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How to Make the World a Better Place Despite the Roadblocks and Naysayers

"The world was a cruel, unjust place and, far from saving it, I felt stuck in it. Then I learned that I should fight to change it anyway."

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What else are you going to do? Give up?

Of course you’re not. You’re not going to do that, because you are part of a long line of people who didn’t do that, because you live in a country that was actually founded on the assumption that you would be audacious and rebellious and inexhaustible in your pursuit of a more perfect union. You’re not going to settle, because you’ve seen how that kills people, how resigning and consuming and forgetting are surefire ways to deaden a soul. You’re not going to give up, because it would be terribly boring. You’re not going to give up, because you owe the world, this nation, yourself, bravery in the face of suffering, vision in the face of stagnancy, and blood, sweat and tears in the face of injustice. The good failure is your debt for being here. Now. In this beautiful, horrible place.

We have the opportunity to live our lives consciously in spire of all the soporific influences, to act even when we know how complex the prospect of doing so is. Our charge is not to “save the world,” after all; it is to live in it, flawed and fierce, loving and humble. As children of the eighties and nineties, we are uniquely positioned to fail. The bureaucracy we face, the scale of our challenges, the intractable nature of so many of our most unjust international institutions and systems -- all of these add up to colossal potential for disappointment. No matter. We must strive to make the world better anyway. We must struggle to make our friendships, our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, and our nation more dignified, knowing that it might not work and struggling anyway. We must dedicate ourselves each and every morning to being the most kind, thoughtful, courageous human beings who ever walked the earth, and know that it still won’t be enough. We must do it anyway.


Courtney E. Martin is the author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists , out this week on Beacon Press. She is also a Senior Correspondent at The American Prospect and an editor at

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