Every Day Leading After an Amazing Week

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!



  • Dan, your exactly right about the wave coming from the people, and there are literally thousands of leaders at every level that help these waves to build in our consciousness. It sometimes seems as if the wave became large suddenly, but it had been building for a long time. Some of those publically riding the wave now, have been with it all along and some are surfing on it now, so they don’t wind up under it. So it goes through history.

  • Dan – thank you so much for such an inspiring piece to keep us moving in the right directions! And I am so happy to hear it come from a devout Christian. I am so tired of hearing that religion gets in the way of change – for me, religion IS the way to these types of changes. But I suppose that complicated debate is for another day! Thanks again.

  • Re. the recent Supreme Court decision on Obamacare – to be sure, the court ruled on the intent not the letter of the law. Thank goodness! We’ve become far too litigious a society with 1000-page laws that people don’t have time to read. Rather than encourage more laws with more fine print, Congress should limit their number and length, and see to it that the exec branch doesn’t weigh them down with excessive regulations. Remember, the 1862 Land Grant College Act was only five pages yet set the tone ever since for American higher education .

    Conservatives should embrace this SCOTUS decision, not rail against it. As for Obamacare, the U.S. can do better–too expensive, too little choice and not enough accommodation for alternative care for chronic complex illnesses. But SCOTUS’ decision based on Congressional intent was the right one. Now if Congress could just pass fewer shorter laws and leave less room for stifling regulations, we’d all be better off.

  • Wow, indeed, Dan. I think that this is the best column we’ve seen from you in a long time.

    I believe the quality of great leadership that often gets overlooked is quiet persistence. Noisy persistence certainly has its place too, but it was the quiet persistence of many people over time that helped push a few of those boulders over the edge last week.

    Continue to lead quietly, but with persistence.

  • How very true. Thank you for reminding us to never give up. Every small deed done for another matters.

  • Dan, thanks for a most thoughtful well presented essay. Like wise for providing an open doorway, that I believe indeed raised an additional thought or stream of conciseness on your part. “Who can begrudge loving spouses — and their children — from a full public recognition of their love and vows?” I will get back to this thread shortly, but history tells us the fate awaiting those who begrudge.

    Thinking back to JFK’s 1961 inaugural address provides a clue, “We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom—and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the BACK OF THE TIGER ended up inside.”

    Now back to your question, “Who can begrudge…” An ad hominem template of one who can begrudge is now ready for future historians to quote provided us in writing & authored by Justice Scalia.

    His referral of his SCOTUS colleagues as a “judicial putsch” is something I never thought I would ever read coming from someone in his position. Obviously, as an educated person you understand the absolute darkest historic period this term evokes. For not all who do, I suggest a goggle of clicks will get their heads shaking sadly from side to side.

    My take away shifts to a positive, for us to lead with our best when attempting to solve life’s tough mystery’s, always seek to critique the content of an argument and never stoop so low in our response to an argument by attacking another person’s character. This should be the first concept taught in business and law courses. Can you only imagine how uncomfortable his law clerk must have felt typing up his notes?

  • Great comments and analysis. Some weeks it is much more difficult to see positive change but last week was a good one.

  • This blog is so inspiring Dan! We are very fortunate to live during such a dynamic time as this, while each event in itself is earth shattering, I take personal joy in knowing that reasonable minds understanding the true meaning of Liberty! Thanks for sharing.

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