21st Century

Bill Bigelow

Educator: 1951

"Teach about what matters. Our job is to excite students about the world, to help them see the role that they can play in making society more equal and more just, to express their ideas powerfully, to see that social studies is about real people's lives and about their relationship to each other and to nature."

  • Retired social studies teacher
  • Curriculum Editor of Rethinking Schools magazine
  • Co-director of the Zinn Education Project
  • Author and editor of many innovative school curricula (e.g. history, environment, globalization, justice)

Biography

People have always said that history’s “winners” are the ones who get to write the story. Though that has often been true, the “winners” can’t erase all the documents and memories that shape different, more historically accurate and complete interpretations of what happened in the world.

When one looks at the written history produced prior to the middle 20th century, one finds a steady stream of political, military and economic histories that emphasize the lives and actions of “great [white] men,” though there were occasions when “great [white] women” simply could not be ignored. Most of the writers and teachers of US history accepted these narratives as the sum of our history. Even with the rise of social history, which focused on the experiences of more ordinary and diverse people, it has remained difficult to avoid that classic “great man” construct.

Bill Bigelow has made it his mission to change how history is taught and how students engage historical material, while teaching more honestly about the historic realities that shape the United States. As he has noted, “[t]eaching students a deeper, more complete history...is not just a matter of accuracy, it’s about life and death.”

Bigelow earned his bachelor’s degree from Ohio’s Antioch College, and his Master’s degree from Reed College in Portland, Oregon before going into teaching. Now a retired social studies teacher, Bigelow is the Curriculum Editor of Rethinking Schools magazine and the Co-Director of the Zinn Education Project (which is named for the late, eminent historian Howard Zinn). Bigelow has written and  co-edited a wide range of curricula, including, Rethinking Our Classrooms:  Teaching for Equity and Justice (Volumes 1 and 2); Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years; Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World; and A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching About the Environmental Crisis. He is the author of Strangers in Their Own Country: A Curriculum Guide on South Africa; The Power in Our Hands:  A Curriculum on the History of Work and Workers in the United States; The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration; and A People’s History for the Classroom.

During his tenure as a teacher, Bigelow used role playing as an essential tool to spark student interest in both history and critical thinking. Bigelow wanted his students “to see that history is not just a jumble of dead facts lying on a page. History is the product of human choice - albeit in conditions that we may not choose.”

Using Christopher Columbus as an example, Bigelow notes that “[f]or many youngsters the tale of Columbus introduces them to a history of this country, even to history itself.” He points out that “[t]he ‘discovery of America’ is children’s first curricular exposure to the encounter between two races. As such, a study of Columbus is really a study about us, how we think about each other, our country, and our relations with people around the world.” Through role playing, Bigelow not only introduced his students to the Taino people, the original inhabitants of the land that Columbus “discovered;” also, the students were able to consider the “discovery” and the arrival of Columbus from the perspectives of the Taino. Bigelow reminds his students that “from the moment Columbus arrived in the Americas and claimed a land he knew was occupied by other people, and announced that these people were intelligent, and hence would make good slaves,... racism would be an enormous factor in determining what went on here.”

The Rethinking Schools platform has allowed Bigelow to reach teachers and students beyond a single classroom or school. He is helping to change our traditional understanding of the “Age of Discovery."

Recognizing the critical importance of addressing climate change, Bigelow has been working diligently to change the dominant teaching, or lack thereof, of climate change within our schools.  He notes that he had been “‘greening’ [his] U.S. history curriculum, and [looking] for how the roots to today’s ecological crises can be found in cultural patterns that we can recognize from the very beginning of Europeans’ presence [in what became the United States].”

As he works to “green” U.S. history curricula, Bigelow notes that climate change “...is the greatest crisis facing humanity and we need to be alerting students and getting them to think critically about what has created the crisis and who is benefitting from it, and who has an interest in our not doing anything about it.” In 2011, Bigelow successfully lobbied the publishing giant Scholastic to cease including an American Coal Foundation pamphlet in the curricular materials the company provided to elementary school teachers; the pamphlet had a particularly strong pro-coal industry bias.


In 2016, Bigelow helped to lead an effort that resulted in Portland, Oregon requiring its public schools to stop using textbooks that question or equivocate about the reality of climate change and the fact that human activity has been its principal cause. Recognizing that Portland’s climate justice resolution will not be enough to force textbook publishers to produce new books, Bigelow expressed a hope that teachers no longer will “look to conventional sources of curriculum to educate our students about the causes of climate change [or] the kind of fundamental social transformation needed to address the crisis.”

Bigelow’s efforts to improve curricula, and to help more students engage in critical thinking not only about our historical past, but also about our present, should serve as a reminder of the important roles that teachers play in our lives. But, as Bigelow noted, “[t]eachers have been portrayed as the problem and the obstacle to student learning. It’s just ridiculous. It is a hateful time in many respects for teachers.”

Our society expects so much of teachers, but often refuses to allow them to practice their craft. Ultimately, Bigelow is right in recognizing that “[t]eachers are the ones who [can turn schools into] imaginative and creative and loving and participatory places....." Bigelow has led by his example, and his students and fellow teachers benefit greatly from the important work that he is doing to change how we teach and understand our shared past.

 

Kathleen Dean Moore

Environmental philosopher and activist: 1947

"It isn't enough to love a child and wish her well. It isn't enough to open my heart to a bird-graced morning. To love is to affirm the absolute worth of what you love and to pledge your life to its thriving - to protect it fiercely and faithfully for all time."

  • Distinguished Professor Emerita at Oregon State University
  • Co-founder of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word at O.S.U.
  • Author of numerous books including, most recently, Pine Island Paradox: Making Connections in a Disconnected WorldGreat Tide Rising: Towards Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change; and Piano Tide: A Novel
  • Collaborator with concert pianist Rachelle McCabe on a performance project Climate Action: Music and the Spoken Word 

Biography

Environmental philosopher and activist Kathleen Dean Moore made the following succinct point regarding the lackadaisical approach the world generally, and the United States particularly, has been taking to climate change: “It’s wrong to wreck the world.”

