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How the Democrats Can Blow It in 2014

August 12th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, Democrats

Running as a Dem, sounding like a Republican

By: Alex Isenstadt

Progressive America Rising via Politico

August 11, 2014 – It’s one thing for Democrats running in red parts of the country to sound like Republicans on the campaign trail. It’s another when Democrats running in purple or even blue territory try to do so.

Yet that’s what’s happening in race after race this season.

Faced with a treacherous political environment, many Democrats are trotting out campaign ads that call for balanced budgets, tax cuts and other more traditionally GOP positions. Some of them are running in congressional districts that just two years ago broke sharply for President Barack Obama.

The Republican-flavored ads provide an early glimpse of how Democrats will wage their 2014 campaign. Democrats, hampered by Obama’s rising unpopularity and the tendency for conservatives to turn out at higher levels than liberals in midterm years, face the reality that swing congressional districts favorable to them in 2012 will be far less so in 2014.

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Should Populists Declare Victory?

August 7th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, 2016 Election, Democrats, PDA, Voting Rights, Wall Street

By Robert Borosage

Progressive America Rising via OurFuture.org

Aug 7, 2014 – Should populists declare victory and go home? Despite money-drenched politics, Washington gridlock, the richest few capturing virtually all the income growth in the economy and corporations deserting the country to avoid taxes, the fanciful notion that populists have captured the Democratic Party is gaining popularity in the political chatter of the idle summer months.

Politico argues that “an ascendant progressive and populist movement” is “on the verge of taking over the party.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, electric on campaign trail and in social media, is touted as “Wall Street’s nightmare” and a potential challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Hillary’s supporters respond with a hearty embrace, arguing that there’s no notable issue difference between Hillary and Warren. Blogger Matt Yglesias trumpets that Democrats are more united than ever, with no major issues dividing them.

The Democratic Leadership Council, center of the New Democrat assault on liberals, has shut its doors. The Rubinomics of the New Dems – featuring corporate trade accords, financial deregulation, fiscal austerity, and starving public investments – was discredited in the economic collapse. And now The Democratic Strategist, a New Democrat offshoot, features a “strategy memo” by James Vega arguing that progressives should declare victory and pick up their winnings. Rather than continuing to wage “a fight for the soul of the party,” challenging conservative Democrats in primaries, they should follow the example set by Warren, lay out a popular populist agenda, rally support for it, and invite all Democrats to join.

Plaintively, Vega argues that the New Dems have seen the error of their ways, understanding that financial deregulation in the 1990s was a mistake and that Obama’s Grand Bargain strategy in 2010-2011 was an error. Centrists have learned the need for a more populist stance and policies. Progressives should claim victory and hang up their pitchforks, eschewing “accusations of personal corruption and loyalties to groups like Wall Street.”

Warren, Vega argues, is the exemplar of this. She lays out a popular populist agenda and promises to fight for it. She consolidates support and mobilizes energy. She doesn’t push off of other Democrats, name names, or act divisively, thus she can “invite moderates in.”

Vega warns the populists that they can’t combine the Warren “progressive agenda” approach with the traditional “struggle for the soul of the party” at the same time. The one tries to unify a political party around a broad agenda; the latter tries to “purify” it by defining some groups as unacceptable.

This argument is like the summer’s morning fog; it evaporates in the light. The problem for Democrats isn’t that the populists are too powerful, but that they are too weak. Groups like Moveon.org, Daily Kos, Democrats for America, the Working Families Party, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have only begun to build the capacity to recruit and support candidates. At the state and local level, Progressive Majority is one of the few operations that helps recruit and train populist challengers. Labor unions still tend to be less active in primaries, gearing up only to get members out in the general election. Hillary Clinton is unique in many ways, but her ability to build a campaign-in-waiting, with millions already committed, demonstrates a potency that populists cannot match.

The argument over the direction of the party has always been about vision, agenda and leaders. The brutal battles are over issues, particularly defining issues that are tied to differing directions. What Warren personifies is the reality that the most attractive leaders in the Senate (Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders, John Whitehouse and others) and House (like Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva of the Progressive Caucus), activists of the Rising American Electorate (young, people of color, single women), and the organized base of the party – labor, citizen action groups, civil rights, women’s and environmental groups – all support an agenda far bolder and more populist than that embraced by the Obama White House.

With Hillary’s strength virtually suffocating the race for the nomination, progressives have already set out to lay out that agenda, consolidate the support for it, and elevate leaders who champion it. They do so both in the hope that Hillary will move to adopt their themes and reforms, and to build an independent movement for change.

