On Jan. 21, a chilly and misty day in our nation’s capital, one of the largest peaceful protests in U.S. history took place. I was there and I was overwhelmed by the inspirational power of the hundreds of thousands of people who overcame disabilities, fear, financial constraints, and a myriad of other barriers, to attend this rally known as the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches worldwide.
I understand that some may have a different view of this march and its purpose. But, for me, the message of the Women’s March on Washington was simple. For me, this worldwide protest — uniting almost 5 million people across the globe — was about basic human rights. Our country is founded upon the principles of “liberty and justice for all” but sadly many suffer deep inequalities and injustices in this country and globally. Nelson Mandela said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Putting aside some of the issues that may divide us, the power of that peaceful demonstration came from a united desire to respect and enhance the freedom of others.
The protest on Jan. 21 was just the beginning. Now the real work begins. The march was the easy part and now it’s up to each of us who believe in the principles that inspired that rally to remain activists on behalf of women’s rights and human rights everywhere. As a result of the march many local groups have begun to form to promote initiatives aimed at bringing about these needed changes. I am encouraged and motivated by these grassroots efforts. Eleanor Roosevelt highlighted the importance of our participation when she said, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. … Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Millions of women, men and children joined in solidarity that January day across the planet. It was inspiring and moving and it was not in vain. It's just the beginning — march on.