Not only is climate change real, but human activity, particularly through the extraction and use of fossil fuels, is the leading driver of that change. Unfortunately, that aforementioned statement continues to be challenged or denied by supporters of the fossil fuel industry. Those challenges and denials and the inertia of some of the largest global corporations have led to policies that seek not only to increase the extraction of fossil fuels, despite the damage this will do, but also to obfuscate or thwart efforts to combat the negative impacts inherent to a changing climate.

Reflecting  on the process of hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”), Moore wrote:  “Fracking is fueling the ubiquity and the hegemony of fossil fuels, a major producer of greenhouse gasses, which are changing forever the conditions under which life on Earth evolved, the conditions under which life on Earth prospered in the green and singing world.”  As Moore noted, “[w]e have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy Earth in real time than to renew, restore and sustain it. At present, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it ‘gross domestic product.’”

Moore and many others are waging a moral battle for the environment. As she has said, “[g]lobal warming is primarily a moral issue. It’s a result of a moral failure, and it calls for a moral response.”

Moore was born on July 6, 1947, and she was reared in Berea, Ohio. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and French from the College of Wooster in 1969. Moore went on to the University of Colorado, where she completed both a Master’s degree and a Doctorate of Philosophy by 1977.  Moore, who splits her time between homes in Oregon and Alaska, is married to neurobiologist Frank Moore, and they have two children (both of whom are university professors), Erin Moore and Jonathan Moore.

Moore, Distinguished Professor Emerita at Oregon State University, spent the early part of her academic career studying issues of justice and critical thinking. Her dissertation, which focused on questions regarding pardons, clemency and the roles they play in the administration of justice, was expanded into an academic book, Pardons:  Justice, Mercy and the Public Interest. She then became much more focused on issues surrounding environmental justice and climate change. Moore’s 1996 work Riverwalking:  Reflections on Moving Water embodied her idea that “[t]o love a person or place is to take responsibility for its well being.” In her work Holdfast:  At Home in the Natural World (1999). Moore reflected on the interrelationships of all living things on the planet, and why we should be doing more to honor those relationships. Moore continues with this theme in her work Pine Island Paradox:  Making Connections in a Disconnected World (2005). This sensibility, specifically regarding the gift that is the planet Earth, fits with Moore’s point that “[f]ailing to notice a gift dishonors it, and deflects the love of the giver.” In 2010, Moore, along with her Oregon State colleague Michael P. Nelson, published Moral Ground:  Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, a collection of essays written by leaders in a diversity of fields who all make the case for doing what is necessary to combat climate change and honor the planet.

Moore co-founded the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word at Oregon State. She served as the organization’s director for ten years, and she was named a Spring Fellow. It was in 2013, the same year Moore was named Artist-in-Residence at the Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, that she decided to leave academia and focus her full attention on that moral battle necessary to combat climate change. “We must live according to the principle of a land ethic. The alternative is that we shall not live at all.”

In Moore’s most recent non-fiction book, Great Tide Rising:  Towards Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change, she puts forth a clarion call for all people to act to save our planet.  Though there were some efforts made during the Obama administration to address the climate crisis, they were not as comprehensive as the crisis requires. Yet, there was some movement, globally, to begin making changes within an internationally agreed upon framework. However, with the Trump administration, those modest efforts have been abandoned outright. Moore writes, “We’re making it worse. We’re turning our government over, and our regulatory agencies over, to the fossil fuel industry. We are doubling down on destroying any regulations that might stop methane...that might stop fossil fuel spills.”  Moore correctly indicts those institutions many people turn to for answers to genuine societal challenges: “[W]e have been utterly failed by the corporate controlled media. We’ve been failed by the federal government. We’ve been failed by corporations who could have found their better selves.”  In the face of those failures, Moore keeps battling on, and in continually innovative ways - ways that she hopes will inspire more people to join her fight.

In 2017, Moore published her first novel, Piano Tide:  A Novel, exploring environmental philosophy and justice in fiction.  And most recently, Moore has been working with concert pianist Rachelle McCabe on a project called Climate Action:  Music and the Spoken Word (2018). This effort employs the emotional power of music to communicate the urgency of our climate crisis. Moore continues to show the world her warrior spirit, and in her search for tools to protect the planet, she inspires and leads all of us who need to know that we are not alone in our desire to save the Earth.

 

Michael Winston

Business Executive: b. 1951

"I never thought of myself as a whistleblower. But what changed my life at Countrywide Financial Corporation? A two letter word...the word 'No'. I said, 'NO! No more fraud; no more predatory lending; no more insider trading: No, you can't do this, it's against the law. You are breaking the economy. No more!'"

Biography

According to a Rolling Stone article published in 2015 by Matt Taibbi, “one of America’s ugliest secrets is that our own whistleblowers often don’t do so well after the headlines fade and cameras recede. The ones who don’t end up in jail… often...go through years of harassment and financial hardship.”

One of those whistleblowers still fighting to receive justice against unlawful retaliation and financial penalization is Michael Winston. Called by Salon Magazine “The Man Who Knows Too Much…”, he lost nearly everything after trying to tell the truth about Countrywide Financial Corporation (CFC).

Winston earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, his Master’s Degree from the University of Notre Dame and completed higher learning programs for executive business at both Stanford University and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He then held executive positions in fortune 500 companies for over thirty years, including Motorola, Merrill Lynch, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed. In 2005, he was named Managing Director and Enterprise Chief Leadership Officer for Countrywide Financial Corporation. Countrywide hired him to help them build what they called “Goldman Sachs on the Pacific.” There he created strategic leadership models, quickly earning two major promotions and a performance award as he was commended by top executives for his “hard work, tenacity, insight and impact”.  Winston’s recognition extended beyond the company: He was included in the Executive Excellence Journals' list of the “100 Most Influential Business Thought-Leaders in the World”.   

Shortly after being promoted, however, Winston began to unearth unlawful business practices at Countrywide including fraud, market manipulation, and insider trading. For months Winston encouraged reform from the inside. But bringing problematic issues to the attention of executive management, along with suspicions of unsafe working conditions, only brought Winston trouble. His concerns were ignored, and he was demoted. According to Winston’s lawyer Winston was punished by being “relocated seven times in as many months, each time to a different city. He was uninvited to meetings he would have led, was ostracized and saw his responsibilities gradually shrink to a fraction of what they had been.”  

However, Winston’s resolve to implement reform only intensified. For the next two years, the more Countrywide retaliated against him, the harder he pushed back.

