Dear Friends and Colleagues,

A few weeks ago I had the gift of visiting the noble redwoods in Humboldt County, California.  The photo here was taken in the Founders Grove of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  Seeing these magnificent trees today is possible because of the efforts of John C. Merriam, Madison Grant and Fairfield Osborn, who wanted to save these and surrounding forests from destruction, and founded the Save the Redwoods League in 1918.  Here’s more history.

The people who have helped and continue to work to save the redwoods are just one example of the many, many others who have come before and after them to take action to address issues of concern.  Take Ruby Bridges, for example – who, when just 6 years old, bravely helped integrate the New Orleans schools.  Look at the last 2 pages of our Curriculum & Resource Guide to see a partial list of people who have taken courageous action to further equality, justice and dignity for all.  And, these are just examples from the last 2 centuries!  You might also want to check out the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, considered the oldest example of a participatory democracy, that inspired the U.S. Constitution, where women were equals at every level of the society.  I learned about this community while reading about the complexities of the women’s suffrage movement, in contemplation of the recent 99th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

We are currently facing serious challenges to the survival of our democracy and to the very survival of our planet. Every day we read about or see affronts to social, political and economic norms carried out by leaders of our country, where words and actions demean and humiliate people for no other reason than their skin color, cultural background, gender identity or simply because they have spoken out critically against these affronts. We can be easily discouraged by the seemingly overwhelming negatives around us. Yet, this would belie the possibilities that can result from even relatively small, local actions.

In early 2018 we wrote the post If You Get Confused, Listen to the Music Play to address issues similar to those described above, and how to come together and take action, using the UDHR as a frame of reference.   Since that time, we’ve developed some more specific guides that we hope you’ll review and use with your family and friends to share personal stories and go from the concerns raised in these stories to identifying positive actions to address these concerns. We also offer Resources for Speaking Up.

I just listened to a 2006 Smithsonian Folkways Interview with Pete Seeger, where he talks about writing Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season), and how its resonance with so many people became a source of uplift and inspiration to work toward positive change.  Pete suggests we must stick together and find ways to communicate to make sense of the world amid great disagreements. He also notes that Ecclesiastes, the source of his song, reflected the challenges faced since the beginning of time.

“This talking is what we need to do in the world now… How can we say what needs to be said without making them so angry they will walk out?”

Let’s take heart from the noble actions of the many people before us who have spoken out and worked collectively to further positive change, to raise our voices and take even the smallest action to move toward The World As It Could Be in our most immediate, small places close to home.

With appreciation and best regards,

Sandy Sohcot, Director