Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

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Where's the passion?

Q: Dorothy Height, the longtime leader of the National Council of Negro Women, died recently at age 98, prompting President Obama to honor her as "the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement." Do leaders of equal standing and notoriety exist today in any social movements? If so, who are the most successful? Has there been a change in the ways in which people seek social change?

The 1960s were a time of great societal change.There were a myriad of social movements occurring then, ranging from protests against the Vietnam War to civil rights to other issues -- each with a very passionate following. The 1960s were also a time of violence, with riots around the country, and tear gas and police batons being used with some frequency.

The fact that the civil rights movement was largely nonviolent is a credit to its leaders. We have all heard of Martin Luther King and Benjamin Hooks, but for many, hearing the accolades about Dorothy Height at her death are their first opportunity to learn about this remarkable woman.

She performed admirably in a time of great adversity, but she never got "standing and notoriety" with the general public like her better-known male colleagues did. She deserved far more and now she -- and her selfless work -- will be better known.

Social movements today don't seem to have the organization or passion that they did back then. In the 1960s, nearly everyone with a gripe had the chance to join in an organized protest somewhere or another.

These days, people employ Twitter and blogs and other Internet tools to castigate their ideological foes. Let's face it -- online protests don't have the same impact as the marches of the 1960s. The Tea Party movement of people angry at large government and its tax policies might be a modern-day exception. They will likely unseat some members of Congress if its members stick together and vote as a bloc.

Ms. Height was indignant over the racial discrimination, lack of opportunity and humiliation that she and others were suffering. She did not have the Internet, but she had the determination and strength to bring about change.

Bravo, Dorothy. Well done.

By Jan Scruggs  |  May 6, 2010; 4:03 PM ET  | Category:  Making change Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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