The situation reached a crisis point when Winston refused to lie about Countrywide’s corporate governance practices to Moody’s Investors Service, a prominent credit rating agency. Countrywide was always aware that its lending practices were managed for short-term gain and profit (e.g.., issuing “toxic” sub-prime loans that were for those without sufficient credit to afford the loan repayment. “Liar loans” flooded the sub-prime market with high percentages of those loans failing.)

Winston was discharged from the company in 2008; at which point he sued Countrywide and its acquiring company, Bank of America, for retaliation in violation of public policy, fraud, unlawful business practices, and wrongful termination.

Winston was thrust into the public eye in 2011 when his trial against Countrywide and Bank of America commenced. The trial lasted nearly a month as a jury reviewed compelling evidence of unlawful actions against Winston after his efforts to reform the corruption inside Countrywide. Then, after three days’ deliberation, they rendered a verdict in Winston’s favor, granting him a $3.8 million award. The presiding judge, Honorable Bert Glennon, Jr. supported the jury’s decision saying, “…there was a great deal of evidence that was provided to the jury in making their decision, and they went about it very carefully and took their time.”

After the trial, Winston was offered a private $12 million settlement to sweeten a gag order in the case of Countrywide’s malpractice. He was to speak to no one of the case from that point forward, but his request for an accompanying apology and promise of corporate reform landed him in another trial— this time in appellate court. This is where his life took a turn for the worse.

During the new trial, Winston’s pedigree was attacked with allegations -- rife with perjured statements --  that he was a less than an exemplary employee. The Chief Justice accepted as true misleading testimony by Countrywide’s human resources head. While the original, overwhelming verdict had been reached after a near month-long trial against BAC/CFC, this new decision against Winston was made after a 12-minute review of the case without Winston present and without even a court reporter or notary.

What is the purpose of a jury if its verdict after a one-month trial is unlawfully ignored by appellate judges? By law, the court is not allowed to substitute its opinion for that of the jury, but it did anyway.  

Winston’s lawyers described the new verdict as a “travesty of justice.”

The Washington Examiner quoted California Attorney Cliff Palefsky as saying, “ This never happens… it isn’t legal… The appeals court is not supposed to go back and cherry-pick through the evidence the way this court did. And if there is any doubt about a case, they are legally bound to uphold the jury’s verdict.”

Despite these illegalities, Winston was forced to pay a staggering $97,000 in interest to Bank of America on the 3.8 million dollar jury award that he had never received.

And Winston’s hardships did not stop there. While Bank of America collected this money, Winston began dealing with a diagnosis of laryngeal cancer- making this entire ordeal much harder. However, his fighting spirit remains intact because there is too much at stake. He, along with the Bank Whistleblowers United- an organization he co-founded- has serious ambitions “to educate the populace, reign in the banks, and prevent an even more severe replay of [the financial crisis of] 2008.”

Additionally, there have been New York Times series, documentaries, and television programs on Winston’s story.

Countrywide, now regarded as the company at the heart of the sub-prime meltdown, eventually would be the subject of an SEC investigation which saw Angelo Mozilo, former CEO and Chairman of Countrywide, settle for the highest single-person fine ever levied by the Securities and Exchange Commission: $67.5 million. The Department of Justice launched a two-year investigation of Mozilo for insider trading and securities fraud and Bank of America, which acquired CFC, was fined hundreds of billions of dollars for Countrywide’s malfeasance.

Robert Koehler

Peace Journalist: b. 1946

"How does one live in a world that needs to be reconceived at its core? We have to change course and I have no idea where or how to start, except in a million places at once, but all of these starting places have at least this much in common: reverence for the planet and life itself; acknowledgement and awe that the universe is alive and we are connected to everything in it; and a sense that even the small, mocked, discarded fragments of civilization are to be valued...that they are sacred."

Biography

Prayers disguised as op-eds! That’s how Robert Koehler describes the column he has written for more than three decades.

The message – the prayer—at the core of his words is that humanity must make the transition beyond violence and dominance to a world where all life is sacred, where listening and healing matter, where vulnerability is understood as the precursor to empowerment and where the future is the newborn child we hold in our arms.

Koehler is a peace journalist.

Peace journalism is an evolving concept, he explains. Its goal is to bring an outside source of wisdom to a complex situation. It seeks to empower the reader by activating compassion rather than judgment; and it reports the complex story, not the simple story. A peace journalist must look at all sides of a conflict and maintain awareness that the solution is not victory for one side but the creation of a new reality, which addresses everyone’s needs and grievances.

Born in Detroit, Koehler later moved to the suburban town Dearborn, Michigan. When he was just two years old, his mother suffered a nervous breakdown and by the time he was ten, his father had suffered a stroke. But according to Koehler, his entire thought process was permanently altered one afternoon when he was 11 as he walked home from school.

“My knuckles were bruised, I may have had a rip in my trousers, gravel burn on my knee, big wet tears in my eyes. I’d just been in a playground fight.”

He was a boy and he got into fights, he admitted. It wasn’t the fight itself that struck the chord that changed him, however; from what Koehler remembers, the fight started over something as simple as marbles, but had managed to summon the forces of racism amidst a group of pre-teens. The fight, he says, would push a crowd to a boiling chant that would pit a “nigger” against a white boy and incite a war.

Koehler notes that this wasn’t an  uncommon occurrence in this predominantly white community, but after this particular fight, Bob Koehler was forever changed. He decided on the way back home that he would never fight again. In fact, Koehler called it more than a

decision… even more than a vow. On his website, CommonWonders.com, he states that, “it was a personal paradigm shift, preverbal, life-shaking,
non-negotiable.”

Koehler attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo; then – after he was finished being a hippie, after he had gone back to the land for several years – he moved to Chicago to find a career as a writer.

He cut his teeth as a journalist at Lerner Newspapers, a chain of neighborhood weeklies on the North Side of Chicago: a pulsating, complex community through which pretty much the whole world passed. He worked at Lerner for a dozen years, covering police and politicians, crime victims, community activists, teachers, artists – everyone who had a story to tell. It was at Lerner that he realized that journalism was his destiny: to listen to people, to hear their humanity, to find the words to convey it. While grinding out stories as a reporter, he began writing a weekly column.

