Advocacy Groups and the Entertainment Industry

By Michael Suman; Gabriel Rossman | Go to book overview

2
Principles for Effective Advocacy from the Founder of Action for Children's Television

Peggy Charren

When I think back to how I got to be who I am, I am reminded of something John Kennedy said when asked how he became a hero. He replied, "It was involuntary. They sank my boat!"

My career as a child advocate was also largely involuntary. I started Action for Children's Television (ACT) because I couldn't find adequate daycare after my second daughter was born. I decided to close my small business running children's book fairs until after my children started school. During this hiatus I began ACT as a volunteer effort in my living room, and it grew and grew. . . . And now it's 30 years later, and my grandchildren have started school, and I'm still talking about children's television.

From my over 30 years' experience, what can I tell you about being an advocate? First of all, an advocate should be able to articulate a particular set of values, to encourage others to adopt those values, and to take action based on them. Of course, different advocates are motivated by different values.

So where did my values come from? First of all, they came from my mom and dad. The most important gift I received from my parents was a sense that one can go out and fix how the world works. They were Roosevelt Democrats who talked to me about the power of the ballot box. They also told me about prejudice, discrimination, and the rights of people of color--and this was before the civil rights movement. They sent me to camp where I didn't do too well at soccer but managed to learn just about every labor song. To this day I can recite the words to Pete Seeger Talking Union." Because of my parents' influence, I don't remember a time when I wasn't concerned about the rights of others. It started young for me, and it stuck.

In school I learned about constitutional values and rights, particularly the importance of free speech in a democracy, the right to speak and to be heard. This turned out to be a bedrock principle underlying my efforts to get more TV choices for children and to fight censorship as a solution to children's TV problems. In

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