Categories

Video Version: Double Consciousness = Deaf Leaders?

Double Consciousness = Deaf Leaders?

dsc_0408

 

My husband was telling me about an interesting story he heard on MPR, “Double Consciousness.” The Minnesota Public Radio announcer was talking about double consciousness from the perspective of African-American individuals. Double consciousness is a term describing the inner struggles experienced by marginalized individuals in an oppressive society. It was coined by W. E. B. Du Bois with reference to African-American “double consciousness,” including his own, and published his work, The Souls of Black Folk. The term is described as the psychological challenge of “always looking at one’s self through the eyes” of a racist white society, and “measuring oneself by the means of a nation that looked back in contempt”. Du Bois’ work is based on his personal experiences. He merges his African heritage and upbringing in a European-dominated society phenomenon. My interest grew instantly when I learned that double consciousness has been applied to many other instances of social inequality. Could this apply to deaf individuals… or individuals with disabilities?

After, I set out to explore a bit more about double consciousness; I was curious to see if would apply to people with disabilities. I came across Temple Grandin, a notable national speaker and an academic with Autism. In an article, Dr. Grandin shares her personal experience with her disability, which parallels what DuBois’ calls double consciousness. She stated, “the peculiar sensation…of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

Dr. Grandin’s powerful quote resonated deeply for me. I began to think about my own experiences as a leader and as a Deaf individual. I work in an environment basically made up of all hearing or able-bodied individuals. Very few are acutely aware and respectful of who I am and others, well… I struggle with a range of daily demoralizing acts. Two significant phenomenon that I often notice happening. The first phenomenon is a perpetual cycle of deciphering the judgment and decree of who I am through the eyes of the judge. Maybe judge is a harsh word. Regardless, the ignorance and oblivion that cloaks the able-bodied individual; the impact of being judged by that unaware, entitled individual is just that… harsh.

Secondly, it is the tiresome act of actively sustaining my true self including the whole package… abilities, skills, dreams, passions and potential. Unfortunately, the assumptions are often quite deceiving, patronizing and dangerously disparaging. It is amazing how much energy is expended in proving others wrong. Sometimes, the beliefs are so convincingly real… it is not a wonder why one would doubt herself. The vicious trap of emotional quandaries is just plain scary!

But, wait… the discovery of double consciousness offers the comfort that we are not alone in this ridiculous standard. A wrong standard can be righted with the right kind of consciousness.

Video Version – A Call for Leaders with Disabilities

A Call for Leaders with Disabilities

Woman Looking Through Magnifying Glass

 

I am kicking off a new series of vlogs and blogs focusing on the issue of leadership through deaf and disability lens.  There are so many situations that are happening across the country resulting both positive and negative outcomes. While decisions are being made by able-bodied leaders, assumptions are drawn by the system and bias are perpetuated via conducting business as usual; how do we position ourselves to own the decisions? It compels me into taking a closer or perhaps an intimate look at our leaders who are also deaf or have a disability today.

Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have disabilities along with their communities are facing many challenges.  We are currently dealing with education crises, communication inequity, cultural and disability incompetent services, insufficient opportunities for competitive employment, unconscious bias and so much more.  A call for ethical, qualified and brave leaders who happened to be deaf, hard of hearing or have a disability are so critically desired.

I currently work for the state of Minnesota and as a leader I do have opportunities to impact change for people with disabilities.  Yet, everyday among colleagues I sit in meetings; facilitate discussions or negotiate contracts; I look around in the room and wonder where are the people that look like me? Why aren’t there any deaf leaders or leaders with disability working alongside me. The sense of responsibility becomes overwhelming and daunting.  Are we experiencing a shortage of leaders? If so, why?

What I do know is that it isn’t unusual to find a very small number of leaders who are deaf or have a disability.  The term tokenism has been around for years. We traditionally see token individuals with visible disabilities in volunteer situations i.e., council membership, committee volunteer or advisory group or even in typical mainstream workforce.  It is clear that we need to purposefully recruit more people with disabilities.  In Minnesota’s state agencies, a very small percentage of the workforce has a disability.  The percentage is likely to be significantly lower for those who are identified as a leader or manager.  Possibly a tiny fraction of a percent.  This is obviously an indicator that we are experiencing a gap of leaders.  Why?

Our state is committed to raising the bar in creating an inclusive workforce for people with disabilities. Governor Dayton signed an Executive Order that by 2018; to increase the number of people with disabilities working for the state to 7%.  Increasing the numbers by hiring more people sounds easy-peasy.  However, hiring managers, supervisors and team members would need to be disability agile and able to recognize unconscious bias to increase success in recruitment and retention of valuable employees, managers and leaders who have disabilities. This will require transforming a culture that is so deeply entrenched.  How do you untangle and unleash the grip of a culture that has been the way of life for so many people for hundreds of years?  How do you compete with the world’s rapid pace of conducting business as usual and the complex, ever-evolving technology?  It seems futile to be at par with the able-bodied counterpart without a fight.  Since, I am an eternal optimist… I believe it can happen. But I am also a realist… there’s a whole lot of stuff that needs changing.

In closing this piece for now, I have more questions than answers and I may have opened the Pandora box. I am so much more fixated on the crises regarding the shortage of leaders.  Is the direction we are taking in creating an inclusive workforce possible without leaders and managers who look like them?  Who will be their voice?  Who will hold the system accountable?

I will need to sleep on this a bit… back with you again soon.

Twenty Years Later… Coming to a Full Circle

2013-12-05 23.30.09

 

I had a very interesting revelation.  I am certain that I am not alone in this admission.  Twenty something years ago, I was starting out in my career as an energetic newly minted, confident professional.  I had recently married, kept my last name and was filled with boundless curiosity.  I was working five… six different jobs.  I loved being busy and being sought out in the community.  I was experiencing, engaging and absorbing everything like a sponge.  While building my career, I was really going places.

Just a little over twenty years ago, I decided to start a family with my husband.  I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy… a couple years later, another beautiful baby boy.  My life changed deliciously!  Life revolved around the babies… toddlers… young boys… teenagers… and now they are on the brink of young adulthood.  It is not easy juggling a career and a family.  Naively, I internalized a belief that I couldn’t have both.  I believed it would take longer to climb the career ladder.  I just wanted to be a good mom.

In the meantime, I worked to build my career.  I even decided to get my doctoral degree.  I always felt my family was my priority.  The longer that I believed that I couldn’t possibly do both; it seeped into my sense of individuality and confidence as a career woman.  Instilled with a belief that I had to put in extra time in my positions, be patient and invest in trainings to “earn” a badge before I was able to move up the career ladder.

In fact, I have come to learn that many women with families feel this way as well.  I marveled at the phenomenon that our husbands, partners or men in general do not hold themselves back as they progress in their careers!  In America, there are expectations, beliefs and behaviors that encourage men to assume leadership roles.  The men are taught to be ambitious and are expected to move up in their careers without having to earn badges.  Having families never seems to be an issue for men who are career-minded.  They were always a few rungs ahead of us and brought home the larger paycheck.  Hillary Clinton stated in a speech that women make 77 cents on a dollar and women of color make 67 cents.  How is that fair?

Twenty years later and my youngest son will soon graduate from high school.  Big changes are coming around the corner.  Of course, I am spending a great deal of time unlearning the old ideas.  Fortuitously, I am keener this time around.  I now realize I never needed the extra time to prove my earned badge, nor should I have felt having a family was a sacrifice.  I already know I am really good at what I do.  I also know that I am a good mom.  My hope is that young mothers realize that being a mom does not define your career identity.  Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t have both.

I am rediscovering the old, confident me again and I am having a wild time!

