Spare Change

By Martha Coakley, Massachusetts Attorney General (2007-15), Middlesex County District Attorney (1999-2007) and IOP 2015 Spring Fellow

Just as I was planning my study group this Spring to encourage students to think about ways to make change, a young woman walks into my office. She is on a mission, because she believes that the Massachusetts law regarding forensic evidence in assault cases is outdated and unfair to her and others. She wants to change it. She has spoken to advocates, legislators, and filed a bill. But it is HER voice -- her story about the unfairness that affected her -- that will make her a champion.

She is willing to devote time and energy to something she really cares about, and is using tools available to try to make that happen. Brava! I am encouraged that change and progress might have a future.

At a time when Washington seems gridlocked if not totally broken, and just as our economy is turning around, I worry that too many people will be left out of the rebound.

Another young man, a dentist, walks into my office with a great idea: why can't we use technology to provide better tele-health care to those in Western Massachusetts, or another, poorer state where young kids who need preventative care don't get it? I am impressed by his dedication to attack a problem that we can and should.

Such problems are often ignored by either government or the private sector and fall through the cracks of the non-profit world. His is a desire to give back as he believes he and his family have prospered in this country. Bravo! A good idea needs a push sometimes.

It is not easy work to identify AND implement good public policy. Environment? Work to do. Income inequality? Ditto. Providing good public education? ...Fairer criminal justice?...Continuing to move civil rights to the right side of history? ... Sign-on up....!

Legislative changes can be powerful but only if supported and funded. Grassroots can empower voters and others to get engaged and be heard. The Courts can provide access for change in many areas, whether it be education or marriage equality.

But change and progress don't happen in a vacuum, not without leaders and those willing to follow and support. There's the challenge.

Young people, can you spare a dime?

testPromoTitleReplace testPromoDekReplace Join HuffPost Today! No thanks.