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Amy Lynn Smith
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The strength of stories to create change

All of us who work in social change know that it doesn’t happen overnight. But in the early morning hours of a late July day I woke to discover that something significant had changed overnight — and I firmly believe stories played a central role.

I’m talking about the vote in the U.S. Senate that may well mark the final defeat of Republicans’ efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. I went to bed anxious about what I’d find when I arose, but comforted myself that I’d done everything I could and would keep up all my efforts if the fight continued.

I made my voice heard to my elected officials, I attended rallies, I wrote letters to the editor and, most important of all, I told stories of the Americans whose lives have been changed for the better by the ACA, including my own. My storytelling project was inspired by my work on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and has continued ever since. The stories I began writing to demonstrate the ACA’s value suddenly became vital to protecting its existence.

I believe the stories told by countless Americans made a difference. They elevated the human condition over the often wonky discourse around health insurance and healthcare, giving people on both sides of the aisle a reason to fight for something better than a purely political agenda: people’s lives.

When my friends at frank invited me to answer the question “Does activism work?” for a piece in their newsletter, I was delighted to respond in the affirmative.

One voice at a time, we can steer the conversation in one direction or another. We can make people think, whether they like it or not, about our view. When enough people share the same view — and say it out loud — it becomes impossible to ignore. A storm of public opinion is formed drop by drop, until it becomes a wave crashing on the shore.

You can read my thoughts about how activism helped change the conversation about health reform, along with the insights some of my fellow franksters shared about their work, in the frank newsletter.

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