12 People Who Made a Difference (and YOU Can Too!)

Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Activism, Conscious Living, Inspirational with 2 Comments
In the tradition of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Rev. William Barber is fighting restrictions on voting and for improvements in labor laws. This is an image from the weekly actions that first sprang up in North Carolina in response to policies enacted by Republican Governor Pat McCrory and the GOP-run General Assembly. (Photo: SEIU/cc/flickr)

In the tradition of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Rev. William Barber is fighting restrictions on voting and for improvements in labor laws. This is an image from the weekly actions that first sprang up in North Carolina in response to policies enacted by Republican Governor Pat McCrory and the GOP-run General Assembly. (Photo: SEIU/cc/flickr)

By Ralph Nader | Common Dreams

Can one person truly make a difference in the world?

Far too many people think not, and thus they sell themselves far too short. A wave of pessimism leads capable people to underestimate the power of their voice and the strength of their ideals. The truth is this: it is the initiatives of deeply caring people that provide the firmament for our democracy.

Related Article: The White Man in That Photo

Take a sweeping look at history and you will discover that almost all movements that mattered started with just one or two people—from the fight to abolish slavery, to the creations of the environmental, trade union, consumer protection and civil rights movements. One voice becomes two, and then ten, and then thousands.

It’s fitting that this time of year marks the 79th anniversary of the sit-down strike in Flint Michigan, in which thousands of workers sat down in a General Motors factory to fight for recognition of the newly formed United Auto Workers (UAW) union. On February 11, 1937, General Motors conceded to raising wages and labor standards and recognizing the UAW, a major win for unionization in the United States.

This is an aspect of the American story that most people love and celebrate, yet sadly are quick to dismiss as being improbable in today’s partisan, corporate-dominated world. But, as I often say, real change is easier than you think.

Related Article: Showdown in Oregon: How to – and How Not to Fight Tyranny

The following twelve men and women maximized their power as citizens to improve the lives of millions of people in real, tangible ways. Let their stories serve as an inspiration to you in the coming year.

1. Lois Gibbs. Lois Gibbs lived with her family in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, NY when news of the toxic contamination beneath their feet made local headlines. Lois organized her neighbors into what was known as the Love Canal Homeowners Association. Her movement grew to become the country’s largest grassroots anti-toxic movement. She later founded the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

2. Ralf Hotchkiss. I first met Ralf at Oberlin College over 40 years ago where he was majoring in physics and moving about the campus in a wheelchair after a bicycle accident when he was in high school rendered him paraplegic. Recognizing a need for low-cost, sustainable and versatile wheelchairs, he started Whirlwind Wheelchair to teach people around the world how to manufacture their own wheelchairs in small shop facilities.

3. Clarence Ditlow. Once described by The New York Times as “the splinter the [auto] industry cannot remove from its thumb” Clarence Ditlow is an engineer, lawyer and the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety. He has been responsible for car companies initiating millions of lifesaving recalls, and was instrumental in the passage of “lemon laws” in all 50 states, which compensate consumers for defective automobiles.

4. Al Fritsch. A Jesuit priest and PhD, Al Fritsch was the environmental consultant at the Center for the Study of Responsive Law in Washington DC before returning to his roots in Appalachia to start the Appalachia Center for Science in the Public Interest. Using applied science and technology, Al Fritsch is a driving force for sustainability and maintaining a healthy planet.

5. Ray Anderson. The late Ray Anderson was founder and CEO of Interface, the world’s largest modular carpet manufacturing firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. Disturbed by the hugely damaging effects of industry on the environment, he shifted his company’s directive to “make peace with the planet.” With the ultimate goal of zero pollution and 100% recycling for his company, he managed to move toward these objectives while reducing expenses year after year and increasing profits. Why aren’t more CEOs following his example?

6. Annie Leonard. With her widely successful Story of Stuff project, Annie Leonard scoured the world for the stories that tell the tale of where our throwaway economy is leading us (hint: it doesn’t have a happy ending.) Her imaginative 20 minute Story of Stuff film has been watched and shared online by millions, and was turned into a book, and an ongoing website. She is now the Executive Director of Greenpeace.

7. Wenonah Hauter. As the founder and Director of Food & Water Watch, Wenonah has fought tirelessly for the future of our food, water, energy and environment. A relentless organizer, author and activist, she is a champion in getting citizens involved in issues that matter most―the things we put in our bodies.

Related Article: In 10 Months, This Cafe Has Fed 10,000 People With 20 Tons Of Unwanted Food

8. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber. The Rev. William Barber walks with a cane but he is making big strides for justice and equality through his organizing of “Moral Mondays” protests, which first started in North Carolina. The protests started as a response to the “mean-spirited quadruple attack” on the most vulnerable members of our society. In the tradition of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Rev. Barber is fighting restrictions on voting and for improvements in labor laws. In addition to his work as a minister, Rev. Barber is the President of the North Carolina NAACP.

9. Michael Mariotte. For over 30 years, Michael Mariotte has been a leader in successful movements against nuclear power in the United States. As the President of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Michael has testified before Congress and spoken in countries around the world against the dangers of nuclear power and its radioactive byproducts.

10. David Halperin. David is a tenacious advocate and tireless worker for justice who has launched several advocacy organizations and projects such as Progressive Networks, The American Constitution Society and Campus Progress. Nothing gives him greater joy than thwarting those with positions of power in our society who seek to profit from unjust practices. Most recently, Attorney Halperin has focused his considerable talents on exposing the predatory and deceptive practices of for-profit colleges.

