a Republican family where my father’s side had voted Republican even when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President. My mother’s side of the family, because of a strong German/Irish Catholic heritage, broke ranks and voted Democrat when JFK ran. And you better believe that there was lots of fall out for doing that!
The late 1960s through 1975 were a time of incredible social upheaval in the United States. Many of us believed that the revolution was at hand. As a teenager, I marched to protest unfair housing practices, I marched on Washington to protest the War. I took action in my high school to address inequality and unfair representation. This was my political laboratory. I was inspired by older Americans and acted with the energy of youth.
I learned to make speeches, to talk with elected representatives, to write to newspapers and make calls to talk shows. All of these venues were state of the art back then and required little more than thinking through what I was going to say and making the effort to send a letter or postcard. Still, there was a learning curve. Truth is, I didn’t know how to do these things until I felt passionate enough about what was going on to take action.
Oh, how things have changed.
Or have they? Perhaps things have speeded up with the Internet, but essentially it is the same. Effort is needed to contact your elected representatives, call in to talk shows, and make speeches. Effort is also needed, more now than ever, to seek out and find sources of information that are reliable. All that is needed is passion and willingness to act.
So, here are 50 ways you can take action.
- Call your elected representatives (local, state, and federal) and leave a message on their phone lines.
- Email your elected representatives.
- Send post cards to your elected representatives.
- Visit the local offices of your elected officials and ask to speak with someone about your concerns.
- Have a brief statement ready to read. Something like: “I am a constituent of Senator So and So. I am opposed to ____________________. Or, I am in support of ________________. Please insure that when you vote on [Name of Bill] that my position is taken into account.”
- Write a letter to your local newspaper.
- Make a call to a local talk show.
- Write an editorial and send it to your local PBS station.
- Post a video on your FB account using your cell phone. Read that statement.
- Host a consciousness raising party. Invite people over to talk about their concerns and fears.
- Start a petition.
- Donate to an organization that is supportive of your beliefs, then tell your friends and children you donated.
- Host a “Pol-Party” where you invite people who are interested in learning more about how to run for office. Contact your local Democrat or Republican (or Socialist, Green, or other) party for instructions on “how-to”.
- Read a newspaper from another city where you don’t live.
- Share stories of your political awakenings with your children and friends.
- Attend meetings at your City Hall, County government or State Capital.
- Offer to speak in a high school history class about your experiences of an event that you participated in (e.g., March on Washington).
- Write a letter to your grandchildren about why you believe in the future of this country.
- Offer to drive people to their voting location on Election Day.
- Help people sign up to vote.
- Support a candidate either by giving money or by volunteering.
- Turn off your TV and talk with your neighbors.
- Create a Meet-Up group for discussing local issues.
- Believe that what you do matters, then go do it.
- Practice expressing yourself until you feel confident, then speak up!
- Practice saying, “I have a different point of view. Here’s how I see us coming together.”
- Practice listening.
- Practice having a conversation, not a shouting match.
- Take time to identify what is scary for you. Take steps to address your fear(s) not by withdrawing, but by learning to soothe yourself.
- Seek to understand before you offer suggestions or opinions. “Let me see if I understand what you are saying . . .”
- Increase your capacity for being around things that make you uncomfortable. Start with the easy stuff – try a new food.
- Speak your own truth, not a statement that has been given to you by someone else.
- Assume that you are wrong every once in a while.
- Find things you have in common instead of looking for ways you are different.
- Consider that the changes you desire may be the very thing someone else fears the most. Learn to address their fears and make them feel less threatened.
- If you catch people when they are having a bad day, cut them some slack and try again.
- Be persistent.
- Be kind.
- Get the facts AND the feelings.
- Reflect on all the ways you have changed in your lifetime and share that as a hope for the future.
- Do as much as you can, but not more than you can handle.
- Bake cookies for Election Day.
- Become a Poll Watcher.
- If you haven’t already, register to Vote.
- Identify how you came to your beliefs; be willing to question them.
- Find ways to agree.
- Meet your neighbors.
- Hang out with people younger than you.
- Read biographies of the Founding Fathers.
Let’s go change the world!