On the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote a commemoration for the event. He wrote:
May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government… All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, to let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
Though the Founding Fathers were not perfect, I still admire them for giving us the ideals of freedom and equality that future generations of radicals and reformers expanded upon. The ideals that Thomas Jefferson espoused were the building blocks that later day abolitionists, women’s suffragists, civil rights workers, feminists and gay rights activists used to change society’s views on race, gender and sexual orientation. Our Founding Fathers set up this democratic republic that worked only with the participation of an informed and active citizenry, an ideal that the Everyday Citizen blogsite exemplifies. Some activists work to better our society as individuals, some work with other like-minded citizens in groups. One of the groups that has worked to make this country live up to its ideals of freedom and equality are the Gray Panthers.
The Gray Panthers formed in 1970, when Maggie Kuhn and group of five friends, all of whom were retiring from national religious and social work organizations, created an organization for older Americans to fight for progressive causes like their opposition to the Vietnam War, their fight against age discrimination and their support of universal health care. Among the issues that the Gray Panthers currentlysupport are a national single payer health care system; the development of renewable, clean energy sources; the regulation and oversight of environmental industries to ensure that the people are protected from environmental hazards; policies that preserve civil rights and that do not discriminate against people based on age, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnic background, or disability; and an economic system that provides safety net services for those in need, invests in the development of its children, supports a thriving middle class, allows people to benefit from their efforts, encourages adults to contribute to the greater good of the country, and ensures economic security in retirement including strengthening Social Security.
I looked at youtube for some videos of activities of the Gray Panthers. Here are a few. If you wish to become active with the Gray Panthers, you can go to this website and volunteer at a local chapter. Here is a link to their Facebook page.
A panel celebrating the Gray Panther’s fortieth anniversary as a social and economic justice advocacy organization challenging ageism, racism, and sexism
Gray Panthers recently joined teachers, students, hotel workers, union members, and neighbors in a spirited rally in Chicago’s Hyde Park against property taxes that are being used to fund the construction of a luxury hotel — while public schools face millions of dollars in cuts
Gray Panthers own Judy Lear on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court talking about the ACA decision and the Gray Panthers stance on healthcare
Deetje Boler of the Gray Panthers talks in a San Francisco meeting against the police use of tasers
Judy Lear of the Gray Panthers speaks out in a Brooklyn rally in 2007 against war
A Gray Panther forum in Austin, Texas in 2008 on “Rehabilitation Not Incarceration”
Gray Panthers founder Maggie Kuhn addresses Vermont seniors and members of what is now called the Community of Vermont Elders (COVE) in this archival video shot in 1991