To create change, it is crucial to have awareness and action. Awareness + no action = status quo. Awareness + action = change. Awareness single-handedly does not automatically breed change. The following examples illustrate this premise.

There are many stories in history of people who have agonized over making change. An example is the women who were often thrown in jail for trying to vote in the early 1800s. To get others to listen to their message, they risked their own well-being and health. Women seeking the right to vote through protest were referred to as suffragettes. The Suffragette Hunger Strike remains one of the most poignant and disturbing aspects of the women’s struggle for the right to vote. Suffragettes in British prisons refused to eat, and often to drink as a method to force a response from the authorities.

Another example of people risking their lives for change, are those who fought for civil rights in the 60s. On March 7, 1965 in Selma, Alabama, a 600-person civil rights demonstration ended in violence when marchers were attacked and beaten by white state troopers and sheriff’s deputies. The day’s events became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The group planned to march the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery. Just as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, they were ordered to disperse. Moments later, police released dogs and assaulted the marchers with tear gas, bullwhips, and billy clubs.

World War II was the biggest and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries due to Hitler’s desire for world domination. Sparked by the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, the war dragged on for six bloody years until the allies defeated Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had the awareness of the danger that Hitler presented. Hitler’s determination to destroy existing countries’ leadership was met by Churchill’s strategic foresight, power to inspire, awareness of the times, and unstoppable personality. His courage and strength made him an effective leader and enabled him to defeat the German dictator.

Maintaining values, freedom of choice, and protection from danger are among the reasons that people risk their lives. Backbone and character are illustrated by the key players in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement and World War II.

Is there an issue in your community, job, or any area of your life that would are aware of in need of change? What actions can you take to impact change?

Frances Goddard, LCSW, BCD
Diane Harvey, LCSW