Making Good on your New Year’s Resolution to Make Change in the Next Four Years

This post reflects the personal views of ACE staff member Brian Stilwell and does not represent the views of ACE as an organization.

For many of us, the recent election of Donald Trump has been absolutely devastating.  As someone who’s dedicated my life to working with young people to fight for climate justice -- many of whom are low-income, people of color, Muslim, immigrants, queer, trans and/or undocumented -- this new reality has hit me very hard and feels very personal.  

We’ve been handed a critical moment in our nation’s history, and there is too much at stake to sit this one out.

The day after the election I had students calling and texting me, terrified about their future and asking for guidance and support. One of these students a first-generation immigrant, a Muslim woman of color and an amazing youth leader - expressed feeling unsafe and unwelcome in her new home of America.  Our neighbor down the street had a swastika carved into her recycling bin overnight.  A college friend, who is a person of color, was hostilely asked by a white store clerk whether she was “actually American.”

This is not the America we strive to be. It hurts to see my friends’ and family’s lives put in jeopardy on multiple fronts; to see my most deeply held values of equity, fairness and ensuring basic human rights for all those in our country being undermined and attacked; to see the common creed that binds us as Americans, being unraveled.  

I’ve honestly never felt so depressed, so angry and so panicked as I have during the last 2 months.

But, in the face of this adversity, I’ve also never felt more determined, more energized and more resolved to stand up for the social, economic and environmental justice that every human being deserves. To stand up for what’s right in all the ways I can. To refuse to be complicit in injustice. We’ve been handed a critical moment in our nation’s history, and there is too much at stake to sit this one out.

That’s why this New Year, my resolution is to take meaningful action to uphold my progressive values and protect the people and places I love.

I hope you will join me, as we are going to need everyone to build the just and fair society we all deserve.  

But how to get started?  How can I make meaningful change this year?  Where do I begin?

At times like this, it can feel really overwhelming to know how to get started.  That’s why I’ve assembled this easy-to-use guide to help you make good on your resolution to make change in 2017.  It’s called “The Next 4 Years: How You Can Help Build the Social Movements We Need.”  Here’s a preview of what’s contained within (including a special section on climate change):

a) Why Social Movements?

b) How you can help build the Social Movement(s) we Need

Part 1: Building People Power: The Raw Materials for Social Movements

  • Find an Organization
  • Get Involved. Physically Show Up. Prioritize.
  • Activate Your Network (Relationships Matter)
  • Learn about Systems of Oppression.  Think about your Privilege.
  • Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is - Donate!

Part 2: Rebuilding Our Democracy

  • Fixing Our Democracy
  • Building Electoral Power
  • We’re Down but We’re Not Out
  • Civic Engagement

c) Climate Change: Why we should be freaking out right now and what you can do about it!

  • This is a moral crisis, happening right now, impacting you.
  • We can fix this, but we can’t fix it later
  • Enter President Trump
  • What we Need and Ways to Take Action Right Now

Bottomline: this next four years is not going to be easy no matter how we slice it, but I will find solace knowing that everything we do to strengthen our democracy, preserve our progressive values, and protect the most vulnerable in our society will be worth it.  I look forward to fulfilling my New Year’s resolution with you along the way and making 2017 the year that our social movements took hold and made history.