In our education as Social Work students we often learn the value and importance of grassroots movements, how the simple act of individuals with a common desire banning together can have a large impact on culture and society. In my mind no movement has had more of an impact recently than Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who has changed the landscape of our cultural understanding and acceptance of driving while under the influence. The power behind this movement has changed legislation, education, and perception in a larger way than some had expected.
In this article by Candace Lightner, founder of MADD, the ‘playbook’ of MADD is discussed. Lightner discusses the importance of grassroots movements, and stresses the importance of persistence and momentum in striving for changes to gun control and use laws after the Sandy Hook Shootings:
“MADD is a good example of how to change society. We didn’t give up and neither should those who wish to see a safer world. You can have an impact and you can save lives…
I feel the pain for families of those who died at Sandy Hook. For those who want to do something about gun violence, change isn’t easy. What is needed is a grass-roots movement similar to MADD that encompasses all aspects of society. To be effective, it must include all the stakeholders involved and reach a consensus that will make implementation — whether in laws, increased education or other policy changes — a given.
Ask for a Presidential Commission while the White House is focused on this issue. Don’t take no for an answer. Accept each obstacle as a challenge to be overcome. Engage the media and harness the outpouring and support that is pouring in. People need direction. Leadership is key and MADD had that at the local, state and national level. Develop a strategy that people can follow and provide directions and concrete steps that will guarantee successes and keep people motivated. Don’t lose the momentum, anger and rage. Now is the time to take action.”
What is most striking about this article is the reminder that big things need to start small, that for true change to happen you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. As Social Workers we often underestimate the power and essence of macro work, but grassroots is where it all starts for larger change. It’s people like Lightner which provide us with a healthy reminder of this.
By Georgianna Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer