Let Us Change The World!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~ Nelson Mandela

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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

~ Nelson Mandela

Courage and hope are greatly admired human attributes that were featured in the last post in this series, “Hope… Is It Enough?” It was inspired by words spoken by the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama when she urged young South African women leaders to give voice and form to these attributes because they will be caught and spread.

We live in a world that is significantly different from the one that existed when Michelle Obama spoke in South Africa in 2011. Political circumstances have changed at the highest levels leaving faith in democratic systems and capitalistic economies fractured. Uncertainty now rules and that instills fear for our collective future as citizens of this planet.

Two police officers dragging a young protester away.
Protest and violence (Courtesy of Pixabay)

The news services herald the latest outrageous threats and insults hurled by political leaders at each other – each one claiming to own the truth. Social media has become the battleground as venomous volleys are loosed each day on Twitter and rebroadcast by news networks around the globe. Where are the standards of decency, honesty, and respect? They seem to be disappearing rapidly and many are predicting doom for mankind, which is admittedly unnerving.

Trump's hair with caption: Do we get the leaders we deserve?
(Courtesy of Pixabay)

Although I am retired, it is the teacher in me that was moved by the words of Nelson Mandela, spoken to high school students in Boston in 1990, quoted above. The context of the words he used was his concern that so many young people were dropping out of school. I believe his words apply to each of us who are fearful, disappointed, hurt, and in desperate need of change. The path of division, intolerance, and hate leads to a horrifying place that none of us wants to visit.

A teacher in the woods teaching a young boy.
Teach wherever you are. (Courtesy of Pixabay)

I am a student of history and I have learned about the great deeds men and women accomplished as well as the horrible atrocities visited upon innocent victims. Human nature is characterized by the duality of good and evil. It is my conclusion that humans exhibit their very best face when they act in hope and courage, in the face of fear, to help others. Modeling the attributes of hope and courage in our daily lives will help to inspire others, but Mandela believes that education is the best weapon to bring about the change we crave as humanity seems to be teetering on the edge of a terrifying chasm.

What inspires hope in my heart when considering Mandela’s assertion is that each one of us is a teacher. Some of us teach formal lessons in an educational setting. All of us teach informally every time we interact with other persons – in our families, among our circles of friends, in our places of employment, and in public while shopping, running errands, or enjoying leisure activities. Some of us are parents raising children – teaching them the most important lessons in life. Those kids watch every move we make, listen to every word we speak, and consider every decision we make. What attributes are we modeling every day?

Many suggest that our democracies are fractured and create disharmony in societies that desperately need unity of spirit and purpose. We point to leaders who listen only to the voices of special interests and in so doing, ignore the well-being of the majority. The concept of the common good seems to have been lost. As I ruminate on this sad reality, the thought occurs to me that it isn’t just the leaders who have lost their way in our free and democratic societies.

Have we, the citizens, lost our way as well? On election day, do we vote? If we do, are the votes we cast informed choices? Are we familiar with the issues at stake? Most importantly, do the issues touted by political parties and candidates have anything to do with the common good? Am I willing to vote for a party which will increase my taxes so that there can be a fairer distribution of wealth in society? If I say that the leaders don’t care about the common good, then it is most probably because we the citizens don’t care.

Profile of a human head with a light switch and a caption: Think before you vote.

With the educational technology readily available in most homes today, there is no good excuse for not educating ourselves. If we’d rather waste hours watching entertaining programming on TV, then we are part of the problem and have no right to point fingers of blame at anyone else. Our example is being noted and learned by the youngsters in our homes. Words spoken thoughtlessly are heard and then mimicked. If we really want change we need to clean up our own acts and live appropriately so that others may learn from our teaching. The education we provide will be a powerful agent of change.

We teach by our words and our deeds. Together, let us change the world!

Hope… Is It Enough?

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” ~ Michelle Obama, 2011

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

~ Michelle Obama

It may be an understatement that we live in very troubled times. I know from my study of history and my daily history blog, “John’s Believe It Or Not,” that every era has had its troubles, yet the present seems especially fearful. The fact that the leader of the free world exacerbates the issues plaguing humanity gives one pause. How can there be hope for progress and a better future when a narcissistic megalomaniac has been allowed to run amok in the White House? Continue reading “Hope… Is It Enough?”

The Price of Silence

Martin Luther King Jr. Donald Trump. Charlottesville Protest. Silence in the face of evil. Responsibilities of citizens

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

In an earlier post, “Indifference Is the Enemy”I reflected upon the issues of love, hate, and indifference. The quote above, by Martin Luther King Jr., is focused on the same idea. These words are relevant at any time, in any age, but they have taken on a new urgency today.

The events last week in Charlottesville, Virginia, were shocking to many people, but not just to the targets of the alt-right groups who parade openly, without masks or hoods, in defiance of standards of behavior expected by mainstream society. Their violence and messages of hate were met by outrage and denunciations by many people in America and around the world, except for one.

Violence erupts at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia (CNN.com)
Violence erupts at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia (CNN.com)

King didn’t mince words in this quote and we will do well to heed them. He used the term ultimate tragedy to characterize the silence of good people in the face of evil. President Trump’s abject failure to denounce the violent tactics of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis protesting against the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville was unconscionable. In the face of the critical fallout from his statements, Trump refused to apologize and has remained defiant.

Trump’s election in November 2016, was met with surprise and dismay by many Americans and by people around the world. Opinion polls are suggesting that his support base is eroding badly – and has been since his Inauguration in January. Republicans in both houses of Congress are reassessing their support for a president who has been a national embarrassment.

President Trump with fist raised in defiance beside the American flag.
(Pixabay)

Pointing an accusatory finger at President Trump is too easy, and can be judged a cop-out. King’s words were not just aimed at leaders – but at all good men and women. Is it enough to disavow the violence and hatred of the alt-right groups? I don’t think so.

Most of us reading these words are voters in a democratic country and that means we are responsible for the government we have selected to maintain law and order and to protect us from external and internal threats. As citizens, we do not have the option of sitting on the sidelines, cheering our favorites and jeering the rest. We must be active and participate in political affairs – locally and nationally. Standing by in silence will have tragic consequences. We must vote, support our local candidates, urge others to do the same, and march peacefully to support the causes that serve the common good.

Some of us are writers and we have a digital soapbox or podium from which we speak. King urges us to speak with love in a non-violent way. Hate is not an inherent feature of human nature – it is learned. Every single one of us is a teacher. We instruct others by our words and by how we live. Being mindful of this truth, we need to use our talents to live lives in love with our brothers and sisters and turn our backs on violence.

We are all responsible for what happens in our society and in our world. The time for pointing fingers and throwing our hands up in despair is over. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no peanut gallery nor is there room for armchair experts to pontificate upon the woes of the world. We, you and me, are responsible individually and together for whatever befalls our society. The price of silence is too dear and it truly is the ultimate tragedy.

 

How Best To Define “Youth”?

Poem: Youth by Samuel Ullmann. Is my youth gone forever? Youth is a state of mind. Youthful dreams are fresh and exciting. I am a work in progress.

Typically, when writing posts in this series, I begin with a quote and then speculate about its meaning. But today I’ll present both of these aspects differently. Having reached that exalted threshold of senior citizenship, I must admit to experiencing many more aches, pains, and physical restrictions than I did even ten years ago. As a kid, I often wondered why older people always seemed cranky and had frowns or scowls on their faces. Now I understand – getting older means a lot of physical discomforts, so what’s to smile about? Continue reading “How Best To Define “Youth”?”

What Is A True Friend?

(Image: Courtesy of Pixabay)

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.”
~ Aristotle

“Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
~ Aristotle

Friendship is a reality that is tied to our need to be loved. Part of our socialization experience is to seek out friends that bring us many things within our comfort zone. In my last post, Anger: Is It Good?, I explored this powerful emotion which sometimes plays a part in the development and/or the breakdown of our friendships. In this post, I intend to explore the nature of that special friendship, the true friend, with the assistance of the great Greek thinker, Aristotle. Continue reading “What Is A True Friend?”

Anger: Is It Good?

(Image: Courtesy of Pixabay)

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.”
~ Maya Angelou

“Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

“Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.”
~ Mohandas Gandhi

“The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.”
~ Bede Jarrett

Clearly, my topic is anger. Today, as is our practice, my wife and I ate breakfast watching a morning TV news show, and the broadcast was riddled with horrific stories featuring outrageous behavior. Not good for the digestive process, you say? Perhaps, but if you are not totally desensitized by the daily bombardment of social violence, physical and otherwise, the reports will serve to raise your blood pressure. What would cause that, you ask? Good old fashioned anger is my response. Continue reading “Anger: Is It Good?”

What Price, Freedom?

(Image: Courtesy of Pixabay)

We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.

~ Barack Obama

President Barack Obama needs no introduction here. Suffice it to say that he is missed for his grace, his indefatigable spirit, and his love for his fellow man. The concept of freedom has been on my mind, and I find these words spoken by Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 to be uplifting. Continue reading “What Price, Freedom?”