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Kunin: Activist Nation

We’re becoming a nation of activists.

The first sign was the historic Women’s March which brought millions of women and many men into the streets the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. “I’ve never been political before,” was the common refrain, heard widely from sign carriers.

Some observers thought this was a one-time protest, sure to fade away. But not so. Small and large groups organized in cities and towns, meeting to figure out answers to the common question, “What can we do?”

I attended a Huddle in Burlington organized by a 2nd grade school teacher who confessed that she “had never done anything like this before.” More than 100 people showed up.

One of the members of my Book Group hosted a similar gathering in her living room. We’ll meet again in two weeks.

One indicator of changing attitudes towards activism occurred in a UVM sociology class where I was a guest speaker. When the instructor asked, “How many of you consider yourself feminists?” almost every hand went up. Wow. That had never happened to me before. When I’d asked that question in other classes, in the past, only one or two hands were raised - slowly.

And women are not the only marchers. Thousands of scientists will march in April. Tax payers are organizing to demand that Trump disclose his taxes on April 15.

It’s downright difficult to have a conversation today, at the grocery store or on Church Street, without Donald Trump’s name coming up. Even as I sat in my dentist’s chair, with my mouth open wide, my dentist started to talk about him. And whether you voted for Trump or Hillary, or didn’t vote at all, it’s impossible to remain passive about the first weeks of the Trump presidency.

What we learned in school about the separation of powers - the executive, legislative and judicial, is being played out before our eyes. For years, we preached about the importance of citizen participation in government to little avail - yet here it is.

We’re not all in agreement to be sure, but the election of Donald Trump has inspired us to get off the couch and “do something.” This is a vibrant, sometimes angry, but fundamentally healthy exercise - it is the life blood of democracy.

Thank you Mr. President, for waking us from our slumber.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont, and author of "The New Feminist Agenda, Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family," published by Chelsea Green.
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