By Mindy Kao, program associate
What do you think of when you hear the word “power”? Do you think of world leaders, like the president or the Pope? Do you think of immense wealth or armed forces? Perhaps you associate power with your favorite athlete or celebrity.
I imagine that most people understand the basic notion of power and are aware—to a certain level—of how power impacts and flows in their lives. At the same time, however, I imagine that far fewer people have ever thought deeply and practically about how they could harness that power, grow it and use it skillfully and decisively to make change in the world around us.
You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen by Eric Liu is a book about understanding power in civic life and the tools to claim and exercise it. Despite the motivational title, this is not a personal self-help book. I had my doubts, but Liu addresses them early in the book, stating, “But whereas self-help and self-advancement focus on the individual, often in isolation, citizen power is about identity and action in the collective: how we make change happen together.”
What I find most special about this book is Liu’s keen articulation and breakdown of civic power: the core laws that govern it, the structure in which it operates, the strategies for practicing it and more. With a plethora of insightful examples, he demonstrates how citizens can claim (and are claiming) their power in the public arena. In a world where power begets power, Liu seeks to democratize it.
Through my work with programs and initiatives like the Neighborhood Fund and THRIVE Thomasville Heights, I have the privilege and pleasure of working with citizens from across the metro Atlanta region who use their civic power every day to serve their communities, create positive change and build a greater sense of agency. However, the truth is that these programs only begin to scratch the surface of what is possible.
Inaction and apathy towards the public system and its institutions are widespread, stymieing the change we aspire for in our communities. For evidence, look no further than the recent Atlanta Board of Education District 2 run-off where voter turnout was less than 3%. We can do better, and we must do better. Don’t know where to begin? Then, I implore you to read You’re More Powerful Than You Think.