This isn’t about electoral messaging or a settling of scores out of personal pique against those who got it wrong in the past. What is driving the new populism is an economy that does not work for working families. The concern about extreme inequality isn’t because some are rich beyond all measure. It is because the wealthiest 1 percent are capturing virtually all of the income growth of the society, meaning that everyone is struggling simply to stay afloat.

And, this isn’t an accident, an act of fate, a natural phenomena. This is, as Warren states, because they rigged the rules to benefit themselves. It won’t be changed without fierce battles to dislodge powerful and entrenched interests and change the rules. Curbing the financial casino requires taking on Wall Street. Getting trade right and reviving good jobs at home requires taking on the multinationals. Making the investments we need in areas vital to our future requires forcing the rich and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Enabling workers to capture a fair share of the profits and productivity they help generate requires empowering workers and curbing CEO excesses. Providing a fair and healthy shot for every child requires reversing the conservative retreats of the last decades. The list can go on.

These fights will be at the center of our political debates over the next years. They will be pitched battles against powerful interests. Politicians will have to decide which side they are on. And the new populism has no chance unless a powerful movement is built that is prepared to elect champions to office and take on those who stand in the way.

America’s Massive National Security State Is the 4th Branch of Government

August 5th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Long War, militarism

 

Who rules Washington?

By Tom Englehardt

Beaver County Peace Links via Tom Dispatch

August 3, 2014 |   As every schoolchild knows, there are three check-and-balance branches of the U.S. government: the executive, Congress, and the judiciary.  That’s bedrock Americanism and the most basic high school civics material.  Only one problem: it’s just not so.

During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved.  It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach.  Admittedly, it still lacks certain formal prerogatives of governmental power.  Nonetheless, at a time when Congress and the presidency are in a check-and-balance ballet of inactivity that would have been unimaginable to Americans of earlier eras, the Fourth Branch is an ever more unchecked and unbalanced power center in Washington.  Curtained off from accountability by a penumbra of secrecy, its leaders increasingly are making nitty-gritty policy decisions and largely doing what they want, a situation illuminated by a recent controversy over the possible release of a Senate report on CIA rendition and torture practices.

All of this is or should be obvious, but remains surprisingly unacknowledged in our American world. The rise of the Fourth Branch began at a moment of mobilization for a global conflict, World War II.  It gained heft and staying power in the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century, when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, provided the excuse for expansion of every sort.

Its officials bided their time in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when “terrorism” had yet to claim the landscape and enemies were in short supply.  In the post-9/11 era, in a phony “wartime” atmosphere, fed by trillions of taxpayer dollars, and under the banner of American “safety,” it has grown to unparalleled size and power.  So much so that it sparked a building boom in and around the national capital (as well as elsewhere in the country).  In their 2010 Washington Post series “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William Arkin offered this thumbnail summary of the extent of that boom for the U.S. Intelligence Community: “In Washington and the surrounding area,” they wrote, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.”  And in 2014, the expansion is ongoing.

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Yet Another Case for a Popular Front vs. Finance Capital

July 29th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in financial crisis, poverty, safety net, Social Securiy, trade unions, Wall Street, youth and students

Big Lie: America Doesn't Have #1 Richest Middle-Class in the World: We're Ranked 27th!

Big Lie: America Doesn’t Have #1 Richest Middle-Class in the World: We’re Ranked 27th!

Les Leopold Author, The Looting of America

Progressive America Rising via Alternet

July 28, 2014 – America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires, and our wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet’s riches than any other group in the world. We even have hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family makes in 21 years! 

This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that’s what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us.

Unfortunately, it’s a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people.

Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we’re number 27. 

The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution—50 percent of the adult population has more wealth, while 50 percent has less. You can’t get more middle than that.

Wealth is measured by the total sum of all our assets (homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds etc.) minus our liabilities (outstanding loans and other debts). It the best indicator we have for individual and family prosperity. While the never-ending accumulation of wealth may be wrecking the planet, wealth also provides basic security, especially in a country like ours with such skimpy social programs. Wealth allows us to survive periods of economic turmoil. Wealth allows our children to go to college without incurring crippling debts, or to get help for the down payment on their first homes. As Billie Holiday sings, "God bless the child that’s got his own." 

Well, it’s a sad song. As the chart below shows, there are 26 other countries with a median wealth higher than ours (and the relative reduction of U.S. median wealth has done nothing to make our economy more sustainable).

Why?

Here’s a starter list:

  • We don’t have real universal healthcare. We pay more and still have poorer health outcomes than all other industrialized countries. Should a serious illness strike, we also can become impoverished.