Reframing in a Snazzy Bright Outfit

 

Darlene - Reframe 2

It is nearing the end February and the sub-zero temperatures in South Dakota show no signs of letting up.  I am digging deep for every ounce of energy to stay motivated, focused and warm.  It is hard!  Who in the heck wants to venture outside, let alone get some work done? It’s too *&#% cold!

What I should do is reframe this predicament.  How can I make this frigid weather work in my favor?  Let me think about that one…  Negativity aside, there is always the positive side to everything.  It is reframing how we think.  Reframing is a powerful tool to change the way we think and redirect our unfavorable energies into positive ones.

Reframing is a technique by which a person learns to stop his or her negative thought process and replace the negative thoughts with more positive self-talk.  Simple?  No.  This technique does work, though requires a lot of practice and patience.  Equally important, it requires an open mind and creative ideas.  You do a lot of self-talk and engage in activities that influence a change in you.

I was getting pretty negative the past few days with the sub-zero temperatures, being holed-up in my house with two restless dogs and bundled in confining clothing.  The snow wasn’t looking pretty.  I decided to change my attitude and thoughts—reframed it.  “Hey, the sun is shining.  I won’t need a hat.  It’s a good day to catch up on writing.”  I put on my new yoga pants with a matching bright melon jacket.  I packed up my laptop and Zumba bag.  A change of scenery is in order.  I spent the day doing errands and did some writing at a coffee shop.  So far, my day has been pleasant!  I am getting nice compliments about my bright outfit, which I gleefully thanked them.

Hmm, the reframing is working!  I got my blog piece done in my snazzy bright outfit.  It matches my mood!  Now, I am off to Zumba class.  Ciao!

Do I Make a Left or a Right?

Path - Image

 

I just inhaled the last Christmas sugar cookie loaded with sugary icing. I am sitting here thinking, did I really want that cookie?  Sigh, it’s definitely stress talking.  Am I stressed out about the holidays?  Ho, ho…no!  You see I am trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up?  How did I end up in the midst of a career crisis now?  I have almost a half of century of uninterrupted blissful fate with a progressive and purposeful career.  Suddenly, I am faced with a dilemma standing at the stark crossroads of my life.  Trying to figure which direction do I turn this time? I am sure this isn’t making any sense.  Let me start at the beginning.

I was born with a very inquisitive nature and a competitive streak.  I also had a personality of a go-getter with a touch of superhero complex.  Yes, I was going to save the world, or at least my little corner of it.  Of course, with guidance, education and training; my complex was appropriately channeled into a 25 years plus advocacy and human service career.  (Thank goodness.)  I knew from the age of five what I wanted to do with my life.

Regardless of the challenges I faced as a deaf professional, I was quite clear of the path and purpose of my career.  I was a happy and productive deaf professional.  I even ambitiously proceeded to get my advanced degrees and licensure.  I hung my shingle with a private practice; created some awesome programs and became an executive for nonprofit organization.  I had many other work experiences that enhanced my career.  My career took off and I was in demand.  I got a few promotions.  Life was good.

After a few years, the organization had changed its vision and mission.  Suddenly, my values didn’t quite match the organization’s change.  This created such disequilibrium in the flow of my destiny and life’s purpose.  It was time to part our ways.  I am now suddenly out of a job.  I have always worked.  I worked nonstop since I was 15 years old.  The first month was an opportunity to get used to the idea of not working for the organization after more than 10 years. The second month was to take the time to organize and ready myself for my new career.  The third month…the fourth month came along…I realized, “okay, I need to do something differently because I don’t see anything happening in my new path.”  After the fifth month, the applications were rejected.  By the sixth month, stress is mounting!  I have bills to pay, food to put on the table and gas tanks to fill up.  I need to survive.

I just realized that for the last six months I have been nagging my 17-year-old son, Noah, to finish his college applications and to decide a college major he may be interested in… at least in the ballpark area. He does not know. I can imagine he is feeling the stress himself.  Ironically, we are both on the cusp of trying to make a life decision and its scaring the hell out of us.   Here we are at the ages of 17 and 49; we were more alike than not.

