Speaking Out and Speaking Well


You can help shape the way elections happen

The French novelist and philosopher Albert Camus, writing over sixty years ago, reminded his countrymen of what was needed from those who wanted to address their country’s challenges – “Now that we have won the means to express ourselves, our responsibility to ourselves and to the country is paramount…The task for each of us. …is to see to it that (our) voice remains one of vigor, rather than hatred, of proud objectivity and not rhetoric, of humanity rather than mediocrity, then much will be saved from ruin.” (Quoted by Adam Gopnik in “Facing History” The New Yorker, April 9, 2012)

This election season we have been and we will be subjected to exaggerated rhetoric, to borderline hatred, to innuendo, to wildly inaccurate charges and claims. Are you willing to ‘eat’ that stuff daily, and in doing so grow incrementally more and more cynical, or are you willing to speak out against it? Democrat, Independent or Republican, the return to ‘proud objectivity’ and ‘humanity rather than mediocrity’ is critical to hosting an intelligent and interesting and fair election season.

Our children are listening and watching what we do. We are the role models/ mentors and guides of the next generation of voters, leaders and citizens. I see the family, all families, as the core construct for the ever emerging quality of life in the ‘American experiment.’

To make a difference you’ll have to decide what to attend to and what to ignore. The noise is plentiful. Some years ago a very successful business leader friend of mine told me how he changed the quality of his marriage. He said he was talking to some friends after a racquetball ball game at the local fitness center. He slowly became aware of a growing discomfort as they talked about women. He thought of his wife and then of his teenage daughters and how he wouldn’t want them to hear this conversation. After a few minutes of this he said ‘hey guys. This conversation is not for me.’ He went on to work and all day thought about his own passive compliance in the hip kind of degrading of women. Everything changed for him that day and he started to speak up when men he knew spoke about women in a way that didn’t respect them.

This story impacted not only my own relationship to the men I knew – good men who perhaps unconsciously lived within an old paradigm – it also raised awareness of other conversations where I too tended to be passively compliant. Politics was one of them. I discovered how easy it was for me to remain silent when someone was pontificating about a politician without having any real information. It’s easy to see how fear drives many of these superficial conversations but if we want real change it will have to begin with each of us speaking out.

Gandhi’s beautiful phrase ‘we must become the change you want to see’ is a challenge that puts all of our hopes for a better world in proper perspective.

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