[My summary of presentations by Rudy Lopez and Sharon Lettman at the Detroit Wellstone Action! Camp on May 21, 2004]
Just being on the side of what is right, just and fair does not cause us to win in the struggle against violence and injustice. We are not in an ideal world; therefore we must organize for action. We must gain the power that comes through organized people and organized money (having access to resources).
For most of us, the label “power hungry” has a negative connotation, yet power is neutral. It’s what we do with it that makes it good or bad, harmful or hopeful. Those who have power get to choose how it is used. Our community, and certainly our world reflect the values of those who have the power. But does the place and the age in which we live reflect your personal values? If not, it may be that you have bought into the widely-distributed message that power is to be feared because of its corrupting influence. Yet those who created that message are profiting from our lack of power. Can you name a corporation, organization, or leader who seems to profit from our losses? Consider services that many Americans have been denied, services such as health care, a quality education, and protection against unemployment–services necessary for the quality of life that rightfully belong to all people.
If our rights are to be respected, we must reclaim our power. We must have the ability to act according to the precepts of our faith and values. We must follow in the steps of powerful leaders such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa. They left a legacy of justice by using their power to organize people and resources. They showed us how to start movements that serve all humanity. Now it’s our turn. To be the ones with the most power, we must look beyond our difference to the values and visions we have in common.
It doesn’t take a multitude to begin. With a few other people from our neighborhoods, churches, or community groups, we can instigate a grassroots effort to address our most pressing issues. By reaching out to our circles of influence with a compelling message, we are activating the power of the people. As private citizens learn how to advocate, our courage and commitment become a beacon to our friends and associates, many of whom also crave a place to participate.
As we dare to share what we stand for, people will organize around our issues (because they are their issues, too). Collectively we have the power to create laws, to make candidates accountable, even to transform systems.