In light of recent tragedies, I wanted to share a quote this Monday that might help us move forward through our fears, our worries, and our anger. Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad are suffering; and I only shudder to think of what might happen next week or next month or next year. We now live in a world where mass killings happen daily, and students are afraid to go to school. And it hurts. Every piece of my being aches in the pain being experienced across the world today. But we can’t just feel sorry and afraid. We owe it to the world to do more than that. We owe it to the world to act.
“If we want to see change, we have to become the change.” -Samantha Power
Samantha Power is an activist, diplomat, and author. This quote comes from her 2008 Ted Talk, “A complicated hero in the war on dictatorship,” where Power discusses the lessons she learned from Sergio Vieira de Mello, and what we can take away from them about combating evil and stopping injustices.
We have come to a point where we must do more than just empathize, we must take action to stop these atrocities and develop methods of prevention to keep them from ever happening. In a world so complex and full of different ideas and individuals, it is increasingly difficult to agree on what the right way to act is. And that makes it hard for us to take action. But I know that we can agree that these innocent deaths are not okay. That this suffering is not okay. So we must try. Even if we are wrong. Even if what we try isn’t exactly how you would have gone about it. We must work together and we must try because we have no other choice to stop what is happening.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” This is more important than fear. We must stand up. We must not just wish for change, we must create the change. On Veteran’s day last week, I stumbled across a blog post by Adam Ericksen about pacifism that spoke in much more elegant terms than I ever could have exactly what I am feeling. “Nobody wants war. Everybody wants peace. Despite accusing one another of being ‘the Great Satan’ or the ‘Axis of Evil,’ we all want peace. We want peace and those we call our enemies want peace, too. This desire for peace is a good thing. The problem is that each side views the other as an evil threat to peace; and each side believes the same thing – that the threat to peace must be eliminated. Peace will come, we believe, when our enemy is eliminated. But history has shown that when one enemy is eliminated, another will soon emerge to threaten our peace.” We have to stop hating each other and fearing each other and making generalizations. If not, we will be the end of ourselves.
Samantha Power, among many things, is currently the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. I first heard her speak in 2013, in fact at her very first speech in her new position, at Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Leadership Summit. She talked to us about #whatmatters and told us that we are not just student activists; we are leaders, we are diplomats, and we have the power. I’ve never forgotten what she told me. That I not only have the power to shape my own future, but the future of the world. And I’m doing it now. Not five, ten years down the road. Now. You too, must realize the power you inherently hold simply by using your voice to stand up to violence and hate. Vote. Talk to your representatives. Get involved. Volunteer time, services, or money. It is no longer enough to just hope.