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Anthems of Change

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Many years ago, in a class on the English Epic as a literary genre, one of my professors asked: 'What is an anthem?' We all struggled to come up with definitions of an anthem, as in the national anthem of a country. We thought that an anthem was a song set to music commissioned by the leaders of the country and declared to be the national anthem. He said that was not the case. He explained that a song simply acquires the status of an anthem over time. His definition, and I still remember it clearly, is as follows: 'An anthem is one man's song that strikes a responsive chord in the minds of millions of others.'

Successful social and political change initiatives are like anthems. Majorities don't suddenly decide to bring about change. Every successful cause starts out as a minority enthusiasm. The trick is to bring majority opinion to your side. To do that you have to understand how public opinion works, especially how it works in your environment, what shapes it, what transforms it. That is why the public arena in all nations is filled with the clang and clamor of advocacy. All manner of groups and entities are seeking to build support for their issues and causes. The aim is to shape public opinion.

Efforts to improve the quality of governance in different countries have the same need. Having public opinion on your side helps the process of social and political change. Having public opinion firmly against you hurts that process; for, even if you manage to introduce the reform it will be as fragile as the morning dew. It is another reason why change agents everywhere need to be astute students of public opinion. It is a critical force in public affairs. If you have successful or instructive examples to share I would be delighted to receive them.

So long!

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