After studying the history of the Holocaust, people often wonder how they can help bring about a more humane, just, compassionate world and a more democratic society. This chapter provides examples of individuals and groups who have chosen to speak out or take action to help achieve these goals. These stories encourage us to think about the ways we can participate as caring, thoughtful citizens in the world around us.

Essential Questions

  • What must individuals do and value in order to bring about a more humane, just, and compassionate world and a more democratic society?
  • How do we determine the most effective way to make a difference in our neighborhoods, our nations, and the world? Which strategies are best for bringing about the changes we want to see?
  • What does democracy need in order to survive? What tools do others use to sustain, maintain, and strengthen democracy?
  • How does learning about history educate us about our responsibilities today?



Before you explore our readings on civic participation, get familiar with the chapter’s central themes and concepts.

Reading 1 of 14

What Difference Can a Word Make?

Consider the power that words have to influence people to act on behalf of others.

Reading 2 of 14
Bullying & Ostracism

Bullying at School

Learn about some responses to school bullying and reflect on the power students have to make positive changes in their own school communities.

Reading 3 of 14
Antisemitism & Religious Intolerance

Not in Our Town

Learn about how the residents of Billings, Montana, responded to a wave of racist and antisemitic violence in their town.

Reading 4 of 14
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Voices of Millions

Learn about the advent of online activism and consider the internet's impact on civic participation.

Reading 5 of 14
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Open-Source Participation

Learn about how bloggers and activists in Kenya used technology to respond to violence after a contested election in 2008.

Reading 6 of 14
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Not Just Awareness, But Action

Read President Barack Obama’s commencement address at Howard University from 2016 about his vision of civic participation and the duties of citizenship.

Reading 7 of 14
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Mayor Mockus

Learn about the innovative programs that Bogotá mayor Antanas Mocus instituted to make improvements to the city, and reflect on the ways that change can be made in a society.

Reading 8 of 14
Genocide & Mass Violence

Finding a Voice in Art

Explore how Chilean women used folk art to heal and advocate for justice in the wake of human rights abuses by General Pinochet’s dictatorship. 

Reading 9 of 14
Justice & Human Rights

Seeking a Strategy that Works

Learn about the Pakistani activist Khalida Brohi and the strategies that she employed to improve the lives of women and girls throughout her country.

Reading 10 of 14
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Believing in Others

Learn about the challenges and successes one woman encountered in her efforts to make a difference.

Reading 11 of 14
Race in US History

Breaking Isolation

Reading 12 of 14
Race in US History

Acknowledging the Past to Shape the Present

Learn about two initiatives aimed at confronting past violence and reflect on how facing the past can help shape a better future.

Reading 13 of 14
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Who We Are, Or Could Be, in Times of Crisis

Historian and activist Rebecca Solnit writes about people’s responses to disasters and the human capacity to do good.

Reading 14 of 14
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Walking with the Wind

Congressman and activist John Lewis describes his vision of how we can work together to strengthen our communities and make a better world.

Analysis & Reflection

Analysis & Reflection

Enhance your students’ understanding of our readings on civic participation with these follow-up questions and prompts.

Get Our Companion Unit: Teaching Holocaust and Human Behavior

Lead your middle and high school students through a thorough examination of the history of the Holocaust. Over the course of the unit, students will learn to:

  • Craft an argumentative essay
  • Explore primary sources, videos, and readings that lead them through an in-depth study of the Holocaust
  • Recognize the societal consequences of "we" and "they" thinking
  • Understand the historical context in which the Nazi party rose to power and committed genocide

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