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Reich writes: "When I graduated in 1968. It all seemed pretty hopeless. I assumed America was going to hell. And yet, reforms did occur. America changed. The changes didn't come easily. Every positive step was met with determined resistance. But we became better and stronger because we were determined to change."

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)


The Triumph of Progressivism

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

14 May 13

 

any of you soon-to-be college graduates are determined to make the world a better place. Some of you are choosing careers in public service or joining nonprofits or volunteering in your communities.

But many of you are cynical about politics. You see the system as inherently corrupt. You doubt real progress is possible.

"What chance do we have against the Koch brothers and the other billionaires?" you've asked me. "How can we fight against Monsanto, Boeing, JP Morgan, and Bank of America? They buy elections. They run America."

Let me remind you: Cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. You have no chance if you assume you have no chance.

"But it was different when you graduated," you say. "The sixties were a time of social progress."

You don't know your history.

When I graduated in 1968, the Vietnam War was raging. Over half a million American troops were already there. I didn't know if I'd be drafted. A member of my class who spoke at commencement said he was heading to Canada and urged us to join him.

Two months before, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. America's cities were burning. Bobby Kennedy had just been gunned down.

George ("segregation forever") Wallace was on his way to garnering 10 million votes and carrying five southern states. Richard Nixon was well on his way to becoming president.

America was still mired in bigotry.

I remember a classmate who was dating a black girl being spit on in a movie theater. The Supreme Court had only the year before struck down state laws against interracial marriage.

My entire graduating class of almost 800 contained only six young black men and four Hispanics.

I remember the girlfriend of another classmate almost dying from a back-alley abortion, because safe abortions were almost impossible to get.

I remember a bright young woman law school graduate in tears because no law firm would hire her because she was a woman.

I remember one of my classmates telling me in anguish that he was a homosexual, fearing he'd be discovered and his career ruined.

The environmental movement had yet not been born. Two-thirds of America's waterways were unsafe for swimming or fishing because of industrial waste and sewage.

I remember rivers so polluted they caught fire. When the Cuyahoga River went up in flames Time Magazine described it as the river that "oozes rather than flows," in which a person "does not drown but decays."

In those days, universal health insurance was a pipe dream.

It all seemed pretty hopeless. I assumed America was going to hell.

And yet, reforms did occur. America changed. The changes didn't come easily. Every positive step was met with determined resistance. But we became better and stronger because we were determined to change.

When I graduated college I would not have believed that in my lifetime women would gain rights over their own bodies, including the legal right to have an abortion. Or women would become chief executives of major corporations, secretaries of state, contenders for the presidency. Or they'd outnumber men in college.

I would not have imagined that eleven states would allow gays and lesbians to marry, and a majority of Americans would support equal marriage rights.

Or that the nation would have a large and growing black middle class.

It would have seemed beyond possibility that a black man, the child of an interracial couple, would become President of the United States.

I would not have predicted that the rate of college enrollment among Hispanics would exceed that of whites.

Or that more than 80 percent of Americans would have health insurance, most of it through government.

I wouldn't have foreseen that the Cuyahoga River - the one that used to catch fire regularly - would come to support 44 species of fish. And that over half our rivers and 70 percent of bays and estuaries would become safe for swimming and fishing.

Or that some 200,000 premature deaths and 700,000 cases of chronic bronchitis would have been prevented because the air is cleaner.

Or that the portion of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood would have dropped from 88 percent to just over 4 percent.

I would not have believed our nation capable of so much positive change.

Yet we achieved it. And we have just begun. Widening inequality, a shrinking middle class, global warming, the corruption of our democracy by big money - all of these, and more, must be addressed. To make progress on these - and to prevent ourselves from slipping backwards - will require no less steadfastness, intelligence, and patience than was necessitated before.

The genius of America lies in its resilience and pragmatism. We believe in social progress because we were born into it. It is our national creed.

Which is to say, I understand your cynicism. It looks pretty hopeless.

But, believe me, it isn't.

Not if you pitch in.



Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.


 

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+29 # Tiffany49 2013-05-14 11:20
Agreed! Let's all get to work!
 
 
-48 # edge 2013-05-14 12:43
Quoting Tiffany49:
Agreed! Let's all get to work!


YEP, Johnson a Democrat escalated the war and Nixon promised to end it!

YEP, Wallace a Democrat stood in the way of integration!

YEP, the revered Democrat Robert Byrd had been a member of the KKK!

YEP the southern Democrats stood in the way of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Legislations!
 
 
+17 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-14 13:55
Why not just say "I EDGE want to go backward. It is so safe keeping one foot on first base"
 
 
-26 # edge 2013-05-15 06:20
Quoting Eldon J. Bloedorn:
Why not just say "I EDGE want to go backward. It is so safe keeping one foot on first base"


YOU are so FREAKING amazing!

Ask yourself how many times have you invoked the name BUSH in the last 5 years!
I bet you blame every Obama failure on BUSH or "W" or Tea Baggers!

YOU ARE A PHONY, FAKE, FRAUD and I am calling you on it!
 
 
+18 # Todd Williams 2013-05-15 07:58
You're not a very nice person, Edge. In fact you are intolerant, prejudiced, innacurate (to say the least), bigoted, and foolish. Eldon told the truth and we all know it. You, Edge, are obviously trolling.
 
