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Citizens need to fight for what they believe in to create change

January 31, 2017

Multiple events happened over the break that both galvanized and inspired me, dissecting yet reassuring my faith in humanity.

First, I attended a rally in support for the survivors of sexual assault at the University of Minnesota, standing up for the survivor and condemning the actions of the football players involved.

I then watched as the now former president Barack Obama gave his farewell address in the city of Chicago, highlighting our nation’s achievements when he was in office and persuading the American people to press onward for change.

The week after, I attended an event to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., giving a reflection of the progress that has been made and still needed today in the name of civil rights.

It was a series of events that would eventually be concluded with the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

I won’t lie; I did avoid the inauguration, but I’m not the type to openly protest my opposition either. Sure, I believe people should have the right to protest this election, but shouldn’t we do more than express our discomfort?

As disappointed as I am, we as Americans have to show some level of respect the new commander-in-chief, no matter how vile his agenda is. However, that doesn’t mean we have to give up our values and stop fighting for what’s right.

Outside of the White House, we as citizens have enormous power that can change the world we live in. In addition to voting, we can educate people on certain issues, create solutions to striking problems and make individual choices that can create a huge dent in opinion and change. But anything that we do as citizens can only be achieved if we have the urge to unite and organize together. As divided as this country may be today, we have to realize that taking divisive sides on conflicting issues will only take us further away from solving it.

Based on my personal opinion, I believe that there are only two real sides that exist with these issues: the side that wants to continue to divide, and the side that wants to find a solution. People might argue whether “black” or “all” lives matter, whether climate change is caused by human activity or how regulations are beneficial or destructive to our economy. But are they really solving the conflict?

You could have an endless argument with someone for hours on Facebook or Twitter, defending how either’s opinion isn’t racist or why college should be free. But at the end of the day, no matter how much you argue, the problem still exists.

I’m no expert on problem solving, but we don’t have to settle for this anymore. We don’t need to build walls to divide us, safe spaces to comfort us or tougher arguments to spit out. We need bridges to connect us together. We then need facts, evidence and reason to show what works best. When we finally find an acceptable solution, we need to enact it. This isn’t a radical new idea; this is an approach everyone knows we should be taking. But because we’re divided, we’re not.

Washington has had this problem throughout the last decade, and despite the new administration, the whole picture doesn’t look like it’s getting better. However, if we ever want the hope that our leaders and politicians will unite and go toward the right direction, we as citizens have to unite and take that step first.

Of course, you might ask yourself, “What can I do to make my world better? I don’t have any power over the world, and I’m not a politician, so what can I really do?”

A lot actually. As Obama said in his Farewell Address, “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life. If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself.”

Ironically speaking, a lot of those events that I mentioned earlier were great examples of people who, as citizens, changed the world around them. The petition that was started by a handful of University of Minnesota students quickly gained momentum, and eventually became a success after the university took action against the football teams coach. Dr. King’s dream of racial equality led to organizing one of the most successful nonviolent struggles, eventually leading to a momentum of civil rights legislation throughout the country. Even Obama was a great example of a citizen taking action, starting his career as a young community organizer helping improve the lives of those on the south side of Chicago.

So the facts are simple: If we want to change the world we live in, we must unite and organize to take action. We can’t afford to keep arguing, dividing ourselves and not accepting the facts. There should be only two sides to any troubling issues: those who want to continue to divide, and those who want to solve the problem.

As the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone said, “If we don’t fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don’t really stand for them.”

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