Extracts from "Reclaiming Democracy" by Sam Harris
Reclaiming Our Democracy chronicles the process of creating political
will-in this case to end hunger and poverty - but it serves as a powerful
tool for anyone concerned about the health of our planet. Political will
is not imposed from the top down by politicians, but comes from the bottom
up, from concerned citizens. This is a story of ordinary people finding
their voice, their power, to effect change.
I've been asked to write this foreward partly because I am a celebrity, but
also because I am a citizen and I have my own story to contribute.
My Mother, Iva McConnell, was a nurse. She entered her chosen field of
endeavor, medicine, over her parents' objections. The family thought it
unseemly that a young women become a doctor, so Mom went to the
teachers'college, After a few years, she was able to save up money from
the salary she received from teaching in one-room schoolhouses on the
Canadian prairie and pay her own way through nurse's training. She worked
as a nurse on and off until she was past 70, not out of need, but because
she loved the work and the satisfaction it brought her.
I speak of this because my mother's commitment to service has had a major
impact on me throughout my life. During all the years I pursued my
passion- the performing arts-a little voice deep inside asked. "But is this
of real value? Should I be doing something of more service-like Mom, who is
a teacher and a nurse?"
As things turned out, I have achieved a degree of fame, and that has helped
me have an impact on issues I care about. My "celebrity" has been a tool
I've used to contribute to my community and to my world. But I must make
the choice to do so and find the means. I feel this is true for each one
of us-whatever our "tools"- because we all have ourselves to share.
After several years of participating in benefits, actions, projects and
campaigns on children's issues, women's rights, homelessness, the
environment, and on ending hunger, I began to feel that although these were
valuable endeavors, there must be more that I could do-there must be a
stronger and more productive course of action I could take. But what should
it be and what organization should I get behind?
Enter RESULTS, in the form of a soft-spoken, powerful, yet immensely
practical visionary, Sam Harris. I had worked peripherally with Sam and
RESULTS for several years, but only after a lunch meeting during one of
Sam's trips to Los Angeles did the power and beauty of the work of RESULTS
actually hit home. We sat across from each other at a Mexican restaurant
on Wiltshire Boulevard and engaged in a real examination of what RESULTS
actually does. My ignorance of the workings of my government and the basic
American political process was a barrier, but Sam persisted: "Val you know
we have the resources to end world hunger. You know we can save the lives
of the 40,000 children under the age of 5 who die each day of preventable
causes. But it's one thing to know it, and it's another to deliver it-to
be able to speak about it powerfully and inspire others to get involved."
So I joined with my partners in RESULTS, began to master the facts about
what is possible in ending hunger and poverty, moved into action, and
watched our work unfold. I listened in to a telephone conference call as
30 editorial writers discussed protecting the world's children with the
director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). I moderated a conference
call connecting news conferences in 28 cities, focused on the state of the
world's children. I watched funding priorities change and mortality rates
drop. I listened as 30 editorial writers discussed unleashing the power of
the world's poorest women by providing tiny loans that allow the women to
start little businesses and transform their lives. And the editorial
writers on these calls and the journalists at these news conferences were
all brought together by my favorite "celebrities," RESULTS
volunteers-ordinary citizens who moved from knowing important information
to taking action.
The importance of this book is that it shatters the notion "I don't make a
difference," and de-mystifies the question "What can I do?" Reclaiming our
Democracy shows, by example, what we can and must do. It chronicles the
birth, the growing pains, the struggles, and the triumphs of a wish made
manifest-that our lives can contribute to building a saner, safer world
where human dignity is the birthright of each person.
My mother's commitment to service is alive and vital in my life and in my
work in RESULTS. And like her, I love the satisfaction it brings me.
Sam Harris' hands-on account of how to rejuvenate grassroots democratic
participation in America is must reading for both the novice interested in
testing political waters, as well as the experienced activist in search of
new ways to enliven public participation.
Reclaiming Our Democracy is inspirational and gives substance to the
long-heeded assumption that every individual can truly make a difference. I
highly recommend this book.
Author of BIOSPHERE POLITICS
Most of us don't believe we play a part in the decisions made by our
government and , worst of all, don't believe we could play such a role.
This feeling of impotence has lead to years of public apathy which has
turned more recently to public anger. The United States faces a crisis of
democracy which Reclaiming Our Democracy author Sam Harris says will not be
solved until ordinary citizens come off the sidelines and assume their role
as citizen leaders.
Reclaiming Our Democracy provides a new vision for democracy-the
development of citizen leaders-ordinary people taking extraordinary action.
It is the story of teachers, doctors, homemakers, insurance salespeople,
and others who've realized the role each of us can and must play in
creating a democracy "as if people mattered." It is told through the
inspiring action of RESULTS, an international grassroots citizens' lobby
committed to healing the break between people and government. RESULTS
focuses on ending world hunger and poverty, but is methods could be used to
address any issue: the environment, education, AIDS and more.
RESULTS uses a unique mix of group empowerment and support which includes
national conference calls and an emphasis on developing volunteer
spokespersons. Its activists have played a leading advocacy role in
campaigns which have resulted in a dramatic increase in global immunization
rates, saving the lives of some three million children each year-a
revloution in banking which is providing tiny, life-changing loans to
millions of the world's poorest people-and more than one million people
gathering at candlelight vigils in 75 countries to highlight the 1990 World
Summit for Children.
According to Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy, "There is not a
rich lobby in Washington that wouldn't trade its limos for the group's
achievements...." Parade magazine has said of RESULTS: "They defy the
Filled with compelling stories told by dozens of volunteers, Reclaiming our
Democracy is a passionate plea to turn away from cynicism and
discouragement and face what is possible for our future and for our
"The genius of Harris' RESULTS organization," said Mark Satin in New
Options, "is that it has managed to combine effective national leadership
and structure with effective grassroots education and mobilization. In
fact it has come up with an eminently replicable way of organizing around
decentralist/globally responsible issues and concerns..."
Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart has said, " We aren't passengers on
spaceship earth. We're the crew."
This is a profoundly wise book which will move and motivate leaders
everywhere-especially those who never dreamed of being leaders.
Robert J Berg - President
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE
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