Eventually he moved on to the Chicago Tribune. He worked there for many years as a copy editor and resumed writing a weekly column, which the Tribune syndicated, giving him a national and international audience. His column has appeared in many papers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Detroit Free Press, as well as on numerous websites, such as Huffington Post and Common Dreams.

He has also worked as a writing teacher at different points in his career, both in the Chicago Public School System and at DePaul University, where he teaches a class called Peace Journalism. He has worked with people of all ages, from adults to children as young as age eight, trying to convey the message that everyone has something valuable to say.

His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound, is a collection of essays – secular prayers – written at the intersection of the personal and the global.

As a columnist and journalist, Koehler has addressed most of the pressing issues of the day, from war to climate change to nuclear disarmament to gun violence. For instance: “Before we need a gun debate in this country, or on this planet, we need a sensible discussion about the nature of empowerment, and we need to wrest the concept from the hands — if necessary, the cold, dead hands — of gun-industry shills who claim that unarmed means disempowered, and who forget, among much else, to warn us that it’s possible to be both armed and disempowered, and that this is perhaps the most dangerous state of all.”

He has written at length about the concept of Restorative Justice: a system of justice based on healing rather than punishment. He is a major proponent of peace circles, which he describes as people sitting in vibrant equality with one another. In the peace circle, everyone’s presence is vital to the whole:

“I don’t know if words can transform the world,” he has written. “I know they can’t bring back a murdered child, but I have a few of them to scatter on the grave of Derrion, the Chicago boy whose brutal slaying two weeks ago stunned the city and the nation:

“Power with, not power over.

“I would ask that we sit with these words for a moment — in his name, in the name of uncountable others — until we feel a click of understanding, until profound possibility slides into place. We can make this a different sort of world, and the simplest, perhaps the only, way to begin is by altering our relationship with power, and with each other.”

Over the course of his career, Koehler has been the recipient of multiple awards for writing and journalism from organizations including the National Newspaper Association, Suburban Newspapers of America, and the Chicago Headline Club. Koehler still resides in Chicago and now writes for the Huffington Post, Common Dreams, OpEd News and TruthOut. He speaks publicly on such topics as election fraud and the nature of peace.

He has been called many things by his readers. His favorite: blatantly relevant.

 

Kelsey Juliana

Environmental Activist, Student: b. 1996

"Government actions knowingly and willfully created the climate crisis. From this crisis young and future generations face increasing dangers. As courageous, creative change-makers we have the opportunity and moral authority to change the social, political, and economic structures that cause injustice and climate chaos. Youth are standing up for our fundamental right to inherit a stable and survivable planet. We have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not."

Biography

When Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana was a babe in arms, her parents, Tim Ingalsbee and Catia Juliana were leaders in the Warner Creek protests, protecting endangered species and old growth forests from federal timber sales in Oregon. At the time,Warner Creek was the longest blockade of a forest road by environmental activists in U.S. history.

As she grew up, Kelsey became a self-described “eco girl” in The Village School, her K-8 public charter school.  She ran down the halls ducking in and out of empty classrooms making sure lights were turned off. During fourth grade, she organized her classmates to participate in the first International Day of Climate Activism.

In middle school, Kelsey cried as she presented her research paper on how climate change was endangering the polar bear population. Taking on the roles of Amy Goodman, Rachel Corrie and Yoko Ono in an original political musical put on by her 8th grade class, she grew  beyond being an environmentalist toward becoming an eco-warrior.

And she was only just beginning.

By the time she was 15, before she could vote or drive, Kelsey sued the Governor of Oregon.  A series of events led her into the courtroom, beginning with the work of her mentor, Mary Christina Wood, director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program at the University of Oregon. Wood has spent her career studying the public trust doctrine and has devised a strategy she calls Atmospheric Trust Litigation, which asserts that the atmosphere itself should be held in public trust. The idea for the lawsuit came from Julia Olson, Wood’s colleague and the lead attorney and founder of the non-profit, Our Children's Trust, which “elevates the voice of youth to secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere for the benefit of all present and future generations.” The legal argument -- that governments are required to protect certain “public trust” resources for current and future generations -- dates back to ancient Rome. (The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public trust resources include water and shorelines.)

Kelsey started her legal advocacy in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon in 2011 when she and Olvia Cherinak became co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing the state of Oregon of violating the public trust by failing to take adequate steps to limit climate change. While the lawsuit, known as Chernaik v. Brown, was dismissed by the Lane County Circuit Court, Kelsey and Olivia appealed and are awaiting a decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals.  Knowing the climate crisis cannot be solved at the state-level alone, Kelsey next set her sights on something far bigger – the destructive climate actions taken by the U.S. government. In 2015, Kelsey and 20 other youth from around the country––from Alaska to Florida, New York to Hawaii, and many places in between––filed a first-of-its-kind, landmark lawsuit against the Executive Branch of the United States government. In the lawsuit, known as Juliana v U.S., the youth claim that the United States, knowing full well what effect the mass burning of fossil fuel would have on the lives of present and future generations, has, through its aggregate actions, violated the youngest and future generations' constitutionally-protected, fundamental right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life. If the youth plaintiffs succeed, the President and his heads of agencies will be ordered to create and implement a science-based Climate Recovery Plan. The case has cleared several key legal hurdles and is scheduled to begin in the District Court of Oregon on October 29th, 2018. (A list of  all the youth plaintiffs as well as the history of these proceedings can be found here.)

Upon graduation from High School, Kelsey joined The Great March for Climate Action walking across the country to raise awareness about the imminent dangers of climate change. Afterward, she told the journalist Bill Moyers: “You don’t have to call yourself an activist to act…I think that’s so important that people my age really get [that] into their heads. As a younger person, I have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not… It’s important that youth are the ones who are standing up because of the fact that we do have so much to lose.”

After beginning her college education in Environmental Studies at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, she returned to Eugene, Oregon to continue her education at University of Oregon and be closer to the courtrooms where her legal fight was unfolding.

In the spring of 2018, Kelsey returned to The Village School to speak to students who had been in kindergarten when she began her legal journey. She was asked this question:  "How do you keep from getting discouraged and angry when you hear our government lying about the effects of fossil fuels on our climate and fighting your case with all they have?"