11. Sid Wolfe. Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe and I started the Public Citizen Health Research Groupin 1971 to promote good health-care policy and drug safety. Dr. Wolfe, through his Worst Pills, Best Pills books, newsletters and outreach via the Phil Donahue show, has exposed by brand names hundreds of ineffective drugs with harmful side effects which were removed from the marketplace.

12. Dolores Huerta. A legendary activist, Dolores Heurta co-founded the United Farm Workers Union with Cesar Chavez in the 1960’s and has a long history of fighting for social change, worker’s rights and civil justice. She was rightfully awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, amongst many other awards and recognitions.

Our country has more problems than it should tolerate and more solutions than it uses. Don’t allow cynicism to silence your voice―people matter, you matter, and systemic change will only happen when citizens speak out, gather, and believe in themselves and their ideals.

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  1. 423549761069857@facebook.com' Ethan Indigo Smith says:

    peace!

  2. 10206733050259767@facebook.com' Jacqui Bonnel says:

    READ, WEEP, PRINT AND KEEP!

    This should be on the front page of every newspaper.

    Charley Reese’s Final column!

    A very interesting column. COMPLETELY NEUTRAL.
    Be sure to Read the Poem at the end..

    Charley Reese’s final column for the Orlando Sentinel… He has been a journalist for 49 years. He is retiring and this is HIS LAST COLUMN.

    Be sure to read the Tax List at the end.

    This is about as clear and easy to understand as it can be. The article below is completely neutral, neither anti-republican or democrat. Charlie Reese, a retired reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, has hit the nail directly on the head, defining clearly who it is that in the final analysis must assume responsibility for the judgments made that impact each one of us every day. It’s a short but good read. Worth the time. Worth remembering!

    545 vs. 300,000,000 People
    -By Charlie Reese

    Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

    Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

    Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

    You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The President does.

    You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

    You and I don’t write the tax code, Congress does.

    You and I don’t set fiscal policy, Congress does.

    You and I don’t control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

    One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

    I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

    I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

    Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

    What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits.. ( The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.)

    The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House?( John Boehner. He is the leader of the majority party. He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. ) If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to. [The House has passed a budget but the Senate has not approved a budget in over three years. The President’s proposed budgets have gotten almost unanimous rejections in the Senate in that time. ]

    It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can’t think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

    If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.

    If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red.

    If the Army & Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan it’s because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan ..

    If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it’s because they want it that way.

    There are no insoluble government problems.

    Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power.
    Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

    Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible. They, and they alone, have the power.

    They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses. Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees… We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

    Charlie Reese is a former columnist of the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper.

    What you do with this article now that you have read it… is up to you.
    This might be funny if it weren’t so true.
    Be sure to read all the way to the end:

    Tax his land,
    Tax his bed,
    Tax the table,
    At which he’s fed.

    Tax his tractor,
    Tax his mule,
    Teach him taxes
    Are the rule.

    Tax his work,
    Tax his pay,
    He works for
    peanuts anyway!

    Tax his cow,
    Tax his goat,
    Tax his pants,
    Tax his coat.

    Tax his ties,
    Tax his shirt,
    Tax his work,
    Tax his dirt.

    Tax his tobacco,
    Tax his drink,
    Tax him if he
    Tries to think.

    Tax his cigars,
    Tax his beers,
    If he cries
    Tax his tears.

    Tax his car,
    Tax his gas,
    Find other ways
    To tax his ass.

    Tax all he has
    Then let him know
    That you won’t be done
    Till he has no dough.

    When he screams and hollers;
    Then tax him some more,
    Tax him till
    He’s good and sore.

    Then tax his coffin,
    Tax his grave,
    Tax the sod in
    Which he’s laid…

    Put these words
    Upon his tomb,
    ‘Taxes drove me
    to my doom…’

    When he’s gone,
    Do not relax,
    Its time to apply
    The inheritance tax.
    Accounts Receivable Tax
    Building Permit Tax
    CDL license Tax
    Cigarette Tax
    Corporate Income Tax
    Dog License Tax
    Excise Taxes
    Federal Income Tax
    Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
    Fishing License Tax
    Food License Tax
    Fuel Permit Tax
    Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
    Gross Receipts Tax
    Hunting License Tax
    Inheritance Tax
    Inventory Tax
    IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
    Liquor Tax
    Luxury Taxes
    Marriage License Tax
    Medicare Tax
    Personal Property Tax
    Property Tax
    Real Estate Tax
    Service Charge Tax
    Social Security Tax
    Road Usage Tax
    Recreational Vehicle Tax
    Sales Tax
    School Tax
    State Income Tax
    State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
    Telephone Federal Excise Tax
    Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
    Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
    Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
    Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
    Telephone State and Local Tax
    Telephone Usage Charge Tax
    Utility Taxes
    Vehicle License Registration Tax
    Vehicle Sales Tax
    Watercraft Registration Tax
    Well Permit Tax
    Workers Compensation Tax

    STILL THINK THIS IS FUNNY?
    Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

    What in the heck happened? Can you spell ‘politicians?’
    I hope this goes around THE USA at least 545 times!!! YOU can help it get there!!!

    GO AHEAD. . . BE AN AMERICAN!!!

    SEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW
    Like · · Share · 2 hours ago via mobile ·

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