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Third Act is up and running. A few of you—the early adopters—signed up when word of our plans leaked out a month ago—ever since we’ve been working overtime to build out our structure. Many more of you have joined in recent days as the LA Times wrote about what we’re trying to do. Overall, the reaction has been overwhelming: there are many thousands of us already, and that number growing by the hour. Are we fighting to keep up with the enthusiasm? We are—but it’s been fun. (Send the new website around to friends!)

From now on we’ll be in regular communication.

You’ll get an email from us every two weeks at a minimum, because we’re not just building an organization, we’re trying to build a movement, one with its own culture. Which you can only do when you talk back and forth, regularly. This is Number One—collect ‘em all.

There’s a couple of people you need to meet right away. One is Vanessa Arcara, who’s going to be President of this operation. I’ve worked with her forever; she’s beyond competent, and she’s also got a good heart.

The other is Akaya Windwood, former and longtime President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute—she knows as much about movement-building as anyone I’ve ever met, and she’s going to be Lead Advisor for this project.

Next, there are two early campaigns to know about and help with:

  1. Climate Change – Young people have asked us to back them up this year as they take on the big banks—Chase and Citi especially—that fund the dirty, polluting fossil fuel industry. Their first day of action is only a couple of weeks away on October 29. Save the date for joining an action at a bank branch, writing and calling bank CEOs, and learning about how to stop investments in climate-destroying fossil fuels and using your own wealth to advance climate solutions. We may not be fully engaged, but we’ll have some actions scattered across the country. Details here.
  2. Voting Rights – It’s possible that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may be the most important law Congress passed in our lifetimes, so we are horrified to watch the right to vote being suppressed and eroded in many places. Much of the work will be rolled out state by state—but we have one request of everyone. Could you use this form to send us a story of the first time you voted, or of some time you voted in your life that really mattered to you? We know some of you grew up in places where the color of your skin meant you couldn’t vote, and that others immigrated here from places without elections; all of you have stories, which apparently some of our leaders need to hear. If you send them to us, we’ll figure out how to turn them into peaceful ammunition.

Again, you’re going to hear from Third Act regularly.

And here’s a little warning—be on the lookout for an email connecting you up with others based on your location, and also based on what you told us about your life’s work or passion. (We want Third Act Phoenix and Third Act Ohio but also Third Act Lawyers or Musicians or People of Faith or Teachers, or any other groupings that let you bring lifetimes of expertise to bear). If you signed up early, we may not have that information for you, so you can bring us up to speed here. We’re exceptionally grateful to Bob Fulkerson, Anna Goldstein, Veronique Graham, and a host of local leaders who are helping build out that infrastructure.

This communication works two ways. Feel free to respond with ideas or gentle critique, to donate to help support the work, and to encourage us onward together!

With great affection,

Bill McKibben for Third Act

PS: One thing we’re ever more aware of: Americans over the age of 60 have a lot in common, but their lives also span a huge amount of history. Our oldest supporter we know about so far is the great Norman Lear (see his video here) who is in his 100th year—which is to say, 40 years older than our newest members. So part of our task in building a Third Act is to celebrate that long span. One way is with music, which really does cross time. Let’s start with 1959—that’s about the year someone in the exact middle of our Third Act age group would have graduated high school. (People’s musical tastes, it turns out, are formed with surprising strength in their teen years). Each letter from now on we’ll work one year backward and one forward, with a song you might have heard that year at prom.

So let’s look at the charts for 1959—and let’s bear in mind that in 1959 music, like many things in America, was pretty segregated: there were the pop charts (Bobby Darin, Mack the Knife) and the R&B charts (James Brown, Try Me, which hit #1 in February). But there was one song that crossed over in both directions: The great Lloyd Price, who died in May of this year at the age of 88, singing Personality. And in the chorus he asks our kind of question: “Over and over, What more can I do?”

Next time: 1960 and 1958—send suggestions!