Commentary

10.20.14

Inspiring a New Generation of Activists

By

Likover Lecture 2014
Belle Likover and Susan Galloway

It’s not where you’re from; it’s not where you are—it’s what you do.

Long time ACLU supporters, Ed and Belle Likover are shining examples of activists who truly lived and breathed this sentiment. Ed Likover stood for what he believed in even if he stood alone, and his courage never wavered.

Standing Up For What’s Right

In 1953, Ed was one of many subpoenaed by the Ohio House Un-American Activities Committee for his perceived beliefs and associations. Instead of “pleading the Fifth” like most individuals who wish to remain silent, Ed took the First Amendment as his defense because he firmly believed that the government had no right to intrude in his life due to his beliefs. Ed’s courage contributed to our right to have political and social views that diverge from what one group may deem acceptable—and for that we’re all grateful.

Ed’s wife, Belle Likover also is a true activist who has been involved in many crucial social justice issues for more than five decades. She organizes, testifies, educates, and twists arms to make the world a better place.

“I don’t wait to be asked to do things,” Belle said. “If I see something that needs to be done, I do it, or I organize to get it done.”

“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead, anthropologist (1901 – 1978)

In 1992, a year after Ed’s passing, Belle established the Ed Likover Memorial Lecture in order to let Ed’s legacy of open discussion and activism live on. Its purpose is to educate citizens on important civil rights issues and to inspire future generations of activists. Over the years, we’ve had many inspiring speakers, including: music censorship expert Eric Nuzum, immigration lawyers Harry and Frederick Polatsek, Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelman, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Connie Schultz and her husband U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.

At this year’s Likover lecture, nearly 100 civil libertarians gathered to hear Susan Galloway talk about the U.S. Supreme Court case Greece v. Galloway, which originated with her choice to speak out against prayer at public meetings. Susan was asked about her experience and why she chose to speak out against official sectarian prayers at her town board meetings:

“I am an ordinary citizen that just happened to have an extraordinary event occur,” Susan answered. “I enjoy speaking about the case … and hopefully motivating others to get involved.”

The Next Generation of Activists

Like Ed and Belle Likover, Susan understands the importance of cultivating the next generation of activists who will work to affect social change. Throughout history numerous young activists have risen to the challenge—during the Red Scare and McCarthyism, the civil rights movement and fight for equality, and the numerous protests against war throughout the 60s and 70s.

Today, many experienced activists from prior generations are wondering when the next generation of activists will rise up. Progressive change happens from the bottom up and all civil rights movements need leaders, as well as rank-and-file activists. Recently, the tragic shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and John Crawford at a Walmart in Beavercreek Ohio, have begun to inspire a new movement of activists calling for racial justice and police accountability.

In order to help make the world a more just place, we can look at individuals like Ed and Belle Likover and borrow a little bit of their courage and vision because as historian and activist Howard Zinn said, “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

To see more photos of the 2014 Likover Lecture, visit our Facebook album.

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