Kelsey responded: “This work must be done out of love. Motivation and activism and advocacy cannot come from rage or anger or hopelessness. These feelings are unsustainable, short-lived and detrimental for those harboring them, which will then, most likely, be reflected in one’s work and therefore inhibit true, lasting positive change. We cannot push society towards more positive, inclusive, sustainable directions without LOVE as the main driver of activism because you cannot burn out of love.”

Kelsey and her 20 fellow youth plaintiffs who range in age from 12-22 years of age are hopeful that they will win their case. If the courts recognize their rights, inherent in the public trust doctrine, to clean air and water, the victory will compel the U.S Government, after decades of  promoting and supporting a nationwide energy system powered by fossil fuel, to immediately enact policy changes that could alter the course of human caused climate change in the United States. This outcome would have repercussions around the world.

When her time in the courtroom is over, Kelsey plans to continue her service by pursuing a career as public school teacher.

 

Baldemar Velasquez

Labor Organizer: b. 1947

"Speak truth to power with love in your heart. Pray for courage to speak it despite your fears. Explain the inequity and show your enemy the road to reconciliation. "

Biography

The first known labor organization in the United States was the National Labor Union (NLU), established in Baltimore, Maryland in 1866. The NLU sought to organize workers across various segments, including skilled and unskilled workers, as well as some farm laborers. The organization didn’t last, shuttering in the 1870s. When one reviews the history of the American Labor Movement, it’s noticeable that, except for a brief period during the 1930s and 1940s, agricultural workers of color rarely were included.

Historically, African American and Latino workers have been associated with the land, whether working on plantations in the American South or farms and ranches in the Midwest and Southwest. The American South was (and remains) notorious for its anti-organized labor sentiment, regardless of the workers’ race. This may be due to the feudalistic nature of the post-Civil War slave society and its rigid, cost saving control over laborers through sharecropping and peonage. As the South was an inhospitable climate for the Labor Movement, the first organization of farm laborers took place in the American West. The first successful farm laborer organization was the United Farm Workers, established by Cesar Chavez in California in 1962. Only five years later Baldemar Velasquez established the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Toledo, Ohio. Over time, Velasquez would expand his organizing effort to include migrant and seasonal farm workers.

Baldemar Velasquez was born February 15, 1947 in Pharr, Texas to Cresencio and Vicenta Velasquez. Both Cresencio and Vicenta were migrant farm workers who traveled from Texas to farms throughout the Midwest, planting and harvesting a variety of fruits and vegetables, including sugar beets and tomatoes. Velasquez was first introduced to the fields when he was four years old. He says, “me and my brothers and sisters were raised in labor camps, and we didn’t have any money to buy toys, so we played with the rats.” In an interview with the organization Food Tank, Velasquez recalled witnessing his “…family being cheated out of wages and suffer verbal abuses from field men, labor contractors, growers, and racist townspeople in the rural towns” where they worked.

After his family settled in Gilboa, Ohio in 1954, Velasquez continued as a seasonal farm worker through high school. After graduating in 1965, he became the first member of his family to go to college, matriculating at Pan American University in Edinburg, Texas. He would eventually graduate from Bluffton College (now University) in Bluffton, Ohio.

During his Bluffton years Velasquez volunteered with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a civil rights organization founded by Bayard Rustin. While volunteering with CORE, Velasquez told another Civil Rights activist the story about playing with rats as a child. The African-American activist asked Velasquez why he wasn’t working to help his own people. “That was the question of the decade,” said Velasquez, “and that summer after my sophomore year in [college], I started organizing the migrant workers.”  In 1967, at the age of 20, Velasquez founded FLOC. He noted that “[w]e coined the phrase ‘the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’ after SNCC,” the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a Civil Rights Movement organization established by college students.

As FLOC got started, Velasquez “thought, mistakenly, that all we had to do was tell the regulatory people that these laws were being broken…you know, the child labor laws, the minimum wage laws…and they’d come in and fix everything, right?” Velasquez soon learned also that “[i]t was a big mistake to go after individual farmers.” Effective organizing required that he determine the true centers of power, so that protests could be directed at the interests of the proper parties, such as the corporations that purchased produce from farmers.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr invited Mr. Velasquez to Atlanta in 1968 to help plan the “Poor People’s Campaign” and he recalled something that Dr.  King said that evening, “…when you impede the rich man’s ability to make money, anything is negotiable.” Velasquez translated this into his work in “every campaign that FLOC worked on…. trying to figure out...the financial leverage point of large corporations.”

In 1978, FLOC organized 2,000 of its members to strike against the Campbell Soup Company, seeking improved working conditions for farm laborers and recognition of the union itself. Eight years later, FLOC successfully negotiated a contract among workers, farmers and Campbell Soup. The contract provided recognition of FLOC as a union, increased the hourly wages of the workers, and provided some health benefits. The contractual arrangement was the first of its kind for farm workers. Three years later, Velasquez was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship.  In 1994, Velasquez was the recipient of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, an honor given by Mexico to non-Mexican citizens who have contributed significantly to Mexican society. In the US, the National Council of La Raza recognized him with the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award.

As the accolades came in, Velasquez continued organizing workers and his education; in 1991, Velasquez earned an advanced degree in Theology from the Florida International Seminary. In 1993 he was ordained by Rapha Ministries to chaplain the farm workers.  Following the success of the Campbell Soup contract, Velasquez and FLOC negotiated similar deals with other major American food companies. Even with these victories, the 1980s and 1990s were particularly difficult times for the labor movement as a whole: “In this era of union busting, a call needs to be issued to organize for radical changes in the infrastructure of how the agricultural industry does its business,” he wrote.

Velasquez turned his attention to organizing migrant farm workers in the American South. Though it took several years, Velasquez and FLOC successfully negotiated a contract deal with the Mount Olive Pickle Company in North Carolina, the first joint contract among laborers, farmers and a corporation in that state. It was important for Velasquez to keep in mind when conducting these negotiations that “[d]irect employers are not entirely responsible for the many abuses, but consumers are smartening up to hold manufacturers and retailers also responsible for the consequential results surrounding food safety, the environment and worker rights.”

