Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Taylor Mali addresses the crowd.
I’ve always believed in the power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things, and the days of action that occurred in connection with the Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action are a perfect example of that. In less than a year, we (and in this ‘we’, I include the Organizing Committee, Information Coordinators, volunteers, donors and marchers who made the events possible) managed to unite thousands of diverse, previously isolated individuals and groups in support of four broad, simple, yet elusive demands.
Despite the sweltering heat and humidity, between six and eight thousand people came out to march in DC on Saturday, July 30th, and thousands more participated in events from Seattle to Sacramento to St. Louis and beyond. I couldn’t be prouder to say I played a part in making that happen.
Yet when Sunday, July 31st came around, I was too exhausted and worn out to do much more than sleep.
* * *
A lot of people have had a lot to say about what SOS Marchers have done in recent days. There were plenty of people who were energized and inspired by the event, I’m happy to say (and I still feel so honored and inspired to have connected with so many!). And there were also those who reflexively dismiss anything beyond the Gates/Walton/Broad/Duncan agenda as a defense of the “status quo” (…and I still wonder which teacher they’d like to blame for their complete failure to understand that term!). There were those in the mass media who couldn’t see beyond Matt Damon (who has earned a permanent place among my personal heroes for his humility, empathy and willingness to actually listen to teachers, two qualities rarely observed in the rich and powerful).
But for me, the biggest take-away was this: I’ve heard far more supportive comments than negative ones, most especially from people who couldn’t be at any of the scheduled events, and wish there had been something going on where they were. I find this both exciting and frustrating.
Exciting, because it represents widespread and growing awareness of the threats to our public schools, as well as hope for a better way forward.
Frustrating, because it reveals that too many of us are still stuck in “Somebody should do something about that!”-mode.
Remember, the small group of thoughtful, committed citizens who put this together are regular people, with all the same everyday stresses and difficulties as everyone else. Some of us moved houses during the planning. We had personal losses and difficulties. Almost all of us had other, full-time jobs. We also have families, and obligations, and health concerns, and what-have-you. But ultimately, we decided to take this on, because we believed in it and knew it needed to be done.
If you wish something had happened close to you, ask yourself: What, exactly, stopped you from getting a few other people together to plan something in your hometown?
Obviously, some people have more demands on their time than others; some have more energy and some have less. But everyone can do something. And the going would be a LOT easier–and less exhausting!– for all of us if everyone did.
As we go forward, if you’re someone who is still wishing (or worse, complaining!), I urge you to start working. Yes, I know– you already work all day. We do, too.
Children are our special interest. What's the Koch Brothers'? Or ALEC's?
But we don’t have any other choice. Margaret Mead was only half-right: while small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens can absolutely make a difference, we’ve got to be much more numerous than we are now to stand up to well-financed, well-connected ideologues and special interests.
This work will continue, because it must. If you’re not already actively involved, resolve to become involved. Look for organizations to join, or actions to take. If there are none in your neck of the woods, create an opportunity. Maybe you can’t plan a rally and march– no worries! What about a film screening, or teach-in, or flash mob? How about volunteering for a fair-minded, under-funded school board candidate? Whatever you do, please remember– SOS is not just a March. It’s a Call to Action.
What actions will you take?
I always used to say, ‘Somebody should do something about that.’ Then I realized, I am Somebody.