Saturday, October 07, 2006

"Change Comes About When Millions Of People Do Little Things"

Political scientist receives honor

by Blake Anderson
The Badger Herald
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Friday, October 6, 2006

Social activist and author of nearly three dozen books, Howard Zinn came to Madison Wednesday and was awarded the Havens Center Award for lifetime contribution to critical scholarship.

“Madison’s a very special place, I always get a special feeling when I come here,” Zinn said. “A feeling of being in a different country. Some people get disgusted with American policy and move to another country. [I say] no, pick Madison.”

Zinn’s expertise on the historical significance of social activism and his current activist efforts not only earned him the Havens Center Award, but also helped pack Madison’s Orpheum Theater.

Erik Olen Wright, founder and director of the Havens center, presented Zinn the award and said he admired the many works of the famous activist and historian. Wright said Zinn is only the second recipient of the award, and can now add this to other prestigious awards he has received such as the Upton Sinclair Award and the Thomas Merton Award.

Wright said Zinn has contributed more to restoring a sense of historical continuity in the struggles for social change than anybody.

After having taken active parts in some of the country’s most controversial periods including World War II, the civil rights movement and Vietnam protests, Zinn extended his activism expertise onto the governmental problems of our time. Zinn criticized the Bush administration for its invasion of Iraq and spoke of the government’s lack of true democratic input.

“[The government officials] are not following the will of the people,” he said. “They manufactured a will of the people for a very short period of time right after the war started; that’s not true anymore. … It doesn’t matter what’s in [politician’s] minds, what matters is what they do.”

Zinn’s words brought about applause throughout the night, and granted the speaker a standing ovation. University of Wisconsin junior John Bruning said the audience’s gracious reaction was due to Zinn’s continued belief in grass root activist efforts. Bruning also said he believes that by stressing persistence, Zinn inspired the crowd to continue their social activist efforts in order change society. These efforts, Zinn said, will eventually be felt by our government and will lead to a better understanding of true democracy.

“Zinn had a strong effect on certain segments of society,” said Don Adams, one of Zinn’s supporters. “But they won’t be felt for quite a while.”

With thousands of such supporters behind him, Zinn said he will continue his activist efforts, and he hopes to see the continued spread of activism throughout the world.

“Change comes about when millions of people do little things,” Zinn said, “which in certain points of history come together, and something important happens.”


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