It’s so easy to get discouraged when you want change, but it won’t come. You get numb. You get mad. You give up. You whine. You mobilize. You hit your head against a wall. You’re the messenger who gets shot. You get cynical. You feel guilty. You get sick and tired of being sick and tired.
And then there is a week like this one past. Wow!
- 16 million people have health insurance who did not have it before. And the Supreme Court approved its constitutionality.
- Our African-Kansan-American President gave a eulogy for the ages, as the confederate flags came down across the country.
- And the Supreme Court on Thursday held that gay people are entitled to marry, completing the progression of their legal status, as Justice Kennedy wrote, from being criminally liable, to socially outcast, to full citizens.
Maybe Obamacare is not the most efficient. Maybe the downfall of the confederate flag is mainly symbolic. Maybe the country wasn’t fully ready to give gays these rights, and maybe it should have come from the people and/or the legislature. But who can argue with the fact that millions have real care and aren’t waiting until they need an emergency room? Who can argue with the fact that African Americans (and all who care about them) no longer will have to see in the most cherished of public spaces a symbol of a war fought to keep them as property? Who can begrudge loving spouses — and their children — from a full public recognition of their love and vows? What an awesome week for human rights!
These stories stand, of course, in the shadow of continued resistance to Obamacare, to gay marriage, and in the horrific light of the massacre of nine worshippers in Mother Messiah AME Church in Charleston, SC.
Here are my takeaways:
1. Everyday leaders led in all these cases. Political leaders did not come up with the rainbow symbol. Corporate leaders did not come up with the Human Rights Campaign. Charitable foundation presidents did not create a(nother wave of the) movement that insisted “black lives matter.” These changes did NOT come from magic wands and wizards. They came from people talking, listening, demonstrating, and asking, “What does it mean to be human. . . and Black . . . and gay . . . and needing medical coverage in the richest country in world history?”
2. Everyday leaders are still in great demand — especially when it comes to race in America. My friend Kevin Fong is one such leader. Kevin has been writing thoughtfully after Trayvon, Freddie Gray, and Charleston. He asked in a blog last week, “How would you respond if the act of domestic terrorism that occurred in Charleston happened in your own place of worship or community gathering?” What IF they came after the Irish, the Jews, the disabled, the Catholics, the women, the Latinos?
3. Empathize. Act. Don’t get mad, numb, whine, hit your head against the wall, give up. Empathize and act. Jennifer and I bought a lifetime membership to the NAACP last week. We’re recommitted.
Last week was a great week, where millions and millions of small acts of everyday leaders yielded HISTORIC changes. “Never doubt,” as the sociologist Margaret Mead famously wrote, “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Lead with your best self!