Citizen Leaders: Grade School Boys Band Together to Stop Bullying

Congratulations to these young grade school boys who banded together to show their support for a first grader who was subjected to bullying and teasing from other pupils. These youngsters rock! In the words of American anthropologist Margaret Meade:

Never doubt that the actions of a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Citizen Leaders’ Success: You Can Play Project and the NHL Team Up to Eradicate Homophobia on the Ice

Citizen Leaders are the men, women, young adults and teens who take stock of the kind of world they want to help shape for the people they care about and act to make it so.

—Peter Alduino, Author, The Citizen Leader

In a blog post 9 months ago, I