Currently, Velasquez is working to help undocumented immigrants. In an interview with the Toledo Blade, Velasquez called on FLOC members to adopt and support families with undocumented members: “[W]e need to act proactively and take care of our people.” And it is with that spirit that Velasquez reflects on his work, saying “as the victories come and the years go by, I will remember less the details of winning and losing and more acts of caring and love of the many people who have made FLOC possible.”

Rob McCall

Minister, Naturalist, Writer: b. 1944

"I don't care what you believe, frankly. I don't care if you believe that Christ was actually bodily resurrected from the condition of being clinically dead, or if you believe it's all a silly myth. I don't care what you believe. I care what you love. If you love the Creator and the creatures and your neighbor and yourself and your family and your enemy and the Earth and the Great Mystery, then what in the world do you need beliefs for? And if you don't love these, what earthly good will beliefs do you anyway?"

Biography

Rob McCall is a naturalist, writer and ordained minister who from 1986 until his retirement in 2014 was pastor of the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill, Maine.  Since 1992 he has authored and produced the widely popular Awanadjo Almanack, a weekly broadcast from WERU-FM to a listening audience in mid-coast Maine and the worldwide web, and appearing as a regular column in several publications.  The Almanack, “devoted to feeling at home in nature and breaking down the wall of hostility between us and the rest of creation,” began as a weekly commentary on observations of local plants, animals and small town life on the Blue Hill Peninsula.  Awanadjo is Algonkian for the “small misty mountain” that slopes upward from Blue Hill village and provided endless inspiration for this author and preacher.

In the introduction to his Great Speckled Bird: Confessions of a Village Preacher, he says:

I am not a Christian by any prevailing definition. Christians can say the Apostle's Creed without crossing their fingers. They believe in the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the body. Christians are sure that accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior will gain them a place in heaven . . .Christians are confident that theirs is the only way, and do not hesitate to convert others by force or guile. Christians believe that humanity and the Earth are fallen and can only be redeemed by Christ. They believe that animals have no souls and that mankind is master of the Earth. All my life I have read the same scriptures, prayed the same prayers and sung the same hymns as other Christians, but I have been led another way.  I do not believe these things. Nor do I find much evidence that Jesus believed these things either.

This “other way” is what McCall calls the Old Faith:  

It is a faith which was from the beginning.  It is a faith in the earth and the weather, the sun and moon, the land and the sea . . . It celebrates the healing power of the Creator spirit . . . It has two natural laws: 'you reap what you sow,' and 'Do unto others as you would have others do to you.'    

Scripture and nature are the two pillars of Rob's creative and spiritual life, and when they are interwoven both are further illuminated, as in this recent passage:    

We are told that Moses was out seeing for himself when he saw a burning bush. God spoke to Moses, not through any book or priest or church, but in the form of a living plant on fire. This is the elegance of myth, because this is precisely a description of plant metabolism: every plant is doing a slow burn as carbon, water and sunlight are synthesized by chlorophyll into sugars which the plant burns to sustain its life, and all life. Every bush is a burning bush, every shrub a revelation.

“I learned to love scripture from my father,” he says, “and nature from my mother, whose knowledge and love of wildflowers moved me.”  Rob's father was Clarence Field McCall, Jr., the United Church of Christ Conference Minister for Southern California at the time of his death, and a pastor for most of Rob's growing up years.  His theology was mainstream Protestant, was grounded in the gospel, and was more focused on social and economic justice than it was on personal salvation or church doctrine. Barbara Warren McCall was a Yankee Protestant who met Clarence in seminary, and when they were ordained together in the late 30's she became one of the very few ordained female ministers in the country.  

The McCalls headed west after their New England wedding and were serving a church in Rapid City, South Dakota when Rob was born in 1944, their third of four children.  They moved a few years later to Forest Grove, Oregon, a college town one hour's drive east of the Pacific and nestled in the Tualatin Valley, with majestic Mount Hood clearly visible on the horizon.  In summers the McCalls headed to nearby campgrounds or Glacier or Yosemite National Park. They packed a canvas army tent and food and camping supplies for all six into a Mercury sedan that Clarence had rigged with a makeshift kitchen that unfolded from the back of the car.  It was an idyllic life for a boy. When they moved from Forest Grove in 1954 and drove east toward their new home in Oak Park, Illinois, Rob remembers watching Mount Hood through the rear-view window for a long time until it disappeared.

He writes:

Around here the spirits of the town are mostly Christian. But the spirits of the forests are Algonquin; the spirits of the snow and ice are Inuit;the spirits of the mountains are Buddhist; the spirits of the big trees, rocks and waterfalls are Shinto; the spirits of the animals are Neolithic; the spirits of the bays and islands are Celtic, Druid and Pagan.  If you stay in town, Christianity might be all you need. But if you wander far out beyond the town, Christianity may not be enough.

Rob graduated as a philosophy major in 1966 from Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and Harvard Divinity School in 1970.  Before entering the ministry in 1985 he lived in Concord, Massachusetts, where his Musketaquid Almanac appeared weekly in the Concord Journal.  He has been married to painter Rebecca Haley McCall since 1967, is a fiddler, mandolin player, singer and guitarist and has worked as an elementary school teacher, handyman, tree and landscape contractor, church sexton, chimney sweep, and the foreman of a 250 acre apple orchard.  His formal education also includes graduate studies in education, Doctor of Ministry in Congregational studies, and Certification in fruit trees and entomology. His Small Misty Mountain was published by Pushcart Press in 2006 and distributed by W.W. Norton and Great Speckled Bird, a collection of essays and sermons, was published by Pushcart Press in 2012.  

Cecile Richards

Women's Rights Activist: b. 1957

"Where's the common ground in this country? It's in helping young people get access to sex education, to help them prevent an unintended pregnancy, to finish school if they want to and live their dreams. I have yet to meet a parent who was excited about their teenager getting pregnant before finishing school. "

Biography

In December 2015, Planned Parenthood’s national president, Cecile Richards, spoke at a Unitarian church near Denver, Colorado. Richards’ voice was calm and resolute as she talked about her commitment to serve those who come to Planned Parenthood for health care. Richards was honoring Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers for their steadfast courage and commitment to care after a violent attack on their center a week earlier. She said, “We’ve seen thousands of patients since last Friday, and will see millions this year…these doors stay open.”  