 
+16 # Michael Lee Bugg 2013-05-15 08:41
Edge, for at least seven of W's eight glorious years I listened to brain-dead Republicans blaming Bush's disaster mostly on Clinton and Gore, but they even included Carter, Johnson, and FDR as need arose! Do we not still hear and read about the actions of Presidents not just back to George Washington, but to leaders under The Articles of Confederation? Absolutely! Do you "think" that no president has a lasting effect beyond their final day in office? At least you apparently do when it comes to Bush. Face it Edge, if you are intellectually capable, that while Obama has made some dumb decisions, particularly continuing too many of Bush's policies, he has not allowed 9-11 scale attack or anything close take place in our country, or started any wars under false pretenses, or sat back and did nothing while the economy was in free-fall! Sure, it is not fair to put ALL of the blame on Bush alone, he had lots of 'help' in the White House and the totally Republican controlled Congress for his first six years, and there are the millions of gullible Americans who voted for him TWICE, but heck fire, Bush said himself repeatedly, "I am the Decider"! Face up or shut up Edge!
 
 
-17 # edge 2013-05-15 10:06
[quote name="Michael Lee Bugg"]

You are kidding right?

Where did you hear Bush blame Clinton or Gore for ANYTHING?

Ate least Bush was a MAN and did not blame others!

OBLAMMER only cries that nothing is his fault! He is the friggin' President and needs to make decisions and take responsibility!

He didn't even take that 3am call when Benghazi actually happened...the White House won't even give his whereabouts!!!
 
 
+9 # theory≠opinion 2013-05-15 14:00
No, Bush did not take responsibility for anything. Mostly because he never admitted that anything went badly. When asked if he'd do anything different after he left office, he more or less stated that he hadn't made any mistakes. When people in his administration screwed up, they got promoted or kudos (don't forget heck Mr. Heck-of-a-job).

Why are you taking us down a road of finger pointing when someone invokes the idea of coming together to get work done? The real question is what are YOU doing to make the world a better place? Who is living a better life because YOU are here on this planet? What is YOUR plan to end corporate and government corruption? What is YOUR plan to mitigate climate change?
 
 
+4 # dkonstruction 2013-05-15 14:44
Quoting edge:
[quote name="Michael Lee Bugg"]


Ate least Bush was a MAN and did not blame others!


To suggest that to "blame others" is not to be "a MAN" is an odd one at best.

About Bush, though, he may not have "blamed others" but is that any better than out and out lying i.e, when he and his administration (Rice in particular) went out of their way lie and say that no one had ever contemplated an attack on the US using planes as weapons or in denying that they had ever received any warnings about an impending attack. So, "real men" don't blame others but lying to country is manly indeed?
 
 
-8 # edge 2013-05-16 11:42
Quoting dkonstruction:
(Rice in particular) went out of their way lie and say that no one had ever contemplated an attack on the US using planes as weapons or in denying that they had ever received any warnings about an impending attack. So, "real men" don't blame others but lying to country is manly indeed?


OK dkonstruction, we now KNOW FOR A FACT that the OBAMA administration was aware of the threats in Benghazi!

PLEASE point your finger of shame at OBAMA, and the OBAMA lied to the US about the video, and he also LIED when he went to the UN!

You won't, because he is a GOD to you.

He is a creep, a politician and nothing more.

WE deserve better than Bush and Obama...but you will only say we need better than Obama!

If Bush was a boob and Obama is a genius then Obama is the bigger fraud, OPEN your eyes!
 
 
+2 # neohip 2013-05-17 05:49
Please get beyond blaming to seeking solutions. I don't care who started the fire, I just want the fire put out.
 
 
+3 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-16 22:31
Excuse me. But didn't Bush blame "someone" in Iraq for having weapons of mass destruction? And didn't he have him, "that someone" hanged? He, Bush also in his quiet little room most likely "blamed" the senators, congressmen, for funding the war debt and the public for believing in him? Deep down in Bush's soul, he does blame and if he has a conscience, he blames himself. Unless, of course, he is insane. Then, how can one blame an insane man?
 
 
+2 # neohip 2013-05-17 05:47
It is difficult to have a reasoned argument with an irrational person.
 
 
+4 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-15 14:44
Frankly, I do not think about Bush, "W" or the Tea Baggers. Why? Because they as individuals and as a group, are classified as losers. The Republicans are at war with the public, and they plan
to destroy the working middle class and the poor. Fox News promotes Christianity (st Christmas time.) When Hannity is reminded what Jesus said:"care for thy brother," Most likely Hannity will say, "Jesus was only joking."
 
 
+6 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-15 16:58
Edge, I was raised as a Republican. I left the party after I graduated from college. Why did I leave the Republican Party and later become registered as an Independent? MCarthy(ism) for which I was ashamed of. Mostly because I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I feel comfortable being a progressive. My youth, I was introduced to Earl nightengal. His definition of success:"progre ssive realization of a worthy ideal." He came from a poor faimily, I came from a poor family. He made it. He encouraged me to make it. I'm a born again Progressive. Republican(ism) as it practiced today is simply cruel and self serving to such an extent that the corporatism "financially eats" the consumer rather than serves the consumer. For many many decades, all depressions and "great" recessions start in the U.S. and spread world wide. In which cases, Corporatism puts a world of hurt on the public and not just in the U.S.
 
 
+1 # neohip 2013-05-17 05:43
Obama has a lot to account for. I have been severely disappointed with his presidency. There is plenty of blame. Our government in corrupt and needs serious realignment. We are fighting for America. I'll take good behavior from either party just as I oppose betrayal by either. We must get beyond playing into the ruling elites hands by engaging in their divide and conquer manipulation. My vision for America has little to do with either party and everything to do with American citizens. The fight will never be over and never easy. It requires due diligence and participation. We need to restore power to the people.
 
