[COMM-ORG] Fifty Young Progressive Activists Who Are Changing America

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Tue Dec 4 14:26:51 CST 2012

  From:    dreier at oxy.edu

An occasional message from Peter Dreier

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**Dear Friends and Colleagues,***

*An occasional message from Peter Dreier   ***

My article, "Fifty Young Progressive Activists Who Are Changing America,"
published in *the Huffington Post*.

In the next decade, America will be transformed by a new wave of
progressive activism, led primarily by organizers, thinkers, and
politicians born after 1960. It is already bubbling below the surface, in
workplaces, neighborhoods, churches, college campuses, think tanks, and
foundation offices. Many of these young progressives have already waged
successful campaigns to win public office, change public policy, and inject
new ideas into our political culture.

There is no simple formula for successful social movements, but they all
share a few characteristics. First, they embrace an "inside/outside"
strategy, mobilizing people to protest, boycott, lobby, and vote, while
simultaneously working closely with allies in government. Second, they
don't expect to bring about change overnight. They are long-distance
runners, not sprinters. They try to win stepping-stone victories that lay
the groundwork for further reforms. Third, while they work on separate
issues, they recognize that they are part of a broader movement that
requires building coalitions and developing trust. In this mosaic of
movements, activists draw strength from each other as they work to change
public opinion and policy policy on many fronts.

Every generation of activists confronts new challenges and seeks to move
the country in a new direction. But all social movements involve an overlap
of generations. Older activists recruit and mentor the next generation.
Younger activists learn from the successes and failures of their older
counterparts. Barack Obama (born in 1961) learned his community organizing
skills from older mentors, and then found others who helped him learn the
ropes when he decided to run for office. Jon Stewart (born in 1962), who
was "very into Eugene Debs" in high school, began his career as an actor
and stand-up comic before gaining popularity, Emmys and influence as the
iconoclastic host of *The Daily Show*.

As the generations of progressives shaped by the Depression, the Cold War,
and the '60s hand the baton to the new cohort, they don't just fade away.
They continue to be part of the chain of change. So, not surprisingly, many
of the people included in my new book *The 100 Greatest Americans of the
20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of
including Pete Seeger, Barry Commoner (who died last month), Rev.
Lawson, Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem, Bill Moyers, Bob Moses, Tom Hayden,
John Lewis, Joan Baez, Barbara Ehrenreich, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Billie Jean
King, Michael Moore, and Tony Kushner -- were born in the early- or
mid-20th century, but have remained engaged in struggles for change in the
new century.

But the future belongs to those born after 1960. The 50 individuals listed
here represent a new generation of activists, artists, thinkers, and
politicians who have already become leaders of exciting movements for
social justice. They offer hope that the 21st century will witness dramatic
changes toward greater equality and democracy.

Key to any progressive resurgence is the growing wave of innovative
community organizing. Among the most effective young organizers are *Cheri
Andes *(Greater Boston Interfaith Organization), *Aaron Bartley *(People
United for Sustainable Housing in Buffalo), *Deepak Bhargava *(Center for
Community Change), *Jeremy Bird* (formerly with Wake-Up Wal-Mart, now
running Organizing for America), *Joy Cushman *(New Organizing
Institute), *George
Goehl *(National People's Action),* Kirk Noden *(Ohio Organizing
Collaborative), *Ethan Rome *(Health Care for America Now), and *Amy
Schur *(Alliance
of Californians for Community Empowerment).

The labor movement is making a comeback, developing new strategies and
coalitions, as seen in recent efforts to mobilize Walmart workers and
others in the burgeoning "service" sector of big-box stores, hospitals, and
fast-food chains. Helping to lead this new upsurge are organizers like *Fred
Azcarate *and *Liz Shuler *(both with the AFL-CIO), *Lucas Benitez 
of Immokalee Workers), *Leah Fried *and *Armando Robles *(United Electrical
Workers), *Sarita Gupta *(Jobs with Justice), *Mary Beth Maxwell *(founder
of American Rights at Work, now a top Department of Labor 
official),*Ai-Jen Poo
*(National Domestic Workers Alliance), and *Roxana Tynan *(Los Angeles
Alliance for a New Economy).

Since being chosen as its president in 2008, organizer *Ben Jealous *has
helped reinvigorate the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People. *Teresa Cheng*, born in 1987, has helped lead several successful
campaigns by United Students Against Sweatshops.

Young leaders of the burgeoning immigrant rights movement -- including 
Graciosa *(Fair Immigration Reform Movement), *Pramila Jayapal *(One
America), *Christine Neumann-Ortiz *(Voces de la Frontera), *Carlos
Saavedra *(United We Dream), and *Angelica Salas *(Coalition for Humane
Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles) -- will continue to make waves as the
century evolves, as will a new generation of environmental activists, such
as *Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins *(Green for All), *Van Jones *(former Obama
adviser and founder of Rebuild the Dream), *Erich Pica *(Friends of the
Earth), and *Phil Radford *(Greenpeace).

Writers* Naomi Klein *(author of *No Logo *and *The Shock Doctrine*), *Ezra
Klein *(*Washington Post* columnist), and *Tamara Draut *and *Heather
McGhee *(both of the think tank Demos), television news analysts *Rachel
Maddow *and *Chris Hayes*, media critic *David Brock *of Media Matters for
America, Yale political scientist *Jacob Hacker *(coauthor of 
Politics*, among many other books), New York University historian *Kim
Phillips-Fein *(author of *Invisible Hands*), *Rinku Sen *(editor of *
Colorlines)*, sportswriter* Dave Zirin*, and singer and musician *Tom
Morello *have been provocative interpreters and advocates for the
progressive movement.

*R**obin Brand *(Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund) and *Jennifer Chrisler 
Equality Council) represent a young cohort of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender leaders. *Eli Pariser *of MoveOn has been a pioneer in the
fast-changing world of netroots activism. *Simon Greer*, a former community
organizer and then head of Jewish Funds for Justice, is now reshaping
progressive philanthropy as president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

U.S. Senator-elect *Tammy Baldwin *of Wisconsin, Tallahassee City
Commission member *Andrew Gillum*, South Carolina state legislator *Anton
Gunn*, New York City Council member and former community organizer *Brad
Lander*, and activist *Darcy Burner *of Seattle are among the many young
politicians who serve as the progressive movement's key allies inside the
world of politics.

Born in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, these 50 people inherited an America
that seems to be holding its breath, trying to decide what kind of country
it wants to be. Many of them are not well known to the general public, but
each of them, as part of organizations and movements for change, has
already shaped the contours of American society in the 21st century, and
each is destined to keep reshaping it in the coming decades.

*Peter Dreier teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy
Department at Occidental College. This article draws on the last chapter
(called "The 21st Century So Far") of his book, The 100 Greatest Americans
of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of
published by Nation Books in July. *

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*The opinions expressed are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of
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