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How to understand power - Eric Liu


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Every day, we move and operate within systems of power that other people have constructed. But we’re often uncomfortable talking about power. Why? Eric Liu describes the six sources of power and explains how understanding them is key to being an effective citizen.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Watch Eric Liu talk more about these ideas in his TED talk, “Why ordinary people need to understand power.” Interested in what power really is, who has it and why? Take a look at Citizen University, watch some great presentations about various topics at Citizens University on YouTube, and consider attending the next conference. Watch this introduction by the Citizen University founder Eric Liu. In which direction would you like to push your country?

What would a citizenship agenda look like? How can we revitalize citizenship for every person in America? Read these articles: We Need A Path To Citizenship for All Americans, Not Just immigrants and Why Civics Class Should Be Sexy by Eric Liu and find out. How can we “Americanize” the current curriculum in schools to envelope these ideals? Ask you global studies teachers about their ideals and how the current situation can be changed for the better. Find your voice. Ask for changes.

Is being a good citizen important to you? What have you learned about citizenship in school? Read this TIME article: Can We Teach Kids to Be Good Citizens? Get some new ideas! What would a civics curriculum look like? Here are some ideas from Stanford Center on Adolescence. How does your school compare? Has your schooling taught you to be both a good student and a good citizen? If you really want to take this idea to another level, plan a Sworn Again America Ceremony! Follow some of the ideas presented in this TED Ed lesson and inspire a group of people to get involved with you.

What is patriotism? Does the word make you uncomfortable? What does it mean to you? Read this article and find the three components of citizenship. Then, watch as Eric Liu talks about his speechwriting experience for President Clinton, how to ”show-up,” and get involved locally. Have you ever been involved or wanted to be involved in a community concern? Become something other than a spectator!

Who Will “Us” Be? Watch this video from the Aspen Ideas Festival and think about, “How you are American.” What is your story? What is your family’s story? Do you know your neighbor’s story? Have you ever asked? Watch Eric Liu’s interview about his book, “ A Chinaman’s Choice.” Find out his story.

For more on this educator and author follow him on Twitter: @ericpliu or visit the Guiding Lights Network.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Eric Liu
  • Director Robertino Zambrano
  • Animator Alastair Sew Hoy, Derek Lau
  • Composer Adam Alexander, John Romeo
  • Sound Designer Marco Velasco
  • Sound Mastering Nick Lynar
  • Narrator Eric Liu

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