FROM READERS: Family history of activism, rallying against oppression fuels political passion

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | 7:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:12 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Some mid-Missourians say they feel like being involved in politics is critically important. To find out what drives them, we're asking people about their political motivation and involvement. We will be periodically posting responses in our From Readers section.

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Here's the latest response in the series. It's from Aline Kultgen, pictured below. Kultgen is the civil liberties co-chair for the League of Women Voters of Columbia.

You could say that I learned to be politically motivated genetically. I was born in France on the eve of World War II. My parents were both immigrants — my father from Palestine and my mother from the Ukraine, both Jewish. They came to France to study, and they became citizens of France. My mother died due to an illness just as the Germans were invading France.

After the Germans occupied his country, my father took an active part in the Resistance and because of it was arrested and murdered by the Gestapo and its collaborators in 1944.

My paternal aunt and uncle adopted me and decided to immigrate to the United States after the war. They too had been active in the Resistance, and they became American citizens as soon as they could and good left wing Democrats thereafter.

Political issues were discussed in our home all of the time as I was growing up, and the lessons of World War II were not forgotten. The body politic needs to be alert and educated and involved. We all need to stand by our convictions and act on them to the best of our ability, to have tolerance for people from different points of views and different religions and ethnicities and try to work together to make a better world for everyone.

As soon as I was able to afford it, I began contributing to Amnesty International. I did this in tribute to my father because I wanted to do my little bit to prevent injustice and human rights abuses everywhere in the world. I think his life and his commitment to justice and the fact that he died for these ideals have always been key in my life and in how I conduct myself and in my political convictions.

I went to the University of California in Berkeley just as the student protest movement of the late '50s was starting along with the civil rights struggle, and I was involved in what preceded the Free Speech movement there. When I graduated I worked for a civil rights organization in Minneapolis that was trying to integrate residential neighborhoods. Through my years as a social worker and teacher and as a parent, I always took part in the political process and was involved in canvassing and supporting the political candidates that best expressed my convictions. My now adult son remembers going canvassing with me for George McGovern in 1972 when we had just moved to Columbia. Neither of us could believe that people could choose Nixon over him.

I went back to France in 2004 to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on the Holocaust in France to learn more about that period and indirectly more about my father. Since then I have made it my mission to talk and teach about the Holocaust in the hope that we can learn to avoid such genocides in the future.

I am fully aware that genocides are still going on, and I am often discouraged that we haven't yet learned that lesson. But certainly if my father could keep fighting for what he believed in the face of German occupation, I can't give up either. I can continue to be witness to what I experienced during the Holocaust and presently do all I can to support Barack Obama's vision for our country as opposed to Mitt Romney's mendacious self-serving vision and to urge Obama when he is re-elected to bring an end to our wars and reinstate some of our lost civil liberties. I still hope that if many of us commit ourselves in this way, we can eventually pull it together and have a better, more just world.


We want to hear what you have to say. Please send us your motivations for being politically involved by filling out the form below or emailing us your response to We're looking for a diverse set of answers — long or short, broad or specific — from people of all political persuasions. If there's someone you'd like to hear from, let us know or forward the invitation along.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising Editor Joy Mayer.

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