Preparing for a career in medicine, Eric Tien spent a few months working in an emergency medical environment in Baltimore, one of the cities worst hit by the opioid epidemic. On the front lines of addiction treatment, Eric soon became disillusioned, realizing the work was an endless cycle of stabilizing overdose patients, offering rehabilitation services, being rejected, and treating those same patients for overdoses again later that week.
“It felt like medicine was charged with the impossible task of healing generations of oppression and trauma, which has been organized and perpetuated by the ruling class, and it was time for me to bring the fight to the politicians,” Tien says.
Tired of treating the symptoms of a broken democracy, Tien instead wanted to tackle its fundamental cause: political corruption. He has since dedicated his time to activism, including the Democracy911 event last month outside the U.S. Capitol, a protest to demand an end to political corruption. This demonstration was coordinated by Renaldo Pearson, director of external affairs at RepresentUs, as a 600-mile walk from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., culminating on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building. Tien joined him for 131 miles of the walk.
“To function as a real democracy we need new laws that protect our rights to vote, ensure secure and competitive elections, and end political corruption. Any other cause is moot until this is fixed,” Tien says.
Restoring citizen power in democracy is at the heart of the Democracy911 platform to #FixDemocracyFirst. The D.C. demonstration included demands that “all presidential candidates pledge to address comprehensive democracy reform in the first 100 days of their administration” so that “the U.S. Senate passes a bipartisan alternative to HR 1 (the For the People Act) implementing three reforms: protect our right to vote, make elections secure and competitive, and end political corruption (including campaign finance reform).”
American Promise supports democracy-driven, grassroots events like Democracy911. These powerful demonstrations by “We the People” are instrumental in bringing citizens together to demand change and reclaim their voice in government. American Promise President Jeff Clements joined the Democracy911 walk for its last mile in a show of solidarity with its mission and citizen leaders like Tien.
“There is unfathomable suffering around the world and instead of helping to solve our issues, our leaders exacerbate the situation,” Tien says. “Their greed … makes me furious, and while the walk was a good first step, I am not even close to satisfied. Further escalation and mass civil disobedience is critically necessary for the safety of our planet.”
Tien is determined to take action against political corruption. By elevating his call for democracy reform, he hopes to encourage others to call for an end to the economic influence of wealthy corporations and lobbyists in policymaking.
“If you are reading this, you are in a privileged position,” Tien says. “The lives of billions depend on us, and if we do not act now while we have the chance, then we are partly to blame for what is to come.”
Pearson and Tien will both join other citizen leaders from across the nation at the National Citizen Leadership Conference in October, where Americans of all political backgrounds will gather to share inspiration, information and knowledge to fuel our movement for the coming year. Learn more about the event here.