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Saying No to Cynicism

one person's hands giving a plant to another person's hands

Photo by Robert Mizono/Getty Images

Paul Loeb wrote the classic activism handbook, Soul Of A Citizen, 10 years ago and has since updated that edition with moving stories on how ordinary people stood up for causes they believed in to transform communities and change lives.

With over 40 years of experience in writing on political engagement and community activism, Loeb expertly tackles the “corrosive aspects of cynicism” and explores what he considers to be the best practices in overcoming the prevalent obstacles to community involvement.

Chief among the obstacles to getting involved in our communities is the mistaken belief that anyone who takes a public stand, at least an effective one, has to be a larger-than-life figure. Yet even historic figures often started in modest ways, and had as many failures as successes.

Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, tells the story of how his grandfather’s family mortgaged everything they had to send Gandhi to law school. Gandhi graduated and passed the bar, but was so shy that when he stood up in court, all he could do was stammer. He lost every one of his cases. He was a total failure. His family sent him off to South Africa, where he found his voice by challenging racial segregation.

I love viewing Gandhi not as the master strategist of social change, but as someone who first was literally tongue-tied, shy and intimidated. Given where he ended up, who knows what might be possible for the rest of us.

Adapted from Soul of a Citizen by Paul Rogat Loeb. Copyright © 2010, reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin. Read more exerpts from Soul of A Citizen.

Prime Time Radio host, Mike Cuthbert speaks with Loeb about his updated work: Soul Of A Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times.

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