 
+31 # Buddha 2013-05-14 15:43
Nice revisionist history. When Johnson (A Democrat, fool) ended segregation and called out the national guard to enforce it, Wallace, along with every racist segregationist Southerner, fled the Democratic Party and mostly ran to the GOP. The GOP and Nixon went with the Southern Strategy and picked up those racist former Dem Southerners, who to this day still have a happy home in the GOP. Which is why each election we still get to see the GOP stoking up their white-racial-re sentment, that old Welfare-Queens chestnut, perceived injustices at the hands of afirmative action, etc...Meanwhile the Dems said "good riddance to bad rubbish", the GOP can have 'em.
 
 
-8 # edge 2013-05-15 10:17
Quoting Buddha:
Nice revisionist history. When Johnson (A Democrat, fool) ended segregation and called out the national guard to enforce it, Wallace, along with every racist segregationist Southerner, fled the Democratic Party and mostly ran to the GOP.


You are either ignorant or a liar!

Wallace was a Democrat and was running for President in 1972 as a Democrat!
HE WAS A TRUE RACIST and DEMOCRAT!

He was Governor as a Democrat and ran four times for President (three as a Democrat and one on the American Independent Party ticket).

Get your facts right!
 
 
+7 # Todd Williams 2013-05-15 12:21
Wallace ran in 1964 Democratic primaries in Wisconsin, Indiana and Maryland. He ran again in 1968 in the American Independent Party with Gen Curtis LeMay. In 1972, he ran as a Democrat in the primaries in Florida, Maryland and Michigan. And then he ran in the 1976 primaries in Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama. Wallace lost in the primary voting because he was a segregationist running against in the Democratic Party that was clearly liberal at that point. He couldn't garner enough votes outside thte deep south to make him a viable GOP contender. Now Edge, buddha is neither ignorant or a liar while you, on the other hand are both a revisionist and mean -spirited. I won't stand by and let you get away with your half assed history lesson.
 
 
+1 # neohip 2013-05-17 05:53
Wallace was a democrat because he didn't like what Republican Lincoln did to the old south. He was as stuck in time with anger as you are. Wake up and move on.
 
 
+25 # Michael Lee Bugg 2013-05-14 15:48
So, what's your point? Oh, I know, it's not just "evil Republicans" because "they do it too"! That was then and this is now. Indeed there are still cowardly Democrats, but all of the elected Republicans in Washington and most state houses are the ones trying to undo what Democrats have done for women, minorities, workers, consumers, public education, banking regulations, and the environment, and return us to the Dark Ages out of pure hatred and greed!
 
 
+21 # ericlipps 2013-05-14 16:06
Quoting edge:
Quoting Tiffany49:
Agreed! Let's all get to work!


YEP, Johnson a Democrat escalated the war and Nixon promised to end it!

YEP, Wallace a Democrat stood in the way of integration!

YEP, the revered Democrat Robert Byrd had been a member of the KKK!

YEP the southern Democrats stood in the way of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Legislations!

YEP, in 1968 Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon kade secret overtures to BOTH the South Vietnamse and the Soouth Vietnamese that he would cut them a better deal than Humphrey would if they'd just help him get elected by blowing off the peace deal then on the table.

And YEP, most of the Southern Democrats who "stood in the way of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Legislations" [sic] went on to become Republicans.
 
 
+12 # Firefox11 2013-05-14 17:55
Points made, up to a point. How about a re-title, The Triumph of the Human Spirit over Despair, The Triumph of the Positive over the Negative, or ex malo bonum (out of something bad something good can come.
People are complex; there is good and bad in everyone. Bad people can do good things, and vice verse. LBJ did initiate social programs that still exist; Robert Byrd did oppose the invasion of Iraq on the floor of the Senate; Wallace did recant some of his earlier positions after he was shot. "Let's work together."
 
 
+15 # jimbeama 2013-05-14 18:17
YEP, Johnson a Democrat escalated the war and Nixon promised to end it!

YEP, Wallace a Democrat stood in the way of integration!

YEP, the revered Democrat Robert Byrd had been a member of the KKK!

YEP the southern Democrats stood in the way of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Legislations!

Johnson a democrat brought civil rights, Medicare, the great society. He cut poverty in half. He was on the verge of ending the Vietnam war but Nixon the criminal republican committed TREASON!!!! by sabotaging that so Nixon would have the edge to win the election in 1968 by promising peace which he in fact killed.

All of the southern democrats are now the tea party republicans. Don't be confused by the label. Those in the south hated the republicans because of Lincoln. They were anything but liberal or progressive. Thanks to Nixon and the Southern strategy that changed.
 
 
-16 # edge 2013-05-15 06:27
Quoting jimbeama:
Those in the south hated the republicans because of Lincoln.


YEP, that is right Lincoln freed the slaves and the DEMOCRATS hated that, they still keep them in an economic slavery to get their votes!

Look at the black households before "The Great Society" and you will see that most black men lived in the house, but welfare laws were created to break up the black family and make them dependent on GOVERNMENT!
GO ahead, check out the percentage of intact black families, the out of wedlock babies born has skyrocketed due to this "NEW" slavery!
 
 
+6 # Todd Williams 2013-05-15 08:01
You're tripping, dude. Peddle your racist crap elsewhere, I'm not buying into it.
 
 
+9 # dkonstruction 2013-05-15 09:49
Quoting edge:
Quoting jimbeama:
Those in the south hated the republicans because of Lincoln.


YEP, that is right Lincoln freed the slaves and the DEMOCRATS hated that, they still keep them in an economic slavery to get their votes!

