Learning To Be A Powerful Citizen

Posted at 9:17 AM, May 03, 2023

Most of us like the idea of "making a difference" in the world, but as one person, it's hard to know where to begin.Well, Baratunde Thurston, activist and host of the "How to Citizen with Baratunde" podcast, says every small step we take can make a huge difference.


Baratunde's idea of a powerful community is one that knows itself, one that knows its power and is clear about how it's using it.Ideally, a community decides what type of food we want to eat, what type of economic activity it wants, and what experience it wants for its citizens including its children.


Baratunde says that there is immense power in what we give our attention to — and what we choose not to.This is called the Power of Information.What do we think is good, and worth pursuing?It’s when we bring consciousness to it, and when we decide something matters, that our decisions become more informed.Using your Power of Information can mean anything from spreading the word about local charities to putting up flyers to holding a protest.As an example of generating power, Baratunde cites Taylor Swift's fans.They felt powerless against Ticketmaster, so they peacefully went to the halls of Congress.An individual Swifty may not have felt powerful, but when they became Swiftiesthey had the power to shake a nation.


Another way to use your power to empower our community — the Power of Finance.This is all about how we choose to spend our money.How you spend is a way of voicing your opinion about what's important to you.If environmental sustainability and air quality and climate change are important to you, then you want to buy something you can re-use as opposed to a single use.Making that decision with that awareness, bringing those values into financial choices, is a great exercise of power.


Finally, we create unity and strengthen our communities with the Power of Participation.It’s the experience of being with other human beings and working toward a shared outcome.Some folks get that feeling on a sports field or a ballcourt.The local church is always looking for someone to step up and join hands. There are public comments at the city council meeting.That participation helps write a powerful story.If we tell ourselves we're divided, if we tell ourselves we're powerless, we will be divided and powerless. If we tell ourselves we're part of something greater, that we're stronger together, then our best days are still ahead of us.That’s why Baratunde wants us to tell ourselves better stories of our power, and to drive the direction of our communities, not just be a passenger on the ride.

adapted for web by Dave Hanson