Make Trouble | Cecile Richards

Summary of: Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead
By: Cecile Richards


Embark on a journey with Cecile Richards, an iconic activist, as she narrates her life experiences and the valuable lessons she has learned along the way in ‘Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead’. Raised in a radical family, Richards chose to speak up against the rules and make trouble in her quest for justice. Discover her early years of activism during college, fighting for the rights of janitors and librarians, and ultimately becoming one of the most influential leaders in union organizing and women’s reproductive healthcare. This summary highlights Richards’ invaluable teachings on taking action, pushing boundaries, and asserting oneself for the greater good.

Cecile Richards: The Rebel with a Cause

Cecile Richards, born into a radical family in a conservative state, was destined to become an outspoken maverick. Her parents were trailblazers, inspiring Richards to question authority and refuse rules she didn’t agree with. As a sixth-grader, Richards got into trouble after refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer, realizing that she had to choose between keeping her head down and questioning authority. From that moment on, Richards wore the label of troublemaker as a badge of honor and never looked back.

The Uncool Texan Outlier

The author’s journey from feeling like an uncool outsider at Brown University to becoming a successful union organizer is recounted in this book excerpt. Her involvement in activism during a campus janitors’ strike became a turning point that led to her helping workers organize and join a student support group. Despite facing opposition from some of her peers, she persevered and eventually embarked on a career as a union organizer in New Orleans, where she fought for better working conditions for underpaid female workers in the hospitality industry. The author’s story showcases the importance of finding one’s passion and persevering through challenges to make a meaningful impact.

Creating Change through Action

Have you ever felt powerless in the face of injustice? In “Making Trouble”, Cecile Richards shares her experience of transforming frustration into action. As a mother of children in public school during the conservative 90s, she saw firsthand the harm of censorship by the Christian Coalition. Richards took action by founding the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a liberal non-profit organization. It began in her living room and grew to over 130,000 members. In the early days, Richards enlisted the help of friends and sought out potential donors to expand TFN’s efforts. Today, TFN is a powerful force, opposing the religious right in Texas and creating positive change. Richards’ story shows that anyone can take action to make a difference and create a better world.

Cecile Richards and the Art of Organizing

Cecile Richard’s experience in setting up and managing America Votes taught her valuable lessons about activism. Starting small, asking for funds, building solidarity, and paying attention to organizing rules are some of the key takeaways that she shares.

Cecile Richards is a seasoned activist who is not one to rest on her past successes. After founding and leading the Texas Freedom Alliance, she founded America Votes in 2004, the largest umbrella organization in the US for progressive grassroots groups involved in voter education, registration, and turnout. Richards learned many valuable lessons about organizing from setting up and running this organization.

One of Richards’ biggest lessons is to start small and set achievable goals. For instance, at the Texas Freedom Network, she aimed to raise enough money in the first three months to hire an assistant and pay her salary. Another key takeaway is not being afraid to ask for funds. It’s not just about the money, but asking for funds is a crucial test of the viability of one’s concept.

Organizing is about building a community, and Richards believes that it’s essential to remember the power of solidarity to achieve more collectively. She cites Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care to 2.4 million women across the US, as an example. Richards also urges organizers to learn the rules of organizing. This includes giving everyone, regardless of experience, a voice and listening to them. She also stresses the importance of giving participants meaningful things to do once they leave.

Finally, Richards advises organizers to pay attention to small details that can make a big difference. This includes providing food, printing name tags, and respecting people’s time by starting and finishing meetings and events on time. By following these principles, it’s possible to build a powerful and effective grassroots movement.

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