“What are we to make of these turbulent times? Some of us lash out, some of us recede, some of us cry, others of us shout–but the greatest resource any of us have is the resource of our own awareness and the stories we can hold to that remind us of the light.
“To look upon our country, our communities, our neighborhoods with an awareness of everyone’s vulnerability is a great gift and service.
“To speak to this, to speak of this, is an even a greater service…So let’s remember the history of our making. Let’s recall, in public, our power to enchant, to inspire, to attract, to transform…Let’s forget the assumptions that betray our hugeness…
“Let’s remember the photographer Dorothea Lange, who passed right by that sign Migrant Camp on her way home from work, exhausted as she was and lame in one leg. Let’s remember how she drove on another twelve miles, until she turned around and headed back, thinking something might be there that could make a difference.
“And how that photograph of the mother, harried and worn, with her kids clinging to her, made it to the wall in some museum that was spotted by a writer named John Steinbeck. And how moved he was by the Dust Bowl story that Dorothea told frame by frame—so moved that he wanted to pass it along and wrote the famous ‘Grapes of Wrath.’
“And how, when this book was in the hands of movie director John Ford, it led him to think it ought to be a film, so he found a screenwriter and made it happen.
“And once the film was seen by America, its heart was broken to see its own face so creased and saddened. So the theater-goers rallied, they appealed to Congress, they said ‘something must be done,’ and they made it happen. Legislation was enacted that turned the tides for the Dust Bowl farmers and the families who we starving through the Great Depression.”
“And there’s the story of Peter Gabriel watching the video footage of Rodney King…when the British musician saw King beaten by Los Angeles police officers on the evening news, he thought of other abuses around the world and how video could be used to spread the word that something must be done. Together with Human Rights First (formerly Lawyers Committee on Human Rights) and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation, Peter Gabriel launched Witness, an organization that provided cameras and assistance to people willing to record human rights violations in their own communities…
“In 1996, they helped Global Survival Network produce ‘Bought and Sold,’ a documentary on the Russian mafia’s involvement in the trafficking of women from the former Soviet Union. Footage of this was picked up by ABC, BBC, and CNN and became a front page story in the New York Times. In response, President Clinton allocated $10 Million dollars to fight violence against women, with special emphasis on trafficking. Secretary of State Madeline Albright put in on the agenda in her meetings with heads of state, and in 2000 the United Nations passed a transnational protocol to prevent trafficking. The US Congress also passed the Trafficking Victims Protections Act that year.
“…Dorothea Lange, one person. Peter Gabriel, one person…They were witnesses to the inhumane, face to face with the brokenness of individuals that revealed a deeper cavern of decay in the culture at large. But they did not deny it; they did not run from it; they did not fold their arms and pontificate about how it’s always going to be like this.
“They took the tragedy into themselves and transformed it into another form—a piece of art, a collaborative vision, a work that could go on working. And what they created has changed our world.
“This is the very work of a thought leader—to look at our beautiful world and see the paradox that resides there, and to be, in the face of that, a builder of bridges. ”
~Jan Phillips from The Art of Original Thinking: The Making of a Thought Leader