Look at the black households before "The Great Society" and you will see that most black men lived in the house, but welfare laws were created to break up the black family and make them dependent on GOVERNMENT!
GO ahead, check out the percentage of intact black families, the out of wedlock babies born has skyrocketed due to this "NEW" slavery!


Lincoln did not free the slave; he fired them. Slaves freed themselves (through active resistance including slave rebellions over at least 100-150 years prior to the civil war as well as by some estimates 500,000 or more fled the south for the north and perhaps 250,000 fought for the union) with the aid of abolitionists (both northern and southern).

To believe that today's Republican party has any relationship to "the party of Lincoln" is just absurd.
 
 
+7 # dkonstruction 2013-05-15 09:58
The issue here is not "The Great Society" but rather the impact/effect of "integration" on the political economy of the black community. It is certainly true that during the days of segregation and Jim Crow that in many if not most black communities in this country there were more black owned businesses and other black-run institutions. But the answer is not to go backwards to the days of segregation and Jim Crow. And, the critique of "The Great Society" and the welfare state as a whole cannot be "racialized" in the way that you seem to be doing because to do so in this way is to simply cover up the fact that the vast majority of those on welfare in this country have always been (and continue to be) white. So, the critique of the welfare state must also include a broader class analysis (including the role that race played/plays in this)such as was done by Francis Fox Piven and Richard Cloward in their seminal works "Regulating The Poor" and "Poor People's Movements." In addition, one must also examine the New Deal welfare state programs which consciously excluded (for the most part) African Americans e.g., virtually none were able to obtain mortgages through the FHA (on this see Ira Katznelson's "When Affirmative Action Was White" and his new history of the New Deal "Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time."
 
 
+3 # Todd Williams 2013-05-15 12:23
Right on!!! Great little history reading. Love it!
 
 
+2 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-16 22:11
#EDGE You forgot one essential point in history. Prior to the fall of Russia, Republicans feared Russia's economic and cultural advances and what it could possibly mean, changes that were not embraced for the U.S. by the Conservatives. It was no secret that even the Conservatives respected an advancement of the middle class, before the fall of Russia. Once Russia was "put out out of business" by former president Reagan by bankrupting Russia, promoting the cold war, with superior U.S. military hardware, the Conservatives lost their fear of Russia as a competitive cultural and military force. At this point not having to fear Russia, the U.S. Conservatives think tanks and their political errand boys, senators, congressmen started unraveling and destroying the American middle class, workers, their unions. As regards the blacks, before "The Great Society," you say they had their little cozy homes. That is Fairy Dust. Just suppose Jesus did say, "take care of thy brother." Was it wrong to help out a demoralized, beaten down and most often uneducated part of society? I don't like children being born without a good home life anymore than you do. But, to call these people "SLAVES." Corporate Socialism has greatly gained in this country. Where CEO's now make 400 times the average worker pay. The new slavery in America very often is working for the corporation. Where are your comments? A waitress in some Southern states "earn" $2.13 minimum wage an hour. Your comments? Slavery?
 
 
0 # bingers 2013-05-16 22:33
Oh yeah, starvation isn't slavery, but helping people eat is.

Sheesh!
 
 
+7 # stannadel 2013-05-15 03:13
YEP, and all those southern Democrats became Republicans--re cruited by Nixon's Southern Strategy.
 
 
+4 # dkonstruction 2013-05-15 09:42
Quoting edge:
Quoting Tiffany49:
Agreed! Let's all get to work!


YEP, Johnson a Democrat escalated the war and Nixon promised to end it!

YEP, Wallace a Democrat stood in the way of integration!

YEP, the revered Democrat Robert Byrd had been a member of the KKK!

YEP the southern Democrats stood in the way of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Legislations!


The question is not whether democrats were then or are now "truly progressive." The question is how does progressive change come about in this country? The answer is that it has always come from the political leverage/power that ordinary people have developed through organizing mass movements and building alternative organizations and institutions. The Progressive Era reforms would not have come about without the Populist and early labor movements; The major civil rights legislation and court decisions would not have come about without the civil rights movement; the New Deal legislation would not have come about without the labor movement (including the wild cat strikes of workers at the grass roots level) etc., etc.

So, the lesson here is that substantive progressive change in this country has never come about because we elected the "right people" no matter which party they were from. Change has only come when the powers that be are sufficiently scared at the prospect of losing even more if they do not give in to the demands being made mass movements.
 
 
+2 # theory≠opinion 2013-05-15 13:54
What's your point? That you like finger pointing more than getting to work and creating a better future?
 
 
+2 # randrjwr 2013-05-16 10:00
Quoting edge:
Quoting Tiffany49:
Agreed! Let's all get to work!


YEP, Johnson a Democrat escalated the war and Nixon promised to end it!

YEP, Wallace a Democrat stood in the way of integration!

YEP, the revered Democrat Robert Byrd had been a member of the KKK!

YEP the southern Democrats stood in the way of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Legislations!


Nixon promised to end it even as he was going all out to scuttle the Paris Peace talks to ensure that the war would NOT end on Johnson's watch. He succeeded at that but not at ending the war for many more years and 2 million Dead Cambodians later.

And why cherry-pick a few Democratic opponents of Civil Rights? Virtually everybody in the south and many in the north were against it, regardless of party. And, you know? They still are. Who is it that is working hard at the state level to deny voting rights to people of color as well as the poor, the elderly and anyone else that might vote Democrat?
 
