Dawson Barrett, assistant professor of U.S. history at Del Mar College and the author of “Teenage Rebels: Stories of Successful High School Activists,” “From the Little Rock 9 to the Class of Tomorrow,” and “The Defiant: Protest Movements in Post-Liberal America,” was the featured speaker in the second installment of Niagara University’s Spring 2019 Social Justice Speaker and Discussion Series, April 4, 2019.
Barrett’s presentation, “The Fight of Our Lives: Protest Movements in Post-Liberal America,” discussed post-liberalism and neoliberalism, connecting protests throughout history to the current state of the world today.
“We brought Dawson Barrett here specifically because his work is both about and for youth,” said Dr. David Reilly, director of international studies and chair of the Department of Political Science, who coordinated the series.
Barrett believes that teens have been on the front line of nearly every movement for change in our country’s history. In his book, he incorporated language used in the classroom to share stories and concepts that resonate with students.
“Protest is a long and proud tradition in our democracy, and I would argue that it is more important historically than voting,” Barrett said. “After all, if we limit our political power to voting, then we have to acknowledge the fact that the U.S. is a dictatorship, for poor white men for a half century, for white women for another century after that, and for people of color for another half century after that. In fact, there has still never been a day in this country’s history where every citizen, let alone every resident, has had the right to vote.
“But, these same people [who] were presumed to [be] powerless, have still found a way to push for change,” he continued. “So, in this sense, protest is inherently democratic. It is a fundamental human right, it is something that does not require official approval, and it can take a number of forms.”
Barrett concluded his presentation by encouraging people, specifically students and the youth, to get engaged in movements that will shape history.
“If you do join this fight, on the side of those who are working for a more just and humane world, despite impossible odds, you are actually following in the footsteps of some true heroes of U.S. history,” he said. “My hope is that the history in this book will help us, together, to shape the future.”
Barrett summed up his thoughts with a quote from his book: “This is a book about a fight, and it’s not a fair one. But fair or not, this is the fight of our lives.”
The Spring 2019 Social Justice Speaker and Discussion Series continues on April 11, 2019, with “Hope and Resistance: A Conversation with Frida Berrigan.”