by Matt Bogoshian, Chief Strategy Officer & General Counsel, REV
After almost two troubling weeks as an American citizen during the Trump Administration, I felt compelled to read former President Obama’s recent farewell address to find inspiration on how each of us can take citizen action to uphold American democracy and liberty.
I’ve stitched together some lines from the well-written address that resonate with me; the emphasis is mine. President Obama reminded us that:
… change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it… (pursuing) the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.
But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some…Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.…
And so we must forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible. We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come…
But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible…
Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet. But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects: environmental disasters, economic disruptions, and waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary… Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders.
It’s that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse – the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket. It’s that spirit – a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, and build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but on principles – the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and an independent press.
That order is now being challenged… It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.
Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you…. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. …
If you are like me, President Obama’s words inspire me to take action, but equally important is that those actions fit into to a larger national strategy that makes sense. That is why an excellent new book called The New Grand Strategy is a good read. In it, the authors, military and sustainability experts outline practical sets of actions that lay the groundwork for a rebirth of American democracy that can lead us and the world toward a flourishing future.
Linking our personal actions to advancing a grand sustainability strategy is one important way to carry out our citizenship and do what the former President called on us to do: show up, dive in, and persevere. We can help advance that strategy by transitioning to cleaner energy as soon as possible in order to reduce cancer and asthma causing pollution and avoid the worst of global warming.
Becoming more energy efficient in our homes, schools, businesses, and elsewhere is a crucial first step. Even though California has been a long time energy efficiency leader compared to other states, our progress is still insufficient to meet the challenges that lie ahead. For years part of the critique of our energy efficiency efforts has been our inability to turn applied energy efficiency into a social movement like anti-smoking campaigns have been for decades.
With your help that inability may be about to change as the Energy Upgrade California energy efficiency marketing campaign is on the road to being revamped. The California Energy Efficiency Coordinating Committee will be looking at what it takes to morph a campaign into a movement that produces higher rates of applied energy efficiency.
You have an opportunity to influence the design and delivery of energy efficiency programs in California by tracking and participating in these efforts. From where I sit, your participation would be one of many ways to Show up. Dive in. Persevere.