An occasional message from Peter Dreier

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
An occasional message from Peter Dreier  

Obama's Activist Address.  Here's my take on the inaugural speech, "Obama Asks America to Learn the Radical Lessons of Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall,"  published Monday (1/21) in Huffington Post.   Even Howard Zinn might have been impressed!  Obama invoked the struggles for womens rights (Seneca Falls)  civil rights (Selma), and gay rights  (Stonewall) to remind America about the importance of social movements and grassroots organizing. A great start to his second term!

Dr. King's Radicalism.   I entitled my Huffington Post  King Day article, "Martin Luther King Was a Radical, Not a Saint."  He called for a "radical redistribution of economic and political power."  What would he be doing now if he were still alive? I offer some conjecture, based on the trajectory of his life and his legacy.

My DC/Baltimore Book Tour. I'll be in Washington, DC and Baltimore next week for a number of talks about my new book, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).  I hope to see my friends at one of these talks, each of which is free and open to the public.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2-4 pm, George Washington University.  Phillips Hall, Room 411 (Academic Center). Sponsored by Sociology Dept.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 29, 7 pm, 2640 St. Paul Street, Baltimore. Sponsored by Red Emma's Bookstore. For more information, go to  and
  • Wednesday, Jan. 30, 6:30 pm, Busboys & Poets Bookstore,  2021 14th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20009. For more information, go to:
  • Thursday, Jan. 31, 6-7:30 pm, New Organizing Institute, 1133 19th Street NW, Suite 850, Washington, DC 20036. Co-sponsored with the National Consumers League.
  • Friday, February 1, 12:30 pm, AFL-CIO, 815 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20006. Co-sponsored with Campaign for America's Future.

Two New Book ReviewsMy book was recently reviewed by two writers for whom I have great respect.  Harold Meyerson's review, "American Lefties ", appeared in The American Prospect.  David Moberg's review, "Listing Left," was published in Dissent magazine.

25 Progressive Victories in 2012.  What Next?  Sometimes it is hard to smell the roses.  We need to celebrate the victories of grassroots movements fighting for social justice.  I compiled "The 25 Best Progressive Victories in 2012" for Truthout  (1/8) to remind us that the longest road begins with a single step, and that the Left made significant progress last year, against overwhelming odds.  I even suggest some criteria for determining how to recognize a victory. How many of these 25 victories did you already know about?  It took millions of involved people to bring about these changes, including these "Fifty Young Progressive Activists Who Are Changing America" (Huffington Post, 12/2).  As Donald Cohen and I wrote In The Nation (12/3) last month, "Obama Won. Now It's Time to Change the System."

Challenging the NRA, Winning Gun Control.  The first thing to know about the National Rifle Association is that it is primarily a corporate lobby shilling for gun manufacturers and that less than 5% of American gun owners are NRA members. The second thing to know is that most gun owners, even NRA members, don't agree with the NRA's leadership on gun control issues. The third thing to know is that the NRA is not as politically powerful as the media routinely report, as evidenced by its almost complete failure to elect the candidates it supported in last year's election. The fourth thing to know is that public opinion is outraged by the proliferation of guns and the lax laws on gun and ammo sales. The fifth thing to know is that despite all this, it will be difficult to enact the kind of tough laws Obama has proposed without a strong grassroots movement that targets (pardon the gun metaphor) the profits-over-people gun lobby, the Wall Street firms that fund it, the retailers that sales guns and ammo (Walmart is the largest) and the politicians (mostly Republicans but quite a few Democrats) who still fear the NRA's power. I address several of these points in my article,  "Mainstream Media Downplay NRA's Close Ties to the Gun Industry" (Huffington Post, 1/13)  I'd also recommend:  How NRA's True Believers Converted a Marksmanship Group into a Mighty Gun Lobby (Washington Post);; White House Plans to Overwhelm NRA With Rapid Victory (TPM, 1/4); A Timeline of Mass Shootings in the US Since Columbine (Think Progress, 12/14); The Bid to Stop Gun Trafficking (NYT, 1/8); Freedom Group, A Gunmaker Ripe for an Ethical Takeover (CNN, 12/27); Obama's Real Problem Isn't Gun Owners; It's the Gun Makers and Their Lobby (Star-Ledger, 1/16)   How the Gun Industry Became So Lucrative (Washington Post).  Want to help?  Sign this petition to Congress, demanding fast action on tough gun laws.

Fixing the Jobs Crisis.  First read Steve Greenhouse's New York Times article, "Our Economic Pickle," on why the American economy is improving, and corporate profits are up, but  workers' wages have stagnated. Then read Joseph Stiglitz's powerful Sunday New York Times essay, "Inequality if Holding Back the Recovery."  Then watch Bill Moyers' interview with Paul Krugman to learn what to do about it.  Jobs, not the phony deficit, should be priority Number One.

A Message for All Humanity.    Watch Charlie Chaplin's amazing four-minute final speech from his 1940 film, "The Great Dictator."  It is still inspiring and relevant for our times.

Good Books.  Jane McAlevey's Raising Expectations (And Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement  isn't just a memoir. It is an insightful analysis of what we need to do to revitalize the labor movement and build a stronger progressive politics.  McAlevey is a good story teller.  She describes her experiences in different cities organizing hospital workers, fighting for better housing, working for environmental justice, and campaigning for political candidates and offers valuable lessons. I just got around to reading Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding. You don't have to love baseball to love this novel. It is a wonderfully engaging story about five people whose lives intersect, triggered in part by a strange occurrence on a college baseball field.

The opinions expressed are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of Occidental College or its employees. Occidental College is not responsible for the content of this communication.