BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Ÿ These eight are special.
In turbulent economic times, they are among the finest Birmingham Southern College has to offer. And in turbulent political times, when many in their generation favor apathy over activism, they are eager to get to work Ÿ teaching, social work, some in politics.
Yet for all this idealism, something is sadly missing: They have no political heroes.
''I can't think of one,'' says Louisa Carlile, a political science and writing major. ''I don't have any,'' says Jason Pinyan, a recent political science graduate. ''It just seems foreign to me that a president could actually inspire people,'' says Michelle Bowen, a 1994 graduate training for social work.
In their lives, nothing much good has been said of government, either in Washington or the state capital in Montgomery all eight consider corrupt and blind to the state's education crisis.
Their sense that the system is rigged against them extends far beyond politics.
''We are resented in the work force by middle-aged people already feeling the pressure of competition and downsizing,'' says Pinyan. ''There is no way I am going to be where my parents are economically.''
''And what about OUR kids?'' says Bowen. ''Are they going to make less and have less than we are? I think our country is in a very scary situation.''
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Ap) Ÿ New resorts are changing the character of the Ozarks and the surrounding plateau but more often than not the towns are still anchored along the old railroad tracks.
This is conservative country, and a place where 28-year-old supermarket clerks like Dave Plemons can emerge as unlikely political powers.
His maps divide Springfield into six districts, with 3,300 homes marked by dots, phone numbers at hand. On a moment's notice, Plemons can saturate a community with literature, or a lawmaker with telephone calls.
In the old days, this might have been the local Democratic or Republican headquarters. Instead, it is the Springfield Right to Life Committee chapter; today's best organizers work around issues, and there is none more intense than abortion.
After years on the defensive, anti-abortion forces are making gains in the new Republican Congress. With little fanfare, this momentum has extended to the states: eight adopted new abortion restrictions this year.
Plemons is determined to make Missouri the ninth. In September, the legislature will try to override the governor's veto of a measure requiring women to receive counseling before an abortion.
His work highlights not only the evolution of political organizing but another critical transformation: a growing acceptance of incremental gains, such as ending federal funding of abortions or requiring parental notification.
''Many used to consider it immoral to accept anything short of outlawing abortion,'' says Mary Kay Culp, the Missouri Right to Life president. ''My view is that you can't throw a touchdown pass if there is nobody in the end zone to catch it. So why not stick to a steady ground game and see if you can't win more fans over along the way?''
COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. (AP) Ÿ Ground Zero in America's culture war sits 170 miles west of the Kansas border, where the prairie collides breathtakingly with the jagged, snow-capped Rockies.
Colorado Springs is home to some 40 Christian right ministries and organizations, including James Dobson's nationally potent ''Focus on the Family'' and Colorado for Family Values, the state group that spearheaded passage of a ban on laws protecting homosexuals from discrimination.
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