Persistence & Patience With Change

How can we get people to understand societal changes that are desirable and achievable if they embrace and support such pursuits?  More specifically, how can we energize support for transformation of health, education, and energy ecosystems to achieve desirable, high priority outcomes?  Consider related achievements in similar arenas in the past. 

Abolitionism, or the abolitionist movement (1830-1870), was the crusade to end slavery. In Western Europe and the Americas, abolitionism was a historic movement that sought to end the Atlantic slave trade and liberate the enslaved people.  William Lloyd Garrison of Massachusetts founded the newspaper The Liberator and in the following year he set up the New England Anti-Slavery Society. He was joined with Arthur and Lewis Tappan of New York in forming the American Anti-Slavery Society.  President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.  Over three decades had passed.

The women’s suffrage movement (1848-1917) was a decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy: Disagreements over strategy threatened to cripple the movement more than once.  The three founders of America’s women’s suffrage movement were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott.  The 19th Amendment makes it illegal to deny the right to vote to any citizen based on their sex, which effectively granted women the right to vote. It was first introduced to Congress in 1878 and was finally certified 42 years later in 1920.  Over seven decades had passed.

The Progressive movement (1897-1920) was a political movement interested in furthering social and political reform, curbing political corruption caused by political machines, and limiting the political influence of large corporations.  The progressive movement had four major goals: (1) to protect social welfare, (2) to promote moral improvement, (3) to create economic reform, and (4) to foster efficiency. Reformers tried to promote social welfare by easing the problems of city life. 

Progressive national political leaders included Republicans Theodore Roosevelt, Robert M. La Follette, and Charles Evans Hughes; Democrats William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, and Al Smith.  Aside from banning the practices of price discrimination and anti-competitive mergers, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act also declared strikes, boycotts, and labor unions legal under federal law. The bill passed the House with an overwhelming majority on June 5, 1914. President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law on October 15, 1914.  Almost two decades had passed.

The civil rights movement was a political movement and campaign (1875-1968) in the United States to abolish institutional racial segregation, discrimination, and disenfranchisement throughout the United States.  The civil rights movement was a struggle for justice and equality for African Americans led by James Farmer, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young.  Nine decades had passed. Yet, one can argue that this movement is still a work in progress. 

Social movements take decades to secure the outcomes sought.  One can argue that this is “a failure to fully integrate agency and structure in explanations of social movements. A focus on great leaders risks neglect of structural opportunities and obstacles to collective action, while an emphasis on structures of opportunity risks slighting human agency.”  In other words, structures must be amenable to change, people must perceive agency to make changes, and leaders are needed to strategize, organize, and execute.  As illustrated above, people must also be persistent and patient.

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