Summary of Letters to a Young Activist

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This is politics with attitude, presented by a former sixties activist who has plenty of sincerity and passion, though he has a somewhat convoluted writing style. Todd Gitlin - the former president of Students for a Democratic Society, the SDS - has a great deal to say, much of it worthwhile, though couched in nostalgic reminiscence of his youthful activism. Given that, former sixties protestors may find more here than current rightist young idealists. His observations on the faults of the Left and the strength of the Right are, if not original, stimulating. He does draw potentially useful lessons from the sixties, as seen through his prism of leftist activism and leadership. recommends this fast, historic and forward-looking read. In these turbulent times, Gitlin encourages participation, discourages violence and believes the individual can still make a difference. Who could quarrel with that?

About the Author

Todd Gitlin is a professor of journalism, culture and sociology at New York University and the University of California at Berkeley. He has written several books, including The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage.



Duty, Faith, Adventure

Today’s young activists, drawn by the excitement of politics, are full of passion and spice. But, as an experienced former "young activist," Todd Gitlin knows the current crop still has lessons to learn. Those who have already tried to change the world, who have known the thrill of ideological purity and who have experienced political passion demonstrate that you can be more effective as an activist if you heed the voice of been-there-done-that.

The mere fact of age and past participation isn’t an automatic license to advise, counsel and guide young people in the ways of activism. Any senior political participant, including an old-time liberal, knows that activists aren’t just leftists. Young thinkers, whether on the Right or the Left, need lessons in political activism. Those lessons don’t cover why the world is this way or how you can make it better or what it will look like when it is better. These lessons aren’t about ideology - they are about the spirit of activism.

The 1960s were days of rage and hope. Gitlin used to go to meetings and rallies, knock on doors and hand out campaign literature for candidates, all in an attempt to understand...

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