Mary Alice Shemo at a meeting of People for Positive Action.
PLATTSBURGH — Mary Alice Shemo can trace her roots back to the founding fathers.
She was raised to be proud of America.
But today, her country often confuses and infuriates her.
“Our founding fathers would turn over in their graves,” Shemo said.
That dismay became a catalyst, inspiring her to help form People for Positive Action, a small group of individuals who meet in Plattsburgh to give voice to their vision of America while shedding a light on injustice.
It started in a small spiritual space used on that occasion for nonviolent direct action training by MoveOn.org.
“We hosted the training, and Mona Dubay did the training,” Shemo said.
At the end of the seven-hour training, many people there felt a burning in their guts to continue. They wanted to use what they had learned.
“So we formed a group,” Shemo said.
They met again at the same spot, but this time in the basement.
The small gathering of less than a dozen was silent at first, until asked to outline “issues” they felt were important to focus on.
Suddenly, people talked about global warming, pollution, big money and politics, the banking system, medicare and social security, corruption, big oil and war, health care, education and more. Each topic was fueled by passions that burned just as bright as the one before and after them.
“A lot of people had a lot of issues with different groups,” Shemo said. “We struggled to get organized and pick a name.”
But they found their focus and began meeting weekly, eventually calling themselves People for Positive Action.
They researched and discussed an array of issues and participated in local actions, including delivering petitions to remove big money from politics, visiting local politicians, hosting rallies for environmental causes, supporting social security and medicare, and working with the League of Women Voters to register people to vote.
“University students are discouraged from registering here,” Shemo said.
As time passed, a few of the original members dropped out, but the resolve of those still committed only strengthened.
“I have been so disenchanted with the way things are going in the country, the corporate ownership of the media,” said Nancy Lewin. “I am tired of being angry.”
She had never joined such a group before and was curious about grassroots involvement.
“I am learning about democracy by the process.”
Shemo, who sometimes runs meeting feverishly, juggles all the topics and issues in her head, often jumping erratically from task to task and frustrating others in the group as she plows forward for answers and finalizations. But they understand her motives and know her commitment to justice.
She says the fire in her belly keeps her sharp.
The Citizens United Decision opened the door to corporate mischief, and social security is a victim of theft, she said in a single breath, touching on several more topics and gathering input from the rest of the group.
“We want to provide a platform for ordinary people to express where they stand and to try to have an impact on issues that affect us all,” Shemo said. “Operating under the name helps us to take a more positive approach.”
The group is planning many events in the future pertaining to issues such as Citizens United, Social Security, taxes, voter registration and more.
For more information on People for Positive Action, contact Shemo at 561-0291.