Peter Dreier on How Dr. Seuss and 99 Others Paved The Way For Today’s Progressive Policies

Derek Pugh

Dr. Seuss a Socialist?

Author Peter Dreier, addressing a packed auditorium midday on February 1 inside the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, asked, “Who here knew that by reading Dr. Seuss to your children you were spreading socialist propaganda?”

One woman in the audience proudly answered back, “That’s the only reason I read it to them!”

Theodor Geisel (a k a Dr. Seuss) is listed among the 100 great men and women featured in Dreier’s latest book, “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame.” These are people Dreier has singled out as having paved the way for modern-day progressive policies.

Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, introduced Dreier and the book by saying it is a great read, especially during our current political climate, and a useful tool for understanding our current political movement. Dreier, a lifelong liberal and historian, believes the radical ideas of the past are the common sense of the next generation.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “The arc of the moral universe is a long one, but it bends towards justice.” However, there have to be individuals who do the bending. Dreier divides these “great Americans” into three categories of influence in his book: organizers and activists; politicians and Supreme Court justices; and thinkers, writers, and artists.

Many of Dr. Seuss’ books have political undertones that teach children to stand up for themselves and treat others fairly. Dreier proceeded to quote Yertle the Turtle, one of my personal favorites: “Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain, but down here below, we are feeling great pain. I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.” Soon after, the turtle at the bottom of the pile burps, causing everyone to tumble down into the pond and be equal. All the other turtles then realize that Yertle, a depiction of Hitler, is no better than they are and refuses from then on to participate in a fascist society.

Another one of my favorite individuals featured in the book is Helen Keller. Most have an image of Keller as a 7-year old girl playing with a water pump and do not remember much about her life legacy. Keller grew up to be a diehard socialist, and one could argue the mother of the disability rights movement. Eleanor Roosevelt is also mentioned for being FDR’s conscience.

Everyone mentioned in the book are heroes, but Dreier pointed out in his talk that not all are saints. These individuals should not be placed on a pedestal; they are normal people and have their flaws. But these individuals earned distinction for being passionate about justice and doing what was right.

The time has come for another New Deal. Progressives still possess the same elements of these amazing 100 individuals, and if the movement remembers that, victories can be secured in the upcoming political debates.


Purchase “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame” through this link and a portion of the proceeds will support the Campaign for America’s Future. See our selection of other progressive books in the OurFuture.org Bookstore.

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