Accept the Challenge to Change the World

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do. ~Walter Bagehot

In 1980, a grief-stricken mother sat down at her kitchen table and picked up her telephone. Just days before, her 13-year-old daughter had been killed by a drunk driver – a man who had a long history of drunk driving. He had been found, and arrested, and charged with her daughter’s death. But the police doubted the driver would see any jail time.

That’s just how the system works, the police explained.

She wouldn’t stand for that.

So, using her local newspaper’s obituary page, she began calling community members whose friends and family had been killed by drunk drivers. Soon enough, she had a mailing list. The mailing list grew, and grew. And then it grew some more.

Even though she was a single mother, she used some of her savings and the insurance money from her daughter’s death to quit her job and dedicate herself to advocating for stricter laws against drunk driving.

A friend came up with a name for her fledgling organization – Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And that’s how MADD was born.

The rest is history that you probably have heard of or remember. Candace Lightner – a 35-year-old divorced mother of three who wasn’t even registered to vote – started MADD in 1980, and by 1984 had successfully lobbied Ronald Regan to increase the drinking age to 21. MADD’s efforts with state and federal lawmakers stiffened penalties for drunk driving across the nation. MADD has been credited with decreasing drunk driving and increasing public awareness of the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

Were there people who thought she couldn’t do it? Did some people think that she was wasting her time? Sure. But when traffic safety experts told her it would take at least ten years to change public opinion and behavior, she didn’t give up. She took it as “challenge.”

And then she met that challenge in less than five.

In just a few years, a woman with no advocacy experience and no political education successfully changed public opinion and the political landscape, and in doing so saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

All because she sat down at her kitchen table, and picked up the phone.

And accepted the challenge to change the world.


Tuesday-Friday: All Hands on Deck to Support the ACA

So, not to scare you or anything, but this is a four-alarm fire.

Remember how we thought the ACHA was dead and then it wasn’t? That seems to be what’s happening with the BCRA. The Senate will be moving ahead with healthcare this week, and it’s important to start the push to protect the ACA immediately.

Frankly, at this point it’s not clear what bill they will be moving. And while all of the potential bills are terrible, distinguishing between them can be confusing. To help you make sense of it all, the Kaiser Family Foundation has put together a very helpful interactive resource that lets you compare the various bills.

Regardless of what version they decide to push, on Tuesday afternoon Senators will be asked to vote on a Motion to Proceed that will bring the healthcare bill to debate. If the Motion to Proceed passes, the bill will go to the floor for debate – and eventually for a vote.

We need to do everything in our power to keep that from happening.

Here are some things you can do today:

1. Call your Senators. This will take two minutes, tops.

Script: Hi, my name is _____ and I’m a constituent at _____. Has the Senator decided how he/she is going to vote on the Motion to Proceed?

If Senator will vote NO on motion to proceed: Wonderful! I’m so glad to hear it. Please tell the Senator that I’m thankful for his/her leadership.

If Senator will vote YES, or is undecided: I’m disappointed to hear that. There’s so much confusion surrounding these health care bills that the Senators don’t even know what bill they are voting on – and there haven’t been any public hearings for any of them. Voting on legislation of this magnitude without any public hearings and no meaningful debate is terrible precedent. With this precedent, from this point forward the majority party can shove any controversial bill through Congress without any hearings or meaningful debate. That’s just shameful and undemocratic. Please tell the Senator to vote no on the motion to proceed.

2. If you live in a blue state with blue Senators (lucky you!), call friends in other red states and ask them to call their Senators.

3. Sign into Chicago’s virtual phone bank and encourage other red-state constituents to contact their Senators.

4. BotResist: Text RESIST to 50409. Follow the prompts to send a fax to your Senators. Here’s a draft for you to personalize:

The Senate has long been revered as the more thoughtful, deliberate, and collaborative body. No longer. The BCRA was drafted in secret. There have been no public hearings, and no public discourse about the contents of the bill, beyond that which has been organized by activists and healthcare experts. The Senate has no expertise in healthcare. Its refusal to listen to those who are experts in healthcare is concerning. Its clear intention to shut out the minority party is frightening. Please, Senator. Preserve the Senate’s history. Don’t create precedent that will be used by majority parties in the future to ram unpopular legislation through Congress without so much as a single hearing. Vote no on the motion to proceed.

5. Set your calendar – July 29th there will be healthcare rallies across the country. Go to for details about rallies in your neck of the woods. Don’t see one? Start one!


We’ll know the outcome of the vote on the Motion to Proceed this afternoon (Tuesday). If the Motion passes, we’ll need to rinse and repeat our activism above – simply changing the “ask” from voting no on the Motion to Proceed to voting no on the BCRA.

Are there people who think we can’t succeed – and that we’re wasting our time? Sure.

Challenge accepted.

Let’s do this!

Tuesday: Call Congress to Support the Russian Sanctions Bill:

Tuesday is a busy day, isn’t it?

After a number of delays, on Tuesday the House will likely vote on S722 – the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017. As we discussed last week, it passed the Senate last month by 98-2 and “would enable the legislative branch to halt a reversal or lifting of sanctions by the White House with a majority vote.”

Call your Congressman/woman and encourage them to vote in favor of the bill.

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to encourage the Congressman/woman to vote in favor of the Russian Sanctions bill. With investigations into the administration’s Russian ties ongoing, it’s more important now than ever to ensure that sanctions against Russia can’t be softened. Thanks for your time.

Wednesday-Friday: Cultivate the Better Angels of Your Nature

With our perspective limited by recent history, it’s hard to imagine that our country has ever been more polarized than it is right now. But, of course, it has been.

Abraham Lincoln addressed our fractured country in his First Inaugural Address in 1861, reminding us that:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory . . .will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

In our polarized political environment it’s hard to have civil conversations about our differences. We’ve all seen the Facebook groups, the articles, the advice columns about talking to our friends and family about politics. But talking about having those conversations is different than actually having them. We’ve seen friendships and families torn apart by the election. It’s not unreasonable for people to be cautious.

So let’s talk about some resources.

First, I want to introduce you to a new initiative called Better Angels – a “bipartisan network of leaders and organizations whose vision is to reunite America.” Better Angels trains participants to have more productive conversations by utilizing conflict management and active listening techniques like reframing and summarizing.

It has organized a “One America” bus tour to host workshops across the country. They’ve already hosted a number of workshops this summer, and are looking for communities to participate in their fall tour. If you’d like your community to be on their tour, you can contact them here. If you’d just like their workshop and training materials, those will also be made available (although the date has not yet been determined).

Second, MoveOn’s Resistance Summer project has scheduled “Neighborhood Listening” tours. On July 30, you can meet up with fellow activists to start going door-to-door in your own community. This link sends you to meetings in nearly every state – and if you don’t see one near you, you can sign up and host one yourself.

And finally, Knock Every Door emphasizes the power of canvassing – which “cutting edge political science research shows … is one of the most effective tactics in an activists’ arsenal”. Founded after the 2016 election, Knock Every Door provides canvassers with training, education, and support. Not only will Knock Every Door walk you through the basics of canvassing, they’ll give you sample scripts and help you with data entry after your boots are no longer on the ground. Pretty nifty, eh?

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. We’re in this together.

If you want one more quick action, send this pep talk to a friend or two!

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here.

Lastly, if you’d like to support this work, you can become a Patreon patron here.



One thought on “Accept the Challenge to Change the World

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s