I am trying to figure ways to stay positive and to avoid bingeing on holiday cookies.  I needed to become inspired by my new “career path.”.  There is that delicate balance of “there are jobs out there you can do” or “this is a passion of mine that I have dreamt about for years.  I want to build my business, LeVo.  It would be the ultimate accomplishment for me.”   On the flip side, one brings a paycheck home regularly and the other… well, there is no guarantee.  Okay.  (Whistling…) Now, this is the time; I am waiting for destiny to fall into my lap.  Ummm… anytime now?  I am over here…. Yoo hoo!  Not happening?  I have to figure this out for myself?  Ugh…. where is that cookie now?

No seriously, I am digging deep within myself and identifying my fears.  I am discovering new things about myself.  I am purposefully removing the obstacles, distractions and pessimism.  I am taking a stand to support my dreams and to trust myself to design my path this time around.  I have never doubted my skills and abilities.  I have always been in charge of my own journey.  This is indeed a true test of faith!  I believe in myself.  As for Noah, he has narrowed down to few great career ideas!  It is one step in the right direction.  Soon, it will all become clearer!

(This blog piece was inspired by a midnight cookie snack rendezvous with my son, Noah.)
 
Follow me in my new business, LeVo – Leveraging Your Voice, Inc.
Website – www.leveragingyourvoice.com
Blog – www.darlenezangara.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/leveragingvoice
Twitter – Leveragingvoice  

 

Accommodating the Hearing World: When is Enough… Enough?

overflowing-cup

 

I have nearly half a century accommodating the hearing world, in one way or another. That is a long time. I had never really considered myself a passionate activist nor an educator on audism. I have typically been the easy going, ultra-forgiving and accommodating person when it comes to my own personal needs. I usually try to make it easier for hearing individuals who are not aware or have not received training. I am, as some would say, most certainly hearing-friendly. Perhaps, growing up in a deaf family, I was conditioned to accept the harsh realities of the hearing dominance from American mainstreamed society and the persisting ignorance that seems to yet go away. Or, perhaps, I channeled my energies as a full-time human services provider for consumers and community’s needs and decided to just go with the flow when it came to my own needs. Going with the flow meant I was selective with which battles to fight and sacrificed pieces of “me” along the way. However, I think I have just reached the point where I have a dwindling amount to give away. When did I finally realize, enough was enough? When did I realize that advocacy became ingrained in my DNA?

A few years back, I did my dissertation research focusing on leadership and sustaining voice.* Having worked over twenty-five years in the field of human services, I advocated for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing consumers for quality services and consistently fought for a place in the budgetary decisions to sustain what little services we had. Advocating for the community and being offended for another deaf human kept my emphatic spirit afire. I prided myself in being able to straddle two worlds. Being able to code switch between American Sign Language and English effectively gave me the ability to educate, to bring awareness and to advocate with some achievement. However, there is something completely different and undeniably bewildering when I am personally offended. Most definitely as a deaf individual growing up in American mainstreamed society, I have experienced countless discriminatory practices, oppressive attitudes, offensive bullying and gross misconceptions. I have dealt with issues that were identifiably black and white. What was stated was incorrect. What was performed was illegal. What was thought was inaccurate. It was simple as that. But all of the simple acts of oppression were simply destructive to the human spirit. I felt the stabs of oppression.

Granted, I provided many leadership workshops, coached employees, mentored aspiring leaders and worked with non-deaf professionals. I sought answers to rights and wrongs, usually, within the parameters of the law. We would touch upon the ethical issues and debate how to best cope. We would pressure the norms and values of the hearing dominant system to consider how the clashes impact integrity of services. It was hit or miss especially with the contingency of budgetary allowances. Sometimes we win. Most of the times, sigh, we lose. Interestingly, money often guided the urgency of change. Nonetheless, slowly, the system began to recognize what they can and cannot do. However, it was always deliberated within the parameters of the law, feasibility of funding and the ethical boundaries of human rights.

