Posted by: MC | January 21, 2010

EX:Change 2.0



He could say, “We need change.  We need change. 
I’m going to change this.”  He can say all he wants,
but actually without the people out here,
nothing’s going to change.  

Art Garcia
Jan 21, 2009  

A year ago today headlines read: “Antarctica Is Warming,” “Relatives Say Peltier Beaten Following Prison Transfer,” “Israel Completes Gaza Withdrawal,” “Brazilian Midfielder Kaka Stays Put,” “Sen. Kennedy Hospitalized After Suffering Seizure.”        

Then there were these two: 
                                   “Obama Sworn in as 44th President,”
                                   “The Change is Here!”        

A year ago was the first day of Barack Obama’s Presidential Administration.  It was also the day I sat down with Art Garcia to talk about change.       

The word change, with its attendant range of ideas and emotions had been filling the airwaves and on American minds for many months.  No matter the candidate voters supported, all of us were ready for change.  EX:Change 2009 was conceived as an initiative for finding out what everyday Americans were thinking and hoping for in relation to that word:  Change.  My goal was 100 voices in 100 days and Art was voice #1.          

Art’s a veteran and an ex-offender.  He’s lived too many of his days without a home.  These days, he works for Street Roots1, Portland, OR’s newspaper of street life and street people.  He makes enough to cover rent and food, and spends his days coordinating the low income and homeless people who want to be vendors for the paper.  Art says, “The idea is that being a vendor for Street Roots gives people with no economic options the opportunity to become active on their own behalf – to sell the paper and apply their profits toward shelter, food, and eventually toward enough stability to find and keep a better job.  It takes commitment and it takes a positive attitude.  Those are some of the hardest things to come by when you’re living on the streets.”            

We sat together last year in a café near Portland’s waterfront.  Art spoke about health care, about homes and jobs, about prisons and race relations.  He spoke every bit of it from his own experience.  From that perspective he described change and how it could be made real for our county.        

Here’s some of what Art said.       

These days people are talking about change because they’re scared.  They’re scared because they got into a routine that is about fear.  But I think we’re overemphasizing.  I don’t think we’re as bad off as people say.  I don’t think America’s that bad.  People are scared and I think some of them are scared of change.       

I was thinking about it this morning.  About Obama.  See, actually he hasn’t changed anything.  He’s not changing anything.  They used that word “change” in the campaign but Barack Obama hasn’t changed anything.  All he’s doing is taking advantage of it.  The people have changed the direction of this country.  Everybody around the change has changed it.  They are the change.         

Barack is in there right now when we need a change.  The people are changing themselves publicly and personally.  Everybody’s changing.  We have a new President and he’s saying we need change so as long as the people have a voice, they’re all for it.  They’re all ready to do their part.  When you’ve got millions and millions of people thinking like that, there’s going to be change.       

Art set the pace for the 99 voices that would follow his in the EX:Change.  Each of them speaking from the center of their very real hearts and minds about what matters most.  Consistent through them all has been the willingness and desire to be active agents of change in support of what we value.        

Now, it’s a year later.  Today international headlines read: “Nightmare in Haiti,” “U.N. Officials Say Climate Deal At Risk,” “Britain Tightens Antiterror Measures.”  And at home the stories continue of job loss, economic instability, war and struggles with health care reform.  Ours are difficult times. And people still want change.       

We still want our children to have good lives.  We want a healthy planet and healthy bodies.  We want work.  It’s time to revive the spirit and the practical understandings of the change that so energized our country this time last year.  It’s time for us to hear one another’s voices – to engage in active national dialogue in ways that bolster again our belief in ourselves and give strong and persistent voice to democracy in ways our leadership must heed.       

Thus, EX:Change 2.0
…and this blog to revisit the wisdom and spirit in people’s words last year.  What do you care about with regard to the change that sparked such enthusiasm and belief a year ago?  What do you have to say in this ongoing EX:Change        

From here forward, it IS up to us.  We, the American people don’t go away.  We come back again and again to claim democracy and the future for our children.  As Mohandas Gandhi urged all people, we must be the change we want to see in the world.


  1. As I’m sitting down to listen to President Obama, I am hopeful and believing in him still. I am hopeful that he will be able to get congress to do it’s job and stand up for us. I am however very disheartened by the standing ovation and the joyful outbursts for John Roberts as he entered.

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