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Five Ways Wall Street Continues to Screw Up the Economy for the Rest of Us and How to Fix It

July 8th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in financial crisis, Infrastructure, poverty, Unemployment, Wall Street

By Robert Kuttner

Beaver County Blue via Huffington Post

July 2, 2014 – The shocking thing about the financial collapse of 2008 is not that Wall Street excesses pushed us into the worst economy crisis since the Depression. It’s that the same financial system has been propped back up and that elites are getting richer than ever, while the effects of that collapse are continuing to sandbag the rest of the economy. Oh, and most of this aftermath happened while a Democrat was in the White House.

Consider:

  • The biggest banks are bigger and more concentrated than ever.
  • Subprime (subprime!) is making a comeback [2] with interest rates of 8 to 13 percent.
  • Despite Michael Lewis’s devastating expose of how high speed trading is nothing but a technological scam that allows insiders to profit at the expense of small investors, regulators are not moving to abolish it [3].
  • The usual suspects are declaring the housing crisis over, even though default and foreclosure rates in the hardest hit cities and states are upwards of 25 percent.
  • The deficit is falling, now just 2.8 percent of GDP [4], thanks to massive cuts in social spending. Isn’t that reassuring?

Meanwhile, back in the real economy, good jobs are far too scarce, incomes are stagnant, while 95 percent of the gains go to the top one percent.

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Don’t Go Back to Iraq! Five Steps the U.S. Can Take in Iraq Without Going Back to War

June 21st, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in antiwar, Iran, iraq, Obama

There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of U.S. airstrikes, bring home the Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around. (Photo: Jayel Aheram / Flickr)

By Phyllis Bennis

Beaver County Peace Links via Common Dreams

This is how wars begin.

Barack Obama says we’re not going back to Iraq. “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,” he said on June 19th, “but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.”

The White House says it’s “only” sending 275 soldiers to protect the embassy, it’s only sending 300 Special Forces, they’re only “advisers.” There’s only one aircraft carrier in the region, they say, and a few other warships. They’re considering missile strikes but they’re not going to send ground troops.

Iraq isn’t a start-up war for the United States—we’ve been there before. And these actions increase the danger we could be heading there again. We thought we had a president who learned the lesson, at least about Iraq—he even repeats it every chance he gets: “There is no military solution.”

This is a very dangerous move. President Obama’s words are right: there is no military solution.But his actions are wrong. When there is no military solution, airstrikes, Special Forces, arms deals, and aircraft carriers will only make it worse.

We need to stop it now. Before the first Special Forces guy gets captured and suddenly there are boots on the ground to find him. Before the first surveillance plane gets shot down and suddenly there are helicopter crews and more boots on the ground to rescue the pilot. Before the first missile hits a wedding party that some faulty intel guy thought looked like a truckload of terrorists—we seem to be good at that. And before we’re fully back at war.

Iraq is on the verge of full-scale civil war along the fault lines set in place when U.S. troops invaded and occupied the country more than a decade ago. We need to demand that our government do five things right away:

First, do no harm. There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of airstrikes, bring home the evac troops and Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around.

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‘I’m Right and Everybody Else Is Wrong. Clear About That?’

June 19th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2016 Election, Democrats, Organizing, PDA

Bernie Sanders will likely represent the hard-line Left in 2016. Will he help or hurt the movement?

By Simon van Zuylen-Wood

Progressive America Rising via National Journal

Shortly after 9 a.m. on the second Saturday in May, at the altar of a massive, ornate church in Northampton, Massachusetts, a lanky, white-haired reverend named Todd Weir assumes the pulpit. His congregation is hosting a conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of the grassroots organization Progressive Democrats of America.

Before him sits an audience of several hundred. In the course of welcoming them to the church, Weir directs their attention to a bronze relief of the fire-breathing, 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards. "Edwards preached over and over again about the dangers of the concentration of wealth and power that were happening here in the Connecticut River Valley," he says. "I think he would be here today with the Progressive Democrats of America, saying, ‘Run, Bernie, Run!’ "

The image of Jonathan Edwards—a Puritan in a white powdered wig—stumping for the socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in front of progressive diehards wearing hiking boots has hardly settled in our minds when, several minutes later, a man in a cowboy hat takes the podium and begins whipping the crowd into an even more frenzied state. "I’m happy to be here with you rompin’ stompin’ scrappy ‘n’ savvy attendees, you corporate greed-whackers and butt-kickers," twangs the populist Texan radio host Jim Hightower. A few more minutes of inspirational preamble follow before he introduces the guest of honor: that "hell-raiser extraordinaire who drives the Koch-head corporate plutocrats crazy."

