Tragedies seem so much part of daily life that many of us are fatigued, afraid, and depressed by what feels like a downward spiral that scatters hope like tumbleweed. Mass shootings. Climate change. Innocent lives lost to political, police, or domestic violence.
The inimitable apocalypse often seems to be stalking each one of us.
But even as it often feels that everything is getting worse, some find the resilience to stand on the precipice of disaster and marshal the hopes and dreams we still have to affect change and make life better, proving we should be more optimistic about our collective futures.
In its next program, Common Ground with Jane Whitney will profile changemakers who are living proof that progress is possible – and is already happening all around us, even if most of us don’t acknowledge it. They will discuss how stories about disaster so often eclipse the inspirational, describe how they managed to change the world, and outline ways all of us can contribute to our communities and countries.
Melanie DeMore is a Grammy-nominated “vocal activist” who uses music to uplift people and bring them together. A composer, singer, conductor, and mentor, DeMore creates and rejoices in African American folk music, including a tradition called “stick pounding” created by enslaved people in South Carolina’s Sea Islands. To DeMore, the purpose of life is “for the seeking and sharing of light, joy, and deep love for what moves you.” DeMore was a founding member of the Grammy-nominated Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, and she is also involved with Black Lives Matter and GALA, the gay and lesbian choral society.
state senator sarah mcbride
Sarah McBride is a politician and LGBTQ+ rights activist who made history in 2020 when she became the country’s first openly transgender state senator. A lifelong changemaker, McBride volunteered on her first campaign when she was 14, led Delaware’s chapter of Young Democrats at 17, and became the first openly transgender person to work at the White House, interning there after graduating from college. She went on to successfully lobby Delaware’s legislature to pass a law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and then to work as the Communications Secretary for Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ civil rights organization.
state senator mallory mcmorrow
Mallory McMorrow is the Senate Majority Whip of Michigan who went viral in 2022 for her blazing speech condemning a fellow lawmaker for using hateful language to stir up fear about her and the Democratic party. Since getting elected in 2018, McMorrow has achieved a slate of policy wins such as repealing Michigan’s tampon tax, assisting businesses hit by the pandemic, and establishing a program for victims of domestic violence.
Kyle Spencer is the author of Raising Them Right, a book detailing her four-year investigation into how the Republican party recruits young people and how it, subsequently, turns them into stewards of the cause who attract their peers. A contributor to The New York Times whose work has appeared both in Politico and The Atlantic, Spencer has also written influential pieces on inequality in public schools.
Shannon Watts is a gun-safety activist and founder of Moms Demand Action, a nationwide movement with nearly 10 million supporters fighting for public safety measures to prevent gun violence. The mother of five and a former communications executive, she now serves on the board of Emerge America, one of the top organizations in the country for recruiting and training women to run for office, and Advance Peace, a community-based association that invests in the growth of urban neighborhoods to stop cyclical and retaliatory gun violence.