Fighting for Democracy:
Brendan’s Story

May 16, 2016

At Democracy Awakening in April, we were inspired and amazed by the people we met. They came from every corner of the country, representing hundreds of organizations and groups. They each brought their own passion and their own story to Washington, DC to rally to restore our democracy. Here’s one of their stories.

This issue is personal for Brendan. His grandmother, Gloria Riordan, now 92, was invited to the White House to witness President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965. She was a legislative director for the American Federation of Labor in the ‘60s and helped rally union support for the legislation. So when the Supreme Court gutted the VRA in 2013, for Brendan this was more than an awful decision, it was a tarnishing of his grandmother’s legacy.

Brendan Orsinger and grandmother Gloria Riordan

Perhaps that’s why he’d already been arrested for civil disobedience three times that week by the time we talked, and was actively planning arrest number four. He said he was inspired by the thousands of people who’d come to DC to repair our democracy, but his grandmother’s legacy of activism was never far from his thoughts. Before he was arrested the first time, his grandmother recorded a video cheering him on. Brendan laughed, “How many grandmothers send you a message right before you get arrested, saying ‘I'm so proud of you’? That was one of the highlights of my week so far.”

Brendan, his grandmother, and so many others know that much work remains to be done to repair our democracy. But something has shifted. Hope is in the air. Together we can get money out of politics, restore the VRA, and return power in this country to the people—where it belongs. 


Correction: The video states that Gloria Riordan was a legislative director for the AFL in the 1960's, but she was actually a legislative representative for the IUE, an AFL-CIO union, and lobbied for the VRA. 



Democracy Awakening events organizer at All Souls Church

Washington, DC

Brendan Orsinger isn’t your typical young person in DC. He was aware early on of his grandmother’s voting rights activism and legacy, and today seems more determined than ever to follow in her footsteps.

Whether you care about the environment, racial equity, LGBT rights, or anything else, Brendan told us, “they're all slowed, stalled, or completely stopped from any progress because of money in politics. We don’t have a voice because money talks and politicians listen to their contributors more than they do their constituents.” Between big money and voter suppression efforts, ordinary people are being shut out of our democracy.