A roar emanates from the pews, and 72-year-old Bernie Sanders trudges up to the pulpit. He waves tersely and motions for the crowd to sit down. "What I wanted to do this morning," he tells his adoring and expectant fans, "is kind of bore you a little bit."

True to his word, Sanders proceeds to drain all the energy from the premises with an hour-long lecture full of bleak statistics and wonky digressions. Phrases like "chained CPI" and "real unemployment" feature prominently, along with endless talk of the Koch brothers and their abettors on the Supreme Court.

According to the day’s agenda, the speech is supposed to be followed by a 15-minute meet-and-greet for the senator and audience members. Instead, when he finishes, Sanders bounds up the aisle, shakes some hands without breaking stride, then bolts out the front door. Back at the altar, a panel on media quickly assembles. It includes progressive radio host Thom Hartman, a baby-faced labor reporter named Cole Stangler, and the actress-activist Mimi Kennedy, who played the hippie mom on Dharma & Greg. "That," Stangler announces to the crowd, "was a pretty depressing speech."

Outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 2013. (Getty Images)Indeed it was. The performance was vintage Sanders: brimming with umbrage and entirely lacking in charisma. It was also probably a warm-up act for what could be one of the more intriguing story lines of 2016. For months, it has seemed increasingly likely that Sanders is going to run for president. The founder of Progressive Democrats of America, Tim Carpenter—who died of cancer two weeks before the conference—had started a petition beseeching Sanders to run in 2016, and part of the point of the event was to gin up enthusiasm for his candidacy. Meanwhile, Sanders has visited Iowa and New Hampshire; boasted that he’d make a better commander in chief than Hillary Clinton; and repeatedly said he’s "prepared" to enter the 2016 race, even informing me at one point—without making anything official—that he was "looking forward to running for president of the United States."

If Sanders runs, he will do so as the candidate of the Democratic Party’s uncompromising left flank.

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Behind the Madness in Iraq

June 14th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in antiwar, Iran, iraq, Long War

 

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via HuffPost

June 13, 2014 – The U.S. had no business invading Iraq. We toppled a dictatorship on a false 9/11 rationale, which plunged Iraq into a sectarian civil war inside a war with the United States. We left behind a vengeance-driven Shiite regime aligned with Iran. Now the sectarian war in Syria is enlarging into a regional one. The primary blame for this disaster is on the Bush administration, but also on all those who succumbed to a Superpower Syndrome, which said we could redesign the Middle East. There is no reason whatsoever to justify further loss of American lives or tax dollars on a conflict that we do not understand and that started before the United States was born.

Anti-war networks already are sending online messages to Congress opposing any U.S. military re-intervention in Iraq. Representative Nancy Pelosi already is there. Those voices need to be amplified to help President Barack Obama stave off the most irrational forces during this crisis.

Then we need to construct a narrative that blocks the hawks from blaming Obama for "losing" Iraq, and turns the focus on the neo-conservatives, Republicans, and Democratic hawks who took this country into a sea of blood. Most of them remain in power, unscathed and immune, even occupying high positions in this administration. What they fear most is not an Iraqi insurgency, but the risen families of the dead and wounded, on all sides, that increasingly ask who led them into an unwinnable, unaffordable war. The duty-driven bravery of their lost sons and daughters stands in direct contrast to shameless privilege of those who sent them into harm’s way.

As this immediate crisis unfolds, we must act to strip away certain delusions. The least of these, though still irritating, is the view of many visible anti-war "radicals" that says the United States never really withdrew from Iraq, but instead secretly left behind tens of thousands of Special Forces in disguise. This silly notion was meant to refute the belief that Obama had "ended" the war.

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Does Fox News Cause Ignorance, or Do Ignorant Viewers Prefer Fox News?

June 10th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Media bias, racism, rightwing, Tea Party

A new study reveals the gap between the channel’s fans and the rest of America

By Danny Vinik @dannyvinik

Progressive America Rising via The New Republic

Immediately before the presidential election in 2012, Fox News viewers were certain of one thing: Mitt Romney was going win. It didn’t matter that poll after poll had President Barack Obama winning by a comfortable margin. Conservative pundits Michael Barone, George Will and Dick Morris all expected Romney to earn more than 300 electoral votes. Even after Obama’s victory was certain on election night, Karl Rove wouldn’t admit defeat.

For those of us reading Nate Silver and other election forecasters, those conservative predictions were laughably bad. And election night proved us correct: Obama won with 332 electoral votes. The millions of Republicans who were shocked and disappointed on election night were not let down by their hubris, although it undoubtedly played a role. The real fault lies with conservative media system, which had become an echo chamber of right wing talking points that did not reflect the national landscape.