Despite a history of facing organized opposition, attempts at intimidation, arson and violence,  Planned Parenthood has become the most popular healthcare institution in the United States because they offer the healthcare and service their clients, mostly women, want and need…including abortion to those who freely choose that option.

Cecile Richards knows that if decisions related to contraception and abortion are to remain private, the fight to preserve them must be made public.  And that public must be encouraged to vote in the best interests of themselves and their families.  Richards and Planned Parenthood’s “Action Fund” are key elements in a broad national campaign to identify, register and motivate pro-choice women to vote; run for public office and replace those elected officials afraid to stand up to those who are on the wrong side of American women and their healthcare.  

Planned Parenthood’s doors first opened in 1916, despite active opposition.  At the time, women with low incomes and no reliable means of managing their fertility lived with large families in tiny tenement apartments. Methods of contraception were illegal and maternal death was common. So, too, were dangerous – often fatal – illegal abortions. Margaret Sanger, the nurse who founded the first birth control clinic in the United States, was jailed for her efforts but prevailed to become the founder of an organization that has lasted over one hundred years.

In 2006, Cecile Richards became president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "The reason I took this job,” she said, “is I feel like we need to go into the 21st century. Clearly, with some folks in the country, we're going to get there kicking and screaming."

Born in Waco, Texas in 1957, Cecile Richards grew up focused on social justice. In seventh grade, she wore a black armband to school to protest the war in Vietnam.  She was sent to the principal’s office and scolded for her protest – an experience that helped spark a lifelong passion for activism.

In 1980, Cecile graduated with a B.A. from Brown University and, like her father, became involved in labor issues. From Texas to New Orleans to California, she worked as a labor organizer of low-wage workers. When her mother Ann Richards ran for governor of Texas in 1990, Cecile worked on her campaign. In 1995, concerned with the conservative trends in Texas, Cecile founded the Texas Freedom Network to mobilize support for progressive causes. Later, she became deputy chief of staff for California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who is currently the minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2004, before taking her current role, Cecile Richards was the founding president of America Votes, an organization promoting progressive issues. She is married to Kirk Adams, a labor organizer, and they have three children.

As Planned Parenthood approached its centenary in 2016, Cecile Richards was confronted with an attempt by anti-abortion activists to discredit the organization by surreptitiously recording conversations between medical staff and health center workers. The recordings were then edited to make it appear that fetal tissue collected at Planned Parenthood health centers was being provided for research in violation of laws governing donations by patients.

A defining event in the attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood came when the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, interrogated Cecile Richards. For five grueling hours, majority committee members interrupted and talked over Richards. With the allegations against Planned Parenthood losing credibility, committee members attacked Richards and Planned Parenthood on unrelated issues. When the hearing was over, Rep. Chaffetz conceded that his committee found no wrongdoing. Richards said, “If more members of the Senate and Congress could get pregnant, we wouldn’t be fighting about Planned Parenthood.”

Despite the threats and political attacks, support for Planned Parenthood continues to grow.  One in five American women has used Planned Parenthood’s services. A survey by Fox News on March 15, 2017 found that the most popular people, organizations, and causes in the country were Bernie Sanders and Planned Parenthood, followed by Obamacare. According to Richards, “We see young women with low incomes. Nearly 75 percent of our patients live at 150 percent of the federal poverty level or below. For many of them, we are the only place they can get access to affordable health care. Planned Parenthood is the safety net in this country…if you’re concerned about preventing unintended pregnancy, you should triple the funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood is the preeminent provider of and advocate for reproductive health care in the United States, with more than 600 health centers serving 2.4 million men and women each year. Still, the services of the Planned Parenthood health centers are vulnerable. They face a Congress and an administration poised to eliminate the rights and services made possible by Planned Parenthood.

Cecile Richards, who steps down from leading Planned Parenthood in 2018, has carried the torch of a truth that has echoed for more than 100 years. As Margaret Sanger once said, “No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” For some, that truth is as revolutionary today as it was then.

 

Kandi Mossett

Indigenous and Environmental Rights Activist: b. 1980

"If our country was serious about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and actually taking some control over this climate chaos that we already have as a result of the fossil fuel industry, they would never allow the Dakota Access Pipeline project. "

Biography

Battles for environmental justice may seem overwhelming, but activist Kandi Mossett is driven by a simple philosophy: “There is no guarantee that you're going to win against an injustice that happens to you when you speak out, but we are guaranteed to fail if we don't at least try.” For her action, her bravery, and her leadership, Mossett was named “An Activist to Watch” by Bill Moyers and Company in 2013. Mosset had just participated in the Energy Action Coalition’s Power Shift Conference in Pittsburgh, where more than 8,000 young activists gathered to plan action against harm to the environment resulting from fracking, the Keystone Pipeline, and university investment in fossil fuel companies.

In 2016, Mossett became a key voice for her fellow protesters at Standing Rock, Tweeting updates and speaking to the media about the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She and other protesters spent months in an encampment at Standing Rock, bringing their message of environmental justice to a worldwide audience. They believed that the pipeline would cause disruption, environmental devastation, and health problems to the communities it ran through. They stood up against the construction of the pipeline, facing harassment and hostility from law enforcement.

After the protest at Standing Rock, Mossett and thousands of other protesters gathered in Washington, D.C. for a four-day community gathering. Their goal was to celebrate Native American arts and culture, as well as make their presence known to lawmakers and educate citizens on how to participate in lobbying lawmakers to support their cause. Mossett believes that activism takes place in the community and in the legislatures: “Another component, ...in addition to doing grassroots work is to get involved in politics. ...They won't represent you unless you make your voice heard in your town, in your community, in your state.”

Standing Rock catapulted Mossett into the spotlight, but her career as an activist began years before. Mossett grew up in North Dakota, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara tribes. She left her home, the Fort Berthold Reservation, for the University of North Dakota, where she studied natural resource and park management. After serving three years at the National Park Service, Mossett returned to university and earned a master’s in environmental science and policy. In 2007, she was hired at Tribal Campus Climate Challenge organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

In that role, Mossett worked with more than thirty tribal colleges on projects ranging from recycling programs and tree plantings to small-scale solar panel installations, community gardens, and green jobs. She also mobilized students around issues such as the Keystone pipeline and the dangers of hydraulic fracturing on Native American lands. Eventually, Mossett moved on to become the IEN’s Lead Organizer on its Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaigns.

