You don't want to get involved in changing the world? Here's 90 seconds that might give you pause.

Howard Zinn was a historian, playwright, and social activist.

He left this Earth in 2010, but what he left behind is a legacy of the written and spoken word that still affects people today.

His body of work talks a lot about the struggle of everyday people to make a difference in the world — often despite incredible forces aligned against them.

He also covered history and politics from a point of view that is almost never represented in our culture — that of the people rather than those in power.


I often say that when I took history in high school and college, there were a lot of books about "this rich white guy that did this, and this rich white guy did that." It was when I discovered Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" that the lights really came on for me.

I began to realize that my culture and background — son of a union man who worked a blue-collar job in Iowa — had as much to do with history and who changed the course of it as anybody's. One man can spend $100 million and change something, but millions of workers demanding an eight-hour day ? Tens of millions of people in the streets, demanding civil rights? That's how massive change happens.

Howard was also a great orator. The following is a quote from a debate at Johns Hopkins University.


Quote graphic via ChicagoNow.com. (Watch actor Matt Damon perform the speech!)

Here's the full quote:

"As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. And our problem is that scene in All Quiet on the Western Front where the schoolboys march off dutifully in a line to war. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem."

The transcript of the entire speech lives on this page. It you'd like to read it, like in treeware form, it's available in the usual places.

He was about as antiwar as you can be, knowing that all wars inevitably mean killing innocents.

Here's another quote I love:

Quote graphic from Polstar's Short Attention Span.

When I discovered this video of him talking about activists looking back fondly on their lives, it really hit home with me.

It's from the documentary "#ReGENERATION," and it's a fabulous 90 seconds of wisdom about those very people who become active, take things to the streets, and create change right in front of our eyes.

GIF via "#ReGENERATION."

At times, it looks like he has wistful tears in his eyes when he recounts his life of advocacy and action. Maybe it will resonate with you, too?

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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