Most people would agree that engaged citizens are essential to a healthy democracy. But what does it mean to be a good citizen, and how do citizens learn to use their power to make change? This lesson invites students to reflect on those important questions using the work of Eric Liu, the founder and CEO of Citizen University. As a “civic entrepreneur,” Liu helps Americans cultivate the values, knowledge, and skills of effective citizenship.
In his new book, You're More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen's Guide to Making Change Happen, Liu argues that literacy in power is essential to making democracy work. He writes, “the reimagining of civics as the teaching and learning of power is so necessary . . . If you don’t learn how to practice power, someone else will do it for you—in your name, on your turf, with your voice, and often against your interests.” In this lesson, we explore these ideas about citizenship, power, and responsibility by listening to and discussing a podcast featuring an interview with Eric Liu. Then, students watch a short animated video that illustrates Liu’s ideas about the steps that turn protest into lasting change. Finally, students deepen their understanding of citizen power by creating images or, in an optional extension, applying Liu’s ideas to key moments in the US civil rights movement.