 
+1 # Al21 2013-05-17 00:15
edgey, clearly you need a history lesson at the very least.
Firstly, being a democrat does not denote that you are a liberal or a progressive. Your cherry picking of Wallace and the southern democrats were not progressives-- You also forget to mention that many of those bigoted democrats left the party as LBJ predicted and became a strong part of what is now called the conservative movement of the GOP.
What you also forget is that liberalism even in those days was not the exclusive property of the democratic party. There still were in those days a liberal faction of the republican party Each party had it's share of liberals, moderates and conservatives.
To talk about progressives, conservatives and such is to discuss a political outlook or philosophy not a party.
Please do remember as well that liberalism was born out of the republican party. So go ahead and cherry pick away your isolated commentary has so little to do with anything in this blog. Reich did not mention any political party at any time.
 
 
0 # neohip 2013-05-17 05:36
And the Republicans were fighting to end the war, integrate our society, not one a member of the KKK, and advocating for civil rights. Is this your inference? I don't quite understand your post. Optimism should be engendered that progress was made despite opposing forces from wherever. I lived through these same times and can attest to feelings of pride that progress was made. The fight now is to see that corporate globalization and special interests do not take this progress away. End the wars, repeal Citizen United, dismantle the Homeland Security, fight for the planet-still lots of work to do.
 
 
+54 # WestWinds 2013-05-14 11:20
Thank you. We needed that positive note for an uplift.

We seem to be slowly slipping under the water's surface of problems when constantly being met with a fresh barrage of money and resistance from the Right and Center Right. It's good to know that when we put our minds and efforts to it, we can accomplish something positive and of public value.

I'd still like to see a Constitutional Amendment banning corporate personhood, the re-instating of Glass-Steagall, oil taken off the commodities market, and public campaign financing and a government channel that will host our campaign needs instead of shoveling money at corporate ad companies to the tune of billions. I'd also like to see the rich pay their fair share and the 32 Trillion dollars hidden in off-shore accounts get taxed as well. We could end all war and finally do some good in this country, like flipping the trade tariffs on foreign goods while rebooting manufacturing in the USA.

The list is long and distinguished of the things we need to do, but at least more and more of us are getting off the bleachers and getting in the game. I hope I live to see America brought to a new glory that will serve the world well and take proper care of her own (especially the First Nations people.)

Thanks again for the breath of fresh air.
 
 
+4 # Firefox11 2013-05-14 17:59
I like the government channel idea hosting all campaign needs. Great idea.
 
 
+44 # juliajayne 2013-05-14 11:27
Dr. Reich, thank you for that timely reminder of progress. I'm not near the age of a college graduate, but us older folks need bucking up too, even as we forget how it used to be in "the good old days". Take a look back even further, and you saw "stange fruit" hanging on Southern trees, as late as the 1940s and 50s. And women didn't get the freakin' vote until 1920.

I hope that saying about the arc of history being long but bending toward justice continues to be true and that we DO make progress on the really pressing issues now facig us. And we do need the college grads of today to not feel defeated! We need them!
 
 
+37 # WallStWallFlowerGirl 2013-05-14 11:44
"You have no chance if you assume you have no chance."

I love it. I'm going to say that every day to keep me from falling into the abyss of cynicism; that self-fulfilling prophecy.

I was born in the 60's but remember the 70's... Still a kid, I remember the long lines at the gas station and people talking about Nixon's sweaty upper lip. And the more I remember, the more I realize what I've forgotten. Yes, Virginia, we have indeed come a long way.

Mr. Reich reminds us with such an eloquent and pragmatic essay, that resistance is not futile- unless we wish it so. Sure, some days I look at the general population, with iGadgets in hand and nothing in the mind, with cynicism and hopelessness, feeling like not enough of us care to fight the good fight anymore; that settling for bread crumbs is better than no crumbs. And then I think about my children and their generation and how bad a mother I'd be if I thought they deserved no better than crumbs of appeasement.

I may not have mega-millions, but I have a will and a mind that can make enormous deposits of wealth to fight the "good fight"- as do many more in this country. It's that dogged determination that can make a difference... the kind-of difference that will enable one of us, in looking back, write an essay like Mr. Reich.

Thank You.
 
 
+25 # bobvreecarmel 2013-05-14 11:46
Thanks for a very positive statement! We always need to believe that change can occur. I graduated from college in 1968, and many of my memories are just like those of Reich. Much has indeed changed for the better, but diligence and vigilance are our best insurance for a better future.
 
 
+17 # TomDegan 2013-05-14 12:07
Robert Reich is one of my heroes. The reason for this may be found in the text of his latest gem. Everything he writes is right one the money and he consistently hits them out of the park. Keep 'em coming, Bobby!

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
 
 
+15 # tclose 2013-05-14 12:33
What a wonderful and uplifting article. Thanks Dr. Reich for your reminder that your (and my) generation went through difficult times too, and put our shoulder to the wheel to make change happen. The current generation can do the same with today's problems, not matter how daunting they look.
 
 
+14 # kjohnmorrowjr@insightbb.com 2013-05-14 12:38
Thanks Dr. Reich. You need to be constantly reminding your audience how far we have come.
 