Are we finally making progress? Do we finally have the teeth to protect the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people? How do we really determine that America is assimilating the needs and values of deaf and hard of hearing people… let alone people with disabilities, marginalized people and people who are plainly considered different? Do I think America has changed? No, I don’t.

Granted technology has changed many people and created greater potential for access. It has changed our thinking of how business is conducted and how services are provided. It seems that information and resources are operated at a speed that is beyond comprehension. It used to be “gotta keep up with the Joneses.” Today, its “gotta survive in the cyber world.” One would say, that is not a bad thing. At least information is accessible.  Wrong.

Information may be accessible but information is still exchanged through aural means within the scope of what is considered the norms of American mainstream. That is financial connections, oratorical finesse and competitive networks. It’s fast. It’s money. It’s status.  It’s power. Power is a very intimidating target but it is desired. Power equates how well you talk, how well you sell and who you know. Power is an exclusionary privilege that creates a means for hierarchal position and dominance. The privilege is the very nature of instigating paternalism, authority and inequality. Never mind, you have to add in the communication facilitator, the sign language interpreter. Any hope of a true equitable opportunity in the mainstreamed America is challenged. I am not saying it cannot be done.  It sure is a heck of a difficult road to sharing the likes of the Warren Buffet’s; Bill Clinton’s; Marissa Mayer’s; and Mark Zuckerberg’s.

I recently visited Panera’s to have a coffee with a friend. Arriving early, I stood behind one customer at the counter. Now picture this, if you will, there were only the two of us in line.  I did not hear a cashier at another cash register call out to me. By the time I scanned the counter and glass display of pastries, I saw that the cashier was yelling and becoming annoyed with my seemingly inattentiveness. Knowingly, I smiled. I walked up to him and stated, “I am deaf. I didn’t hear you,” and proceeded to give him my order. My speech is quite intelligible. I asked for one chocolate chip bagel, just sliced and plain with nothing on it. Not toasted and a small diet coke. I also added the gestures. I wasn’t sure of the volume in my voice. He sputtered words. “Bagel?” “Nothing?” And something else I could not comprehend. I repeated my order politely and cheerfully. He was bobbing his head, looking down and becoming visibly annoyed. I firmly raised my voice and stated, “Please look at me when you take my order. I said I am deaf. I want a chocolate chip bagel, sliced, nothing on it and not toasted. With a small diet coke.” He was increasingly flustered and annoyed, looked around at his fellow co-workers (they looked uncomfortable) and realized he had forgotten what customer service entails and how to look at a customer in the face. He continued his patronizing behavior and never apologized. I got my order. I was very disappointed. As simple as my order was on a beautiful, sunny morning; my mood was shot down by this whole experience. I could have done more. I could have called the manager. I could have lost my temper and given him a piece of my mind. There were definitely plenty of options at the time. However, my time was precious and I did not want to spend my time educating the manager or the employee. I chose this decision and yet I had pay for the consequences.  You would think it is common knowledge to treat someone with respect. I could not help wonder how much of it was because it would require a little more time to get my order correct; a little more effort to communicate with me and a little more knowledge to get past the deafness and understand how to integrate difference as a normal American value.

I sat and ate my bagel. I started to think of all the oppression that I have been confronted with in my lifetime. I immediately thought of another experience that had troubled me as a professional. I am sure that my deaf colleagues share the same experiences and will nod their heads in unison. I serve on a nonprofit board with all hearing individuals. None of them have disabilities, none that are visibly apparent. A couple of the board members are considered experts in their respective field of disabilities; the others are business owners, executives, advocates and parents. On our board, two individuals have doctorate degrees, myself and another member. Interestingly, that board member is often referred to her whole name with a Doctor preceding her name. However, I am referred to simply as “Darlene.” Not Dr. Zangara, but Darlene. Am I being hypersensitive about a simple salutation practice? No, I am not. Am I being hypersensitive about simple respect and equality? Yes, I am. Sadly, this happens often. Did I take a stand and correct the group.  Yes, I did. Should I have to consistently preserve my identity and reputation as a professional; and dignify my laboriously earned doctorate? That is a whole other argument for another day.

