MLK Day Challenge: Speaking Out & Standing Up for Human Progress

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." Martin Luther King, Jr. Ordinary women on Main Streets across America are a lot like MLK. They have gone to extraordinary lengths to advance human progress, sometimes on a very public stage, sometimes in private meetings; often with success, sometimes dusting themselves off to speak another day. Mainstreet Women I interviewed have spoken out and stood up for justice in innummerable ways: Beth (MS) led efforts to get a Foster Parents Bill of Rights passed into law Diane (NM) threw herself at barricades, protesting the Vietnam War and advocating for civil rights Heidi (MT) persistently called her Governor's Office until a townhall meeting happened to stop a mining company from setting up operations near Yellowstone National Park Donna (TX) stood up for staff in a law firm, sometimes backing lawyers down the hall with two fingers on their chests Elizabeth (NC) advocates for her daughter with a learning disability, facing education system challenges and … [Read more...]

Shared Understanding of Courage

As Willa Cather was penning her finest novels about the spirit and courage of the pioneers, thousands of miles south of Red Cloud another pioneer who exemplified the same strength and conviction Cather described in “My Antonia” was dragged by gunmen from his home and brutally executed in front of his two young children and their mother. Raimundo Gutierrez was a newspaper publisher in Guatemala City in the early 20th century. He was one of the founders of the Guatemalan newspaper El Imparcial (The Impartial) and was a central figure in the journalism world when stories of corruption, espionage, intrigue and murder were there for the taking by any journalist brave enough to write them. At the time, Guatemala was under the rule of an eccentric and ruthless right-wing dictator named Manuel Estrada Cabrera. Cabrera reigned over Guatemala from 1898 through 1920. His vise-like grip on the country suffocated its citizens, leaving no one untouched or untouchable. An April 18, 1920, New York Times article describes Guatemalan life under Cabrera in this way: “His cabinet ministers are slaves. Everywhere Cabrera has spies. Nobody, native or foreign, leaves Guatemala without having his … [Read more...]

Chilling on Main Street: American Writers Self-Censorship

Sitting in a bar and grill in Winslow, Arizona, I overheard a long table of women talking about the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare - during a lunchtime birthday celebration. My heart soared to hear ordinary women debating the merits of the law, regardless of whether I agreed with points made or not. What struck me most about the table of women talking was how free, open and pragmatic the conversation seemed to be. There was intense energy around the opinions shared, about household budgets and how the law may affect them. Hugs all around ended the luncheon. I have the sneaking suspicion that if left to that table of diverse Arizona women, a lot of America's problems could be solved. Moving such dialogue from U.S. tables to the broader public sphere, however, is both easier and scarier than before. With advanced technologies we can share opinions in a myriad of ways. This inCourage Reflections blog is my way of sharing some of what I think and feel, and sharing what Main Street women I interviewed lifted out as critical issues in their lives and for our nation. Some of the women I interviewed want to make sure that I don't attribute quotes to them as they're worried it … [Read more...]

Letting Myths Go

In Snow White, the Evil Queen looked in the Magic Mirror and asked, "Who's the fairest of them all?" Her myth was shattered, her fury unleashed, when the mirror had to break the news:  someone else was fairer. Like the Queen, what happens to us when personal and collective myths, those stories we tell ourselves, clash with reality? Pain. Flight-feelings. Anger. A deep sense of loss. Personal myths are tough to face. Growing up in a very small town helped fuel a few of my personal myths. For example, doing well in high school clashed with reality at university.  There, thousands and thousands of other young people also did well in high school. New ways of studying and thinking were required. Importantly, letting go of "the best" mindset came with a feeling of loss, one necessary to make the shift. I won't pretend I did it gracefully or speedily, but there was no choice once the reality sunk in that I'd bettter change or let go of my dream to complete college. Collectively, America is experiencing a myth reality slap. Stories we have told ourselves about our nation just aren't true. Our government's shut down lifts this to the fore. Haven't we always considered America … [Read more...]

Labor Day Thoughts

Did you know that the productivity of the American workforce has climbed nearly 25 percent since 2000? In honor of Labor Day, let's celebrate this incredible productivity growth! At the same time, let's acknowledge we need serious change in the U.S. and fast. Data clearly show:  there's an ever-widening gap in income disparity in America. While American workers have increased productivity, wages have remained flat. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has published a series of papers examining the issue, most recently highlighting the fact that many workers have endured weak wage growth for more than three decades. (Check out http://www.governing.com/blogs/by-the-numbers/state-wages-and-pay-remain-flat.html to learn about the wages in your state.) One consequence? Child Hunger Today, 1 in 4 children in the United States are living food insecure. Amazingly, this fall as our school doors opened our educators needed to be as concerned about feeding our children as educating them. I got teary-eyed last week reading about how a Maryland educator was grading exams for the Maryland School Assessment test a few years ago and found, “Can’t think. Don’t care.” written across one of … [Read more...]

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