Why I Cheered Up

This past week, several things occurred that managed to brighten my outlook in the midst of the Trump presidency’s unrelenting gloom — not an easy thing to do.

I admit, the source of my improved mood is hardly unique. Actually it’s pretty much the standard morale booster for Americans of my age and liberal persuasion — the promise of America’s youth. Specifically, I’m talking about the growing numbers of young people energized to redirect the disastrous trajectory of our country. And I believe my optimism about their potential to influence change is far from just a naïve hope.

Over the years with regularity I’ve seen the positive impact young energy can have in local elections. The string of local Democratic victories that turned the North Shore’s political map blue would have been much less likely without the involvement of scores of tireless young volunteers.

And at the national level, I can never forget the courageous involvement of students standing up for civil rights in the 1960’s.They risked (and sometimes lost) their lives to attain the rights of full citizenship for African Americans, particularly in the Jim Crow South. The undaunted energy of those young activists fueled a movement that radically improved our society.

With that in mind, I was cheered by Friday’s gathering at Chicago’s St. Sabina’s Church. It was the kickoff rally and first stop for the March for Our Lives: Road to Change National Tour.

The young organizers of this growing movement are survivors of February’s Parkland, Florida School shootings. That terrible experience has motivated them to a level that few of us can fully imagine. These are not kids temporarily involved in a summer adventure, sure to lose interest when autumn arrives. They saw their friends die in pools of blood in their school! Shot by a crazy kid with a military style assault rifle! You think they’re gonna get bored soon?

These young activists are smart, articulate, adept at using social media, increasingly savvy politically, and they are p—-d off. They’ve vowed to stay involved for as long as it takes to see change. I believe them.

Their nationwide tour will take them to cities that have suffered years of senseless shootings as a result of the unlimited availability of guns in their neighborhoods. But wisely, the tour is also visiting communities where gun ownership is a way of life. At those stops the “Marchers” will be urging the support of gun owners for common sense laws – because in fact, a meaningful percentage of NRA members also want to see smarter laws concerning guns.

But here’s the most important aspect of their tour. These dedicated youths understand that just talking isn’t enough. As they state on their website, they are on a nationwide tour “to get as many young people as possible educated, registered, and motivated to vote.” – They know that voting the NRA’s lapdogs out of office is the ultimate answer.

The intensity and intelligence of these young leaders gives me more than a glimmer of hope that, this time, a national outcry for sane gun laws will have some real staying power.

The second thing that cheered me up last week was a conversation I had with a young man whose family name is very familiar to many of us liberals living on the North Shore, (Actually the name is deservedly respected far beyond our region). His name is Jake Mikva. He is Abner Mikva’s grandson and it appears he has inherited much of his grandfather’s belief in good government. Jake is the CEO and Founder of GoodWerk.

What is GoodWerk? As their website puts it, “Think Schoolhouse Rock meets ActBlue.” They are prepared to get involved at virtually every level of the political ladder, ” from your next Congressperson to your local puppychaser.” They describe themselves as “one part civic content creator, one part progressive PAC.” Their mission: “To make social media spaces more politically empowering for the Millennial Generation.”

What I found especially intriguing about GoodWerk’s strategic approach is that they are concentrating on helping “down ticket” candidates, with the belief that those more accessible, “more real,” candidates are more likely to attract young voters to vote (and perhaps even get involved in a campaign). Bringing in young voters via the middle of the ticket also will add votes at the top. – Interesting, right?

So there you have it. Two promising initiatives led by America’s newest generation of dedicated activists. They bring us uplifting goals at a time when we all badly need such examples. And they deserve our encouragement and support.

Of course as we approach the November Mid-terms, the NTDO’s efforts will primarily be toward electing our local and statewide Democratic candidates and, secondarily, helping efforts to defeat neighboring Republicans like Peter Roskam. But it seems to me that the strategies of March for Our Lives and GoodWerks just might play a part in that work too.

I’m feeling good about all of it.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973 

P.S. You can visit the March for Our Lives website by clicking here. It’s loaded with inspiring information.

You can visit Jake Mikva’s GoodWerk’s website by clicking here. They are going to make a difference.

P.P.S. In case you don’t subscribe to the Chicago Sun Times, here is the link to a remarkable and valuable feature they promoted last week: “31 ways you can fight gun violence.” To visit that site click here.