I am attempting to make scholarly sense of this human phenomenon and to obliterate some of the disappointments that I am experiencing. I keep referring back to Dr. Harlan Lane’s book titled, The Mask of Benevolence; the studies on Audism by Drs. Dirksen Bauman, Genie Gertz and Tom Humphries and relearning the history of American Deaf communities.  I fully comprehend the scholars’ perspectives on oppression and discrimination. But mindful of the impacts on the level of human development and human spirit. Oppression is overt, covert and it can be blatant or subtle. Regardless of the incidences, each experience has a significant negative impact. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Today, professionals have taken a second look at this childhood nursery rhyme. The original intent is to discourage physical bullying and/or assault. With a growing problem of bullying across the country, professionals are scurrying to deal with the negative impacts, recognizing potential fatal outcomes from the emotional pain of bullying. Funding is poured into bullying prevention and kindness programs. Every American now knows that bullying is an unacceptable behavior. Let us not forget that words, behaviors and attitudes that encourage oppression also create similar scars on the subsistence of many deaf as well as other marginalized individuals.

Disappointment, anger, sadness and frustration are probably the beginning of a long list that describes the emotions when experiencing oppression and discrimination. The feelings are intertwined with their sense of identity, autonomy, social competence, self-esteem and purpose. The list goes on. Professionals in the field of human development, human services and emotional health will profess that every human being must experience positive and successful incidents to create opportunities for growth, resilience and healthy formation of the human spirit. So, enough of the questioning of a deaf professional’s expertise; underestimating abilities, or taking a double take on initials after a name. The deaf and marginalized individuals have consistently worked from an accommodating point of view to be hearing friendly as a way to change the culture and value system of what is thought normal. As much as we can “scholar-ize” this phenomenon, the disappointments are painful and devastating to one’s human spirit. In my opinion, the oppression is unveiled and it is no longer tolerable. It is time to demand that American society to be deaf friendly. It is simply called respect.

Enough…is enough.

 

[*Voice represents a unit of expression including standing up for oneself, defending a position, and asserting one’s rights.  However, deaf community views the word voice as a representation of the dominant culture and the English language.  Voice also represents vocal sound, speech and utterance.  While, the deaf community utilizes their hands to vocalize oneself, the word does not fit in the American Sign Language vocabulary.  The American Sign Language translation for voice produces multiple; descriptive sign phrases to capture the meaning.  American Sign Language does not have an equitable sign to represent voice.]

This is a glimpse of my ongoing internal dialogue; one that most definitely will be frequently revisited.

Top 5 Reasons Why Advocacy is Our Responsibility

Leaves Floating on Water

 

I am working on an upcoming workshop entitled, “Advocacy is Our Responsibility.”  In preparing for the workshop, I was exploring the issues of why do or why don’t people advocate for themselves?  I realize that advocacy is not an easy job and so for many people, they choose to avoid these situations.  Though for some people, it is second nature to stand up for themselves. What I have discovered is the most common reason people don’t advocate for themselves is fear.

Fear is associated with having one’s feelings hurt or receiving a negative reaction.  Often, advocacy requires confrontation and can be “self-consuming.”  It consumes one’s time, emotions, commitment, knowledge, and energy.  Who has the time?  Who has the energy?  Why do “I” have to do it?

The response I often offer is, “If you don’t, then who will?”  Further, who will protect your rights and the rights of future generations?  Here is my list of top five reasons why advocacy is our responsibility:

  1. Advocacy is a commitment to protect our community today and future generations.  Our predecessors fought for our basic civil and linguistic rights.  (Remember the days where interpreters were not available or we couldn’t get car insurance.)
  2. Advocacy ensures our rights will continue to be protected.  Our voice must be heard and be inclusive.  Through vigilant education, people who have great power in making decisions are aware of the affects on our lives everyday, with respect our rights.
  3. Advocacy continues to promote our values and identity as deaf individuals, members of the deaf community and culture.  “We are here.  Respect our rights.”
  4. Advocacy bridges the message with the cause.  Causes nurture passion and bringing communities together.  Enduring years of oppression and discrimination, the deaf community continue to stand strong because of advocacy.
  5. Advocacy is the right thing to do.  To advocate for yourself, you advocate for us all.

