During the Fourth of July I try to recount some of the things that I love about this country. One of the things that I love about this country is the history of reformers and social movements in helping America get closer to living up to its democratic ideals.
I am a big admirer of the various social movements that have allowed more people to have access to the full citizenship rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The Abolition movement, the Women’s Suffrage movement, the Labor movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist movement, the LGBTQ rights movement, the Asian American movement, the Immigrant Rights movement, and the many other social movements where people fight for inclusion in the American Dream. As a Filipino American, I am grateful for the work of past Filipino American leaders like Carlos Bulosan, Chris Mensalvas, Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, Pete Velasco, Andy Imutan, Benjamin Gines and others who fought against discrimination and for opportunities that I took for granted.
I am eternally grateful for the historians that have helped educate me on the importance of social movements that helped make the United States get closer to becoming a true democratic republic. Historians like Howard Zinn, Ronald Takaki, Eric Foner, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joseph Ellis, William Lee Miller, and others. If I wasn’t an art major, I would’ve been a history major in college. From reading these history books, I have a belief on the two ingredients necessary for social change: radicals and social movements are needed to facilitate protests to pressure the system from the outside and to spark debate on the issues and begin a change in attitudes; reformers are needed inside the system to propose legislation to address the issues, build coalitions of disparate groups, make compromises, and articulate arguments in a way that can persuade moderates to their cause. It is only with these two ingredients working in conjunction that social change is possible.
Here is a 2010 presentation of The Massachusetts School of Law’s program where Dean Lawrence R. Velvel interviewed American Historian Howard Zinn on the importance of protest. In the interview, Howard Zinn said, “It is very important that people engage in even the smallest of actions even if they don’t seem to bring any immediate results. It’s these small actions that build and build and build that eventually come to fruition.”