“People are hungry for a place to talk about their deep dislike for what’s being done to them, economically and socially,” Mark McDermott, inspirational speaker and lifetime justice activist, noted during his presentation Saturday, Oct. 11 at the Tacoma Public Library.
McDermott, who has held many governmental jobs and participated in labor unions and other community organizations, has spent the past three and a half years of his retirement traveling the nation to educate people on a crucial topic: the restoration of the American Dream.
Although the UW Tacoma Office of Equity and Diversity supported the event, the number of students present was severely lacking. The majority of the population that attended were community members who had been notified through Facebook or the RAD (Tacoma’s Restore the American Dream group).
“When I look around the room I see about 50 to 60 percent old white people. We need to think about how we’re going to broaden the awareness of this to those who really need help,” an audience member said during the Q&A session following McDermott’s speech.
When McDermott asked who in the room had felt slighted by corporations in some way—whether due to outrageous debt, discrimination or underpayment—everyone’s hands raised in unison. Betrayed, angry, distressed, concerned, cynical, exploited, motivated; these words came from the community members in response.
McDermott’s presentation addressed the progress that has been made in society, such as the civil rights movement, but also declared that this is only the beginning.
“Our history has been stolen from us. The job is not done. But by God we had big wins!” McDermott said. “We are moving in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.”
For McDermott, the abolition of class systems as stand today, with wealthy ruling over poor, should be the next dream. It may be inconceivable in the current society, but McDermott does not let that stop him: “In the 1950s it was inconceivable that blacks would have the right to vote. It was inconceivable that we would have marriage equality,” McDermott said.
Although he did not have as many challenges as others (as a white, middle class male), McDermott felt slighted when he was suddenly let go from a job due to his involvement in a union. Now he fights for labor union rights, and overall fights for the younger generation, including his grandson, to have a fair economic future.
“The question we should be asking is ‘how do we get unions to discuss workers owning the companies?” McDermott said.
This dream for equal opportunities spans not only across the nation, but across the globe, according to McDermott, whose American Dream “says people all over the world are sisters and brothers. I want peace on the entire planet.”
The event, lasting from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., received grateful responses from the community of Tacoma.
“Although Mark McDermott speaks eloquently for everyone, he is only beginning the conversation for our community,” Deborah Allen, member of the Tacoma RAD, said. “We are hoping that members of other minority groups will step forward to give their perspective and speak for groups with other points of view.”
The RAD is planning another event for February of 2015, and hopes to bring awareness to a much larger, more diverse population.