Advocacy remains important.  Your voice counts.

 

The Virtue of Moral Courage: Standing Up for Our Legacy

 

future

With social media and televised news consistently buzzing and sensationalizing events on a daily basis; I am emotionally overwhelmed and cognitively bombarded.  The stories and photos of critical current events are publicized over and over again. However, there are particular stories that sustained my attention, such as the passionate fights for marriage equality; the horrors of the Boston bombings, our President’s public display of disappointment with the failure of new gun laws; the NBA athlete’s proclamation of his sexuality; and the Arizona School for the Deaf students’ plea for a voice.

I was particularly drawn to the heroes of these events. What makes a person run towards the victims of explosions without a hesitation? What motivates a person taking a stand publicly about his private life as a gay celebrity athlete?  Why would the President take a stand on a controversial issue that will divide people?  What about the students’ public protest against the superintendent and the board?  The common theme is the heroes taking a stand knowing there were great risks of adverse consequences.  This is courage.  This kind of courage is quite different from how we traditionally refer to it.  Unfortunately, this type of courage is seldom seen these days.  My assumption is that for many it is much safer to be just a bystander or blend in with what the majority believes. Whether it is right or wrong.

Moral Courage

Moral courage is the courage to take action based on moral reasons, despite the risk of adverse consequences. Courage is required to take action when one has doubts or fears about the consequences. Moral courage is when you stand up for something that is right; when others want you to sit down.  It is doing the “right thing,” morally and ethically. Moral courage is rare and considered risky.  It is often considered suicidal for political leaders.  It also requires a radical “change” in what the majority is accustomed in believing or doing.  In our society we face the risk of public criticism, ridicule and simple apathy when seeking support for change.  With social media, anyone can participate and contribute opinions. But we are also creatures of habits and will favor conformity with the majority.  Social media, video, television and radio have and will continue to harness massive amounts of power and influence over peoples’ lives.  The sensationalism and the emotional lures of conformity can sway peoples’ decisions between the fact and fiction.  This often contributes or determines the landscape of the Americans’ culture, norms and expectations.  We can go either way… positively or negatively. This is indeed very scary for me.

Pictures don’t lie.  Facts are facts.  People are people.  Every single human being matters.  Moral courage comes from people with values, hopes and clear ethics within the framework of equality and human rights.  I am inspired when one takes a stand not just for himself, but also for others like him.  Recently, I took the time to re-read Martin Luther King’s poignant letter from the Birmingham Jail and his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech.  I also discovered Robert F. Kennedy’s notable speech at the University of Capetown.  The iconic leaders, both, have the same common theme… they personify the virtue of “moral courage.”  Taking great risks to speak from their hearts, conscience, facts, and courage; their legacy continues to live on in their examples.

The Right to Be

Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy believed all human beings are created equal and have a right to proclaim a right to be.  I am inspired with hope.  Though we also have a responsibility to preserve, to remind and to continue the support of the virtue of moral courage for our generation and generations to come. When the opportunity arises, I hope you will dig deep in your soul and find your courage to stand up for what is right.  It is an important commitment.

I have a dream.  I hope that I will have instilled this virtue of moral courage in my sons and they will in turn instill this virtue with their children.  The first step in achieving the act of instilling the virtue of moral courage is to live as an example and model doing what is right. This will be the most important legacy I leave behind for my family, friends and communities as well as for my future generations.

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/speech/rfksa.htm
 
http://www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf
 
http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/frequentdocs/birmingham.pdf