Theme 4: Participation
"The first duty of a human being is to assume the right functional relationship to society — more briefly, to find your real job, and do it." — Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Through it all, there is the question of what we do. Whatever shapes our actions and whatever is done to us, always there is the question of what we do and, with that, the question of why we do it. We can vote, protest and serve. We can run, walk and sit. We can fight and we can work and we can play. We can join up, drop out and toil in fields of our own choosing. Which of our actions serve personal ends and which serve more community-oriented ends? What does it mean to participate, to engage? What kind of change can we make, and how can we make it?
Sample Icebreakers and Opening Exercises
- Think of someone who is involved in some meaningful way with your community. How is this person involved, what is he or she doing, and how did the involvement come about? How did you come to know about this person?
- Think of a time when you did something that felt civic or participatory in some way. What were you doing and why were you doing it? What felt engaged or involved or civic about it? How did it feel to be doing this?
Images and Discussion Tools
(NOTE: The following images are copyrighted. Obtaining image permission is the responsibility of the library. Exceptions are noted.)
- The County Election, 1852, George Caleb Bingham
- The Veteran in a New Field, Winslow Homer
- Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965, James Karales
- Suffrage parade, women march to win their right to vote in New York City, May 6, 1912, artist unknown -- public domain image, no additional image permissions needed
- The Migration of the Negro, Panel #59: In the North they had the freedom to vote, Jacob Lawrence
- The We Can Do It Poster, War Production Co-ordinating Committee, 1942-1943 -- public domain image, no additional image permissions needed
For discussion tools and activities for the above images, as well as others in the Engage! series, download the Engage! Picturing America through Civic Engagement Guide.