 
+20 # marijo 2013-05-14 12:49
And as of 5pm today we will have 12 states that give gays and lesbians the right to marry---Go Minnesota
 
 
+6 # reiverpacific 2013-05-14 12:57
A wee bit of Pollyanna here I'm afraid, much as I respect Dr Reich.
"In those days, universal health insurance was a pipe dream." (QUOTE 1). It still is -unless you feel "Obamacare" is a step towards this -a hope but not yet a fact. Health care "insurance" is not a system but a lottery operated by big private corporations.
And where will the jobs be for these graduating students, as Dr Reich himself has pointed out more than once recently?
"Or that more than 80 percent of Americans would have health insurance, most of it through government". (quote 2).
I thought the figure, again stated by the author, was that between 47 and 50% of Americans had no health insurance according to most recent figures -and even more have no access to or are afraid to seek treatment until they end up in an over-stretched ER, often too late to be helped.
You can't have it both ways, or make both quotients true.
Sorry to sound cynical but I'm an ol' fart who has already been bankrupted by the for-profit health cam, and I'd love to feel good about this commencement address -like piece but the issue is one of my principal problems with the US (I'm a member and activist for -Health care for all Oregon) and the main reason I've never become a citizen.
Then there's the bloated military and CIA Black Budget still at it AND there was at least a decent US press in the 60's/70's.
I'm not nay-saying against the fact of progress but the clock is becoming very rusty, the hands slowing.
 
 
+9 # WallStWallFlowerGirl 2013-05-14 15:46
reiverpacific- I understand why you feel a bit of Pollyanna; to some extent, I agree with you. We have progressed but we all know why it doesn't feel like enough. But as there will always be good people, there will also be bad people. Arrogance, greed, injustice- it's just inherent in the nature of some whom the Common Man will always be up against.

So if we can just take the best Mr.Reich has to offer and ignore the slings and arrows of attempts by people to distort the truth, ignore the facts and run from history like a Twinkie on Jenny Craig, we can at least not lose our will to fight. That would be the greatest injustice, you know. Not just for our children but to those who fought before us; to those who gave their lives so that future generations would be treated equally.
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2013-05-14 19:27
Quoting WallStWallFlowerGirl:
reiverpacific- I understand why you feel a bit of Pollyanna; to some extent, I agree with you. We have progressed but we all know why it doesn't feel like enough. But as there will always be good people, there will also be bad people. Arrogance, greed, injustice- it's just inherent in the nature of some whom the Common Man will always be up against.
So if we can just take the best Mr.Reich has to offer and ignore the slings and arrows of attempts by people to distort the truth, ignore the facts and run from history like a Twinkie on Jenny Craig, we can at least not lose our will to fight. That would be the greatest injustice, you know. Not just for our children but to those who fought before us; to those who gave their lives so that future generations would be treated equally.

Thanks and point well taken.
I'm not being negative really and appreciate any attempts to lift some spirits but just pointing out some li'l anomalies in Dr Reich's suddenly upbeat writings after some pretty downbeat posts on his part.
I refuse not to have hope and a sense of humor is my best defense against the forces of regression and I'm stickin' to that for now.
 
 
+4 # to be 2013-05-14 13:07
Thanks, one of your best articles sir. I gave up cynicism awhile back and we all need to. Do we have to remind ourselves that we won 2 world wars? Americans can do almost anything!
 
 
+8 # reiverpacific 2013-05-14 15:27
Quoting to be:
Thanks, one of your best articles sir. I gave up cynicism awhile back and we all need to. Do we have to remind ourselves that we won 2 world wars? Americans can do almost anything!

"WE" won two world wars???? Excuse me but my Scottish father fought as well as my American wife's dad!
Actually, your last sentence does remind me that the "Can do" attitude is another of the things I miss since first visiting the US in 1972 and then later to stay a while and work in 1977. It was a fun and inspiring place to be then, especially if one was a bit creative, young enough and willing to take some chances, unconfined by the various boxes of convention left by the obedient post-WW11 era of conformity, at least on the West Coast.
This more than anything (to me) has definitely disappeared and replaced by a feeling of stagnation and lack of hope or opportunity by the corporate mentality and state, obedient to another set of "Winner take all and to Hell with the poor" robo-Corpo-man/ woman conventions.-un less you're already stinkin' rich or the spawn thereof.
I remember in 1972 hitch-hiking from San Francisco to New York on $26.00, experiencing some real diversity of people and invariably great hospitality and generosity which really impressed me. I don't think I'd try it now in these mean-spirited and fear-laden times, even if I had the energy and inclination.
Just tellin' it like it is from one furriner-bloke' s perspective.
 
 
+5 # Firefox11 2013-05-14 18:30
Thank you for pointing out that America all by itself did not win WWII; Britain fought alone against the Nazis until Pearl Harbor forced the U.S. into the war.
 
 
+1 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-05-14 21:55
The Russians won the war.
 
 
0 # bingers 2013-05-16 22:39
Quoting wantrealdemocracy:
The Russians won the war.


Not exactly true, but without them we may well have not won it.
 
 
+3 # MichaelArchAngel 2013-05-14 20:39
I'm afraid that a non-
american view might tend to think Hitler's interference with his generals and the Soviet Union may have had more (a lot more) to do with it!
 
 
+8 # Even 2013-05-14 13:08
Nice try, robert, but things are so much worse now than they were in the late Sixties (I'm close to you in age). There has been social progress but the incredible inequality in wealth in present day US and the uniformity of opaque government be it Dem or Rep, the continuing assault on our constitutional rights by the Patriot Act etc etc, the ever increasing militarization of the police forces, the ever increasing power of the corporations (as exemplified by Monsanto)and the continuing corruption of a government that sells everything to the highest bidder (and that's not just Congress and it's not just Republicans - Obama's nomination of Pritzker a perfect example) mean that turning things around is much much harder now if not impossible. Bernie Saunders will never be president and if he were he'd be dead in no time.
 
 
+3 # jsheats 2013-05-15 00:10
I see absolutely no evidence (in your comment or elsewhere) for your first sentence. Wealth inequality was reduced starting with FDR from values which were as great as the present; they can be reduced again. Countries with less freedom than ours (consider Chile) are making progress in this regard.

This is a moving but also very rational call to what we have to do. There will NEVER be a time when human values (as most readers here think of them) are safe; they always have to be defended, and those battle lines will ebb and flow.
 
 
+6 # seeuingoa 2013-05-14 13:30
Don´t forget that when you graduated
there was 3-4 billion people in the world, now double up, and now also
more greed than ever, climate chaos,
and on top of that a president who
doesn´t inspire us to believe in change
and hope.
 
 
+3 # jsheats 2013-05-15 00:06
And many of those additional 3-4 billion have a much greater environmental consciousness (which was the purview of a tiny minority in 1968). As population and technology grow, both the challenges and the opportunities grow. The battle becomes more intense, perhaps, but Mr. Reich's analysis is right on.
 
 
+2 # theory≠opinion 2013-05-15 14:08
This is true. I was born in 1961 and when I was in elementary school, the word "ecology" was one that more 10 years than 40 year olds knew. Now, at least it's a concept in the minds of the majority of Americans, even if they discount the seriousness of our situation. Sadly, if we wait until the climate change version of the Cuyahoga River fire, it will be far too late.
 
 
-13 # Vern Radul 2013-05-14 13:38
For the more credulous I have some good deals on used bridges, too.
 
 
-10 # Vern Radul 2013-05-14 13:45
Never mind the looming reality cliff(s).

Messaging is not only everything, it's the only thing, apparently.

This article is the Ambien version of social commentary, or the print version of the happy smiling shiny people in TV commercials, like all articles from Reich. Keep cheering and everything will be wonderful.
 
 
+4 # Todd Williams 2013-05-15 08:06
Ah, another cynic raises his head. Chicken Little syndrome.
 
 
+10 # Allen L Roland 2013-05-14 14:24
Well said, Robert ~ there is no real change without action and action always involves risk. But action also changes knowledge into wisdom.
 
 
0 # guaznu 2013-05-14 15:21
Unfortunately all of this "Change" -a wonderfully trite yet politically useful term in the hands of a hypocrite enough politician- means only that the USA is now an equal opportunity empire in which women, gays, blacks "latinos" and other oppressed groups can now participate and "profit" from otherwise unchanging policies. Lets begin with some real change in the form of real self determination -ie complete and absolute political Independence- for Puerto Rico. This would signal finally beginning to address that deep genealogy of imperialism that defines whatever that pile of dessicated dung know as the United States is truly about. All else is a pack of lies that express the classic adage of plus ca change plus la meme shit.
 
 
+2 # Firefox11 2013-05-14 18:32
Interesting juxtaposition of french and english adage there.
 
 
0 # bingers 2013-05-16 22:41
The United States is now the hardest free world country in which to realize the "American Dream." Sad but true.
 
 
+7 # Linwood 2013-05-14 15:23
I don't see progress as linear, but more like a pendulum. In the 60s the pendulum was swinging to the left. But there was a reaction and for decades it's been swinging to the right. The question is, how much farther will we allow it to go before we take action to reverse course? On my less optimistic days I feel it's irreversible. The money and power are entrenched. Unless something drastic happens (use your imagination) this country (and others) will become ever more feudal satellites of global capitalism. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
 
 
+2 # PWSB 2013-05-14 17:36
Think the key words here are"how much farther will WE allow it to go" It's up to he people to change things. Negativism accomplishes nothing. We can ring our hands and say "Oh woe is me" or we can put 1 foot in front of the other and keep trying day by day to make things right. Greed and hate are hard to overcome but it can be done if WE never give up
 
 
+2 # theory≠opinion 2013-05-15 14:14
I see a bigger pendulum. From the Gilded Age to the New Deal to Ronald Reagan/W's whatever the hell they call their trickle down nonsense. What's interesting is that when the New Deal happened, there was a sense of "We're all in it together" and we got labor unions, an institution that does raise all boats. However, in the 60s and 70s, we ended up with civil rights movements, which did indeed make things better for various parts of our society, but the actual remedies (in terms of getting powerful corporate structures to back off on the greed and provide for the rest of us) don't help whole classes of people but merely those afflicted in the instant cases. We went from labor law to employment law, which effectively has pitted all of us against each other in a race to the bottom. It plays well into the rhetoric of the Tea Party and others who use the abstractions of freedom as a divide and conquer tool.

Props to Gil (one of my all time heroes and the inspiration for a 30 year career in music) but the Revolution might well be on Youtube but the real question is if anyone will notice.
 
 
+9 # focusink 2013-05-14 15:27
Well said. The 60s were full of despair and hopelessness, mirrored by determination to change things, followed by pride and triumph a because we did make a difference. We need to rebuild that determination. It is time to do it again by increasing our collective voice and demanding change.
 
 
+6 # Malcolm 2013-05-14 17:17
Born 1945. 0s filled with despair? Hopelessness? Not in my universe!

Lots of good jobs back then. Birth control pills! Free love! Unaware of environmental issues (until 1968, speaking only for myself)

Fairly good public k-12 education. Damnable near free college education. Student loans? Never heard of em!

Boought lovely 3BR 2BA home in Santa Rosa, CA for $22, 500 at 5.25% interest.

No RICO laws. No Big Brother spying. No NDAA. No Extrajudicial murderer by drone. Noeffing "PATRIOT ACT"

What's not to like? Times were good.

Caveat: I was, and continue to be, a white male.
 
