How to Rethink Our Value Systems and Frame the Future

COMMENTARY-What are your values? What core beliefs underpin your view of life in the United States of 2020?

The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

What are your truths? What rights do you feel should everyone be endowed with today? 

Are they? 

In the 1944 State of the Union, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”  

He then called for a Second Bill of Rights which would include the right to a useful job, sufficient pay to live on, decent housing, adequate medical care, a good education, and “protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.” 

When first elected in 1932 and confronted by labor leaders wanting him to implement social programs, FDR apocryphally responded: “Go out and make me do it.”  We have those men to thank for so much of what got America and Americans back on track following the Depression. 

Martin Luther King took up the cause with his campaign for economic rights: “This would guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work. It would also guarantee an income for all who are not able to work. 

“Some people are too young, some are too old, some are physically disabled, and yet in order to live, they need income. We feel that much more building of housing for low-income people should be done. 

“On the educational front, the ghetto schools are in bad shape in terms of quality. Often, they are so far behind that they need more and special attention, the best quality education that can be given.” 

Bernie Sanders said: “Tens of millions of working-class Americans are living in fear and desperation. We have got to hear their pain. We have got to acknowledge their pain. We have got to respond to their pain in an unprecedented way, in a bold manner. 

“We need to create the jobs that people need. We need to provide the wages, decent wages that people need. We have to make sure that workers have the right to join unions. We have to provide health care to all people as a human right and quality education as a human right. 

“We have to create millions of jobs by addressing the existential threat of climate change. We have to deal with the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality. 

“When we talk about creating an economy and a government based on justice, it means racial justice, the end of systemic racism in this country. That goes well, well beyond police brutality and police murders. It goes to every aspect of our lives.” 

You and I can’t create the world we desire alone. We have to work with others, join forces, stand up against those who benefit from the system that perpetuates only their interests, not ours. 

We each have to create our own portrait in courage. Whether it be by writing, or by talking to family and friends, or by addressing crowds of strangers. 

Whatever we do, it will feel very strange at first, a little scary. So gather some wingmen. 

We can only become the change we want by stepping outside the bubble of same-o and speaking up. But it helps to have supporters beside you and behind you. 

All of us need to start asking questions of those who have the power to change our lives.  

Together we can push a political agenda that resonates, that is real and realistic, and stand strong in the face of push-back so the politicians and change-makers know that we have their backs and will not allow them or us to be easily discounted or written off.    


A better future. What it holds for you. 

And step towards it.


(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She also writes on behalf of the Budget Advocates’ mission regarding the City’s budget and services. In her real life she works on budgets, for film and television, where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today’s world.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.