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Leslie Cagan: co-founder of United for peace and justice.

In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, Leslie Cagan was instrumental in organizing the coalition of progressive groups known as United for Peace and Justice, which has since been at the forefront of the anti-war movement. She has been the national coordinator of UFPJ for the past three years. I spoke to Cagan at her office in New York City in May.

Q: As a teenager in the 1960s, you were involved early in progressive political action. How did that come about?

Cagan: I was fortunate to grow up in an activist family. Some of my earliest memories are of going to demonstrations with my parents. It was part of the air I was breathing, and just by accident of birth, I happened to hit my maturity at the height of the '60s, so it was very natural. It would have been strange if I hadn't become an activist in that climate.

Q: How would you compare the movement against the Vietnam War with the present movement against the war in Iraq?

Cagan: Vietnam escalated much more slowly, and it took years for people in this country to even become aware that a war was going on. Now we have access to much more information through the Internet and alternative media. So even before the war started we had demonstrations of over 500,000.

Q: What is the main obstacle the peace movement faces in organizing today?

Cagan: The widespread sense that there's nothing people can do about the things they see wrong, that their contribution won't make any difference--even if they're working with others--because the forces that we're up against are so massive, so powerful.

Q: And so what gives you reason for hope?

Cagan: Knowing a little bit about those moments in history where people overcame what must have seemed like insurmountable odds. Knowing that other people have done it. The other thing, beyond hope, is that I know too much to not do anything. That would drive me crazy. How can you watch the news and hear about all that's wrong in the world and not intervene?
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Author:Arike, Ando
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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