 
+7 # Sallyport 2013-05-14 15:46
I'd like to agree with Reich, but feel, with Linwood, that we've slipped so far in this traverse of the pendulum that balance may be lost. The stranglehold that capitalism has endowed the already rich & powerful with over all the levels of government probably ensures that we, the 99%, are doomed.
 
 
+4 # DavidThree 2013-05-14 15:47
We have made progress - on the environmental, racial equality, gender equality, etc.. But we have much more to do. MLK said "the arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice." And it is true. It may feel slow, but we can help it bend. Thanks for a positive telling of recent history.
 
 
+4 # Firefox11 2013-05-14 18:35
Let us hope that there is still time left in which to make the kind of change that this earth and its seven billion inhabitants will demand.
 
 
+3 # Kathymoi 2013-05-14 17:03
And yet, the kids are right. Things are different now, and not as supportive of protesters, sit-ins, protest marches, and so on. These days, the police wear riot gear and roll down the street in army tanks. Pepper spray, stun guns and broken bones were not used so much to deter protests in the 60's. There wasn't the threat of being seized by the military as a terrorist and held forever without trial in the 60's. It's different now. The stakes are higher.
 
 
+3 # ganymede 2013-05-14 17:56
Robert Reich, I, and I think a lot of people needed to hear your message of hope. I lived through the 50's and 60's and things were as you described, but there was a rebellious urge to make things better which has been lost for the vast majority of Americans. I now think we've reached the tipping point and the revulsion for politicans and coporationists, mostly Republicans is so extreme that I see opportunities for real change happening now. Just look at Eliz Warren, she has the power to ignite and wake up our nearly comatose President as well as the country as a whole, and there are other progressive, liberal Democrats who will come to the fore. We don't have to cynically accept our present, pathetic state of mind and reality.
 
 
+4 # jorspe 2013-05-14 20:00
One of the best and most up-beat things I have read on RSN. I graduated in 1970 and saw all this too. We must not give in. There will be resistance, but as Reich so clearly and eloquently points out, it has ever been thus. Our youngsters seem more pessimistic than we were ... perhaps the resistance seems more formidable ... perhaps it is just darkest before the dawn.
 
 
+3 # Old Uncle Dave 2013-05-14 20:10
The populace has been drastically dumbed down since the sixties. It has been intentional and very successful.
 
 
+3 # parector1 2013-05-14 20:32
Robert, thank you for making me feel better about the future of the United States. I have lately found myself ashamed of the country I have always loved: Gitmo, torture, the shrinking Middle Class, etc. have contributed to this feeling. But your words gave me a flicker of hope. Perhaps we can progress to care for the majority of our population, to treat even our enemies as "innocent until proven guilty," give them due process. Perhaps our Congress can progress and do what they were elected to do--like Elizabeth Warren. Thank you for giving me back a feeling of hope.
 
 
+1 # Noelani457 2013-05-14 21:17
Weeeellll, there are always pluses & minuses, but it sounded good. Nothing is simple about running a country or an economy. And we do tend to romanticize the 'good-ol-days' remembering only the good stuff. It's still depressing to realize there IS (and of course always has been) so much altercation, corruption, & super greed, in high places, and so little compassion for those less fortunate who seem to increasingly suffer the consequences of all that. I'm so grateful for all those like Oprah who try to make a difference and do.

But, I still have a hard time believing that to give hard won cash to political purposes is not, pretty much, analogous to tossing it in the garbage or helping to pay for fun trips to Tahiti (or whatever) for the recipients. Is that cynical?
 
 
-5 # MidwestTom 2013-05-14 21:54
Spoken like a good member of the 1%.
 
 
+1 # chgostan@gmail.com 2013-05-15 08:22
Ahh ...the "Good Old Days" ... formerly known as "These Trying Times".
 
 
+1 # pegasus4508 2013-05-15 12:47
My Question for the HATEFUL Edge is WHAT ARE YOU DOING to make this country BETTER? My answer is NOTHING - Because "you people" only care about "you people" and feel if we just go back to the 50's or 1800's all will be well in YOUR World.
 
 
+4 # JSRaleigh 2013-05-15 14:09
Let George Wallace's own words be his epitaph:

"I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over."
 
 
0 # bingers 2013-05-16 22:44
Nothing that made America the Land of the free came from conservatism. They even opposed the revolution, generally. All the measures that made America the "Shining city on the hill" came directly from liberal actions.
 
 
+1 # bingers 2013-05-16 22:31
"YEP, Johnson a Democrat escalated the war and Nixon promised to end it!

YEP, Wallace a Democrat stood in the way of integration!

YEP, the revered Democrat Robert Byrd had been a member of the KKK!

YEP the southern Democrats stood in the way of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Legislations!"

YEP, LBJ did that, but Nixon did also and spread it into Camboduia as well.

YEP, Wallace did taht and left the party and became a Dixiecrat because the party wanted nothing to do with him and enforced civil rights.

YEP, Byrd did that, but decxades before civil rights legislation quit the KKK, recognized how wrong he had been and became the best and most knowlegable constitutionali st in the Senate.

YEP, the Southern Democrats did that, but in protest against the party supporting civil rights became Republicans and still are to this day.

So, Edge, do you recognize that you can lie by bending the truth?
 
 
0 # mh1224jst 2013-05-22 20:32
Yes, there has been progress in social change. But it will all be wiped out if the economic damage from inequality growth is allowed to continue. When you graduated from college and I graduated from law school, the top tax rate was 70%. I'm a one-issue guy, because this is the one underlying problem we have to solve, before we can contemplate survival.
 

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