Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

'We have to build a resistance that turns Defense into Offense,' writes Goehl as the community action group, People's Action, celebrates it founding convention in Washinton, D.C. this week.  (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/flickr/cc)

Transforming the Possible Through Radical Imagination

George Goehl

 by People's Action Blog

This is the text of opening remarks delivered Sunday, April 23, 2017, at the People’s Action founding convention in Washington, DC – “Rise Up: From Protest to Power.”

David pulled a stone from his bag and slung it.
And hit Goliath on the head.
And he fell to the ground.

We are gathered here tonight, founding a new organization: People’s Action.

And we are in a David and Goliath battle.

Donald Trump is in the White House. Greed and hate run our federal government. The right controls dozens of statehouses from coast to coast.

Most importantly – the communities that are already suffering the most are right in the crosshairs of what they want to do next.

And Saul offered to David a sword and a shield.
But instead, David reached into the stream and pulled out five smooth stones.

David knew he could not beat Goliath simply through sheer might and power. It was a time for strategy.

And now, more than ever, we need strategy.

First, we have to build a resistance that turns Defense into Offense. That means being exactly where they don’t want us to be, exactly when they don’t want us to be there. We have done it on health care, and we can do it on immigration, we can do it on policing, we can do it on the budget, and more.

Number two, Being the resistance is not enough. We need a visionary resistance.

Let me ask you this: Is now the time to retreat on our big ideas? Is it time to soften our demands?

No. Now is a moment that calls for a radical imagination of what’s possible. Every time we protest their agenda, we must demand and articulate and push for our agenda.

Finally, let’s turn protest power into political power.

We need to electoralize the resistance. We need to attract the millions of people coming to town halls, showing up at the assemblies and going to the marches, sign them up to vote and then we flood the ballot boxes in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

The days of us accepting a lesser-of-two-evil politics are over – right now.

So, here’s the thing. This can be a three-day convention. Or this can be the founding of an organization that changes the arc of history.

This can be the founding of an organization that is tough enough, together enough, and strategic enough to topple any Goliath they put in our way.

I think we’ve got a shot at this. Let me tell you why:

We know that we have never won more by demanding less. Can you think of a time you demanded $15 and the enemy says, “Hell, let me give you $17?”

That doesn’t happen. We know that.

We know direct action and taking the crisis to the doorstep of the people who created it not only transforms relations of power, but transforms the human spirit, and we need a little bit of that right now.

We know that we have to build a multiracial, race-conscious, gender-conscious and class-conscious movement if we want to win. And they know if we do that, they will lose – and that is exactly why those in charge work so hard to divide us.

Finally, elections can happen to us or they can happen for us, and at People’s Action we have every intention of making them happen for us.

You are the People’s Action 1200. From this day forward you will be the people who attended the founding convention of this organization. What that means in five, 10 or 20 years is up to all of us. And it starts now.

David pulled a stone from his bag and slung it.
And hit Goliath on the head.
And he fell to the ground.

 Let the toppling of Goliath commence, and the radical imagination of what’s next begin.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
George Goehl

George Goehl

George Goehl is the former executive director of People's Action and People's Action Institute, a national organization of a million people in 30 states fighting for economic, environmental, racial, and gender justice.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'All of Rail Labor Is Going to Suffer': Workers Furious Over Biden Move to Preempt Strike

"This is a legacy-defining moment for Joe Biden," said Railroad Workers United. "He is going down as one of the biggest disappointments in labor history."

Jake Johnson ·


Citing Need for 'New, Inclusive Leadership,' Chuy García Files for Chicago Mayoral Race

"We have an opportunity to elect a trusted and experienced leader with a history of building coalitions and a vision for a brighter future for all Chicagoans," said the Democratic congressman.

Jessica Corbett ·


On Cyber Monday, Climate Activists Take Aim at Fashion Industry

"The fashion industry is one of the largest polluting industries globally. We can all do better, but it's on companies to make this industry better for workers, the planet, and consumers alike."

Jessica Corbett ·


Biden Accused of Selling Out Rail Workers by Urging Congress to Prevent Strike

"Biden is siding with corporate rail bosses over the rank-and-file workers who voted against this agreement," said one progressive commentator after the president urged lawmakers to take action to force through a deal without paid sick leave.

Brett Wilkins ·


Analysis Finds State Legislators Proposed 306 Bills Targeting Trans People in Past 2 Years

"Right-wing state lawmakers are obsessed with taking away the rights of trans people and we're obsessed with knocking them out of public office," said one rights group.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo