Monday, September 07, 2009

An inspiration.

I've been following TED talks for a few years now, but never have I been so moved than by this one from activist Majora Carter. Her work is important, yes, and her speech was delivered straight from the guts, yes. But what puts me in awe of her is the central role that her life experiences play in the visionary work that she has undertaken.

She explains her background and the motivation for her work from 5:00 to 7:28.

I am deeply impressed by her apparent ability to take her situation in stride, make observations about the world around her, and then pool the resources she has in an effort to implement change. The contrast between where she started and where she is now is night and day. It seems that her familiarity with adversity actually powers her success as a reformer.

This is a story I will never have.

I, like all of my friends and all of the people reading this right now, am pampered. We might vary in income and in family situation, but none of us have met enough hardship to merit any words at all. My family is loving and intact, I went to a top private university, I've traveled to interesting places, I can afford free-range eggs. I have been bathed in comfort every single day of my life.

But sans exaggeration, I try to think about this daily. I notice my fortunes. There were few weekends in college, after mentoring little ones in their studies, when I wouldn't feel profoundly disheartened by the gap between their lives and mine, by the unending cycle of poverty and under-education that they seem unable to break out of. There is a film between what I see, and what lurks under the surface of society. What can I do to brush that film away?

Majora Carter finds motivation for her work from her direct experience of hardship. I am motivated from my distinct lack of it. Her social calling comes from having little and fighting against that. Mine comes from having too much and feeling compelled to share it.

It is not clear to me yet what I must do, or what I can do. In the meantime, I'm building intellectual capital to make investments in the social arena later on. For now, I can learn and I can observe.

If there is any reason for education, it is this: education begets influence begets change. Ms. Carter had the foresight to recognize this, and yet there are those who grew up in much more favorable circumstances who still have not learned this lesson.


Cara said...

I don't know if I ever had the conversation with you about college essays that ask about overcoming a struggle or a struggle that changed you. I always felt like I did not have a struggle worth mentioning. I am extremely blessed.

I think your reason for education is spot on..

Jacob said...

I are pampered. You said it.

But on a serious note, I'm starting a sketch show with some kids up here. When we're ready to start releasing can you help spread the word around?