In the aftermath of Obama’s reelection, smart conservatives argued that the right wing media was putting their party at a disadvantage by obscuring the truth. “You haven’t just been misinformed about the horse race,” the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf wrote. “Since the very beginning of the election cycle, conservative media has been failing you.” While Friedersdorf hoped the shellacking would be an awakening for the party, he doubted it would be. Nineteen months later, Friedersdorf is looking prophetic: A new Brookings and Public Religion Research Institute poll shows just how out of touch Fox News viewers are with both their fellow Republicans and the rest of the country. They learned nothing from 2012.

The Brookings/PRRI report surveyed 1,538 adults focused on immigration reform, but also included questions on their news preferences and a collection of other policy issues. The focus on new preferences allowed the researchers to divide the Republican respondents into two groups: those that most trust Fox News “to provide accurate information about politics and current events” and those that most trust a different network. The former, whom the authors label “Fox News Republicans,” made up 53 percent of Republican respondents. “Non-Fox News Republicans” made up the remaining 47 percent. This was an easy split to make, but for Democrats there was no clear divide on news preferences. Thirty one percent of Democrats most trusted broadcast news stations (ABC, NBC, and CBS) while another 26 percent chose CNN. Smaller percentages chose public television (14 percent), MSNBC (10 percent) and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (9 percent).

Trust in Television News Sources

PRRI/Brookings

In other words, the Republican Party is extremely polarized among its news choices while the Democratic Party is scattered among a number of networks.

This makes a huge difference for the policy preferences among Republicans. For instance, 42 percent of Fox News Republicans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. For Non-Fox News Republicans, it’s 60 percent. That puts the views of Non-Fox News Republicans closer to those of Independents (61 percent support a path to citizenship) and Democrats (70 percent).

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John Lewis to Young Leaders: Get in ‘Necessary Trouble’

June 9th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Civil Rights, Organizing, pushing obama, youth and students

By Marian Wright Edelman

Progressive America Rising via Huffington Post

June 6, 2014 – Not every speaker tells a crowd of young leaders that their job is to get into trouble.

But that’s part of the message iconic civil rights warrior and now Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) conveyed at this year’s week-long Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools National Training that began June 1 for nearly 2,000 college age Freedom School servant leaders and site coordinators.

They will mentor, teach, and lead Freedom School programs for over 12,500 pre-K through 12th grade students across the country this summer in faith congregations, public schools, college campuses, juvenile detention facilities, homeless shelters, and a range of other settings where the neediest children live.

Freedom Schools seek to empower children through reading wonderful books, to engage parents, and to reweave the fabric of community support for children. John Lewis and Andrew Young spoke movingly at the opening training session celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Summer, when young White people from around the country joined local Black citizens and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) workers to open up Mississippi’s closed Jim Crow society and demand the right to vote for Black citizens. Freedom Summer 1964 helped transform Mississippi and American society, but it demanded great sacrifice and courage. Three young people, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, gave their lives after investigating the burning of a local Black church where a Freedom School was to be held, victims of state and White supremacist violence.

As he spoke to today’s young Freedom Schools leaders John Lewis told them that when he was their age getting into “necessary trouble” shaped his life’s mission. As he explained, he grew up poor in rural Troy, Alabama, where his father, a former tenant farmer, had saved enough money to buy his own land. He worked on the farm alongside the rest of his family but was always desperate to get an education. A teacher encouraged him over and over to read all he could. Although he wasn’t allowed in his segregated county library like so many of our generation, he did his best: “I tried to read everything, the few books we had at home, the magazines. We were too poor to have a subscription to the local newspaper, but my grandfather had one, and when he would finish reading his newspaper each day, I would get that newspaper and read it.” He also listened to the radio to learn more about the news outside his small community, and eventually started hearing about new events that would change his life:

In 1955, 15 years old in the 10th grade, I heard of Rosa Parks. I heard of Martin Luther King, Jr. I heard his voice on an old radio, and it seemed like he was saying, ‘John Lewis, you, too, can do something… You can make a contribution.

John Lewis decided then that was exactly what he would do. He started with the library:

So in 1956, 16 years old, some of my brothers and sisters and cousins, we went down to the public library in the little town of Troy, Alabama, trying to get a library card, trying to check out some books, and we were told by the librarian that the library is for Whites only and not for coloreds.

A year later, as a high school senior, he decided to apply to Troy State College (now Troy University), a White college close to his home — but his application was ignored and unanswered. John Lewis was stopped temporarily — but he was not finished.

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