Mossett’s work is not just about the earth--she understands that people and communities are affected by harm to the environment. “We are where the extraction zones are, and we’re sick. We have cancer, we have asthma. I'm a cancer survivor. That's our reality. I used to think it was normal, until I left the reservation and found out that's not normal. There has to be an awakening, and it's just really sad that it takes something this dramatic and this violent for that awakening to happen.”

Thanks to Mossett’s organizing efforts in her hometown of Fort Berthold, activists were successful in shutting down a solid waste disposal pit in the community of White Shield and in relocating displaced residents of the Prairie Winds Trailer Court in the community of New Town, N.D.

Even when protests end in disappointment, Mossett believes that it’s important to keep fighting. She has advice for citizens who see injustices happening around them: “Above all, fight to protect all life; be a voice for all those that can’t speak and never give up hope.” Mossett believes that protest is not just a right, but a responsibility, especially for Native populations whose land is used by the fossil fuel industry. She says “...we inherently have a right and an obligation to protect the soil that we grow our food in, the water that we’re going to drink and the air we live and breathe. And as we continue to allow the fossil fuel industry to poison it, we are poisoning ourselves. There’s no question anymore for indigenous people that this is literally life or death. So when it comes to indigenous populations around the world, we choose to fight, to stand up and to have a voice.”

 

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

Doctor: b. 1976

"Flint is what happens when we dismiss science. Flint is what happens when we dismiss people. Flint is what happens when saving money is more important than public health."

Biography

When images of brownish-yellow lead contaminated water coupled with photos of residents whose bodies were covered in blistering rashes surfaced on internet news sites in 2014, people wanted to know what exactly was happening in one of the poorest communities in America -- Flint, Michigan. It was lead poisoning.  But it was not until Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician and public health advocate at the Hurley Medical Center, researched and revealed in September 2015 the inhumane and dangerous conditions people were living in there, that the world learned about Flint’s water crisis.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha, is the daughter of Iraqi immigrants, both scientists, who fled Saddam Hussein’s repressive regime for England in the 1970s. Mona was born in England in 1976 and shortly after that her parents moved to the US. After arriving in Flint, her mother taught English to other immigrants and her dad, a metallurgical engineer,  worked for General Motors. Soon enough their American dream became a reality.

Flint, located approximately 70 miles north of Detroit, has a population of 100,000 residents, 57% of whom are African-American and 37% white. This city was once the most prosperous middle class community in the US. With the collapse of the auto industry and the auto makers unions, Flint’s prosperity evaporated. Now 42% of the city’s residents live below the poverty line.

Still, after decades of economic disinvestment, public health issues and crippling poverty, no one expected Flint’s citizens to be poisoned.

In April 2014, the City of Flint decided to save money by switching its water supply from the Detroit River and Lake Huron, for which Flint paid Detroit a fee, to the highly polluted Flint River. Flint saved even more money at their own water processing plant by not adding chemicals to the purifying process that would prevent lead from leaching from the city pipes into the water.

Miguel Del Toral of the  Environmental Protection Agency  acknowledged there were unsafe levels of lead in the water system, but nothing was done. A friend who worked for the EPA told Dr. Hanna-Attisha that a scientist from Virginia Tech, Marc Edwards, had found high levels of lead in Flint residents’ tap water. Lead is a  neurotoxin that impacts brain development, how people think and behave. It’s effects are especially damaging and incurable for children whose brains are still in formation. Dr. Hanna-Attisha began her own investigation and discovered that the lead levels in children’s blood were 50% higher in 2015 than they had been before the 2014 switch in water sources. By the time she identified the problem, over 8000 children had been irreparably poisoned.

On September 24, 2015 she released a study that revealed that children had high levels of lead in their blood and it was caused by the Flint city council’s decision to save money by using the Flint River as the municipal water source, rather than the well treated water provided by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. As more children were being poisoned each day, Dr. Hanna-Attisha knew she needed to act urgently and ignored the long scientific process of have peer-reviewed studies done. She held a press conference and testified twice in court against the state of Michigan, which tried to discredit her and her team’s allegations and research. And  she was ridiculed her personally.   

Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s science, though, was irrefutable. Later, at the press conference in which the State of Michigan acknowledged the lead in water,  Department of Environmental Quality officials apologized to Dr. Hanna-Attisha. In his 19 January 2016 State of the State address, Governor Rick Snyder publicly thanked Dr. Hanna-Attisha and Marc Edwards for sounding the alarm about the Flint Water Crisis.

While Dr. Hanna-Attisha admitted that there were moments when she was scared, there was no doubt that she was right. During a TEDMED talk, Dr. Hanna-Attisha said, “As physicians we have taken an oath to stand up as the healers and the protectors. We were fighting for the future that lives and grows inside our children and this was not a fight we could lose. Not on my watch.”

There  is no safe level of lead for human consumption. To this day, Dr. Hanna-Attisha and her team are working diligently for the children and families of Flint and in other cities like Baltimore and Chicago where people living in poverty are exposed to lead. Although there is no way to flush led from the body once it’s there, the effects can be mediated by a healthy, high calcium diet. Dr. Hanna-Attsha  has been ia leader in the campaign to  educate people about the importance of good nutrition, and to make nutritious food available to poor people. “The most potent medication that we can prescribe is to lift our families out of poverty,” she says.  

For her role in exposing the Flint Water Crisis and her public health advocacy in response to the crisis, Time Magazine named Dr. Hanna-Attisha one of the Most Influential People in 2016. She was also included in the Politico 50. She was  the recipient of the 2016 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and the PEN American Center James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Award and as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans of 2016. Hanna-Attisha was also named Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News.

She was awarded the Rose Nader Award for Arab American activism by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and named the Champion of Justice by ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services). In 2016 Hanna-Attisha was the commencement speaker at Michigan State University, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and Virginia Tech among other universities.[42][43]

Hanna-Attisha has also been recognized by environmental organizations, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Ecology Center and Children's Environmental Health Network. She was named a Union of Concerned Scientists 2016 Got Science? Champion.

On 30 March 2017, Hanna-Attisha was named an honorary co-chair of the March for Science.

 

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