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National model for people power




The great rocker, writer and activist Patti Smith has a song that brings all three of her talents into a single refrain: "People have the power / To dream / To rule / To wrestle the world from fools."

For "people power" to be more than a cliché shouted out at rallies, it has to do something — such as dream, wrestle and rule.

That pretty well defines the remarkable grassroots group of people-power doers who've come together under the principled banner of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Since 1975, these feisty farmers, conservationists, workers, students, consumers and other everyday Iowa people have strategized, organized and mobilized to take on bankers, bosses, big shots, bastards and BSers in battle after battle for economic, environmental, social and political justice.

In the process, CCI has become a national model of direct, non-partisan civic action to foster two of America's highest ideals: 1) government of, by, and for the people and 2) economic fairness and prosperity for all.

The widening chasm of inequality in our land and the rise of plutocratic rule cause some people to wring their hands and hope in vain that some golden-haired politician will ride in to save them. They might as well trust their last pork chop to a coyote.

CCI members know the futility of that strategy, so they've joined hands to try wrestling their world from the greedheads and boneheads who feel entitled to fool around with ordinary people's lives.

That scrappy democratic spirit is what is drawing me to Des Moines in a couple of weeks to join Rev. William Barber, Alicia Garza, Sally Kohn and several hundred Iowans in a joyous, two-day, 40th birthday bash to celebrate and extend CCI's progressive vision and successes.

For more information and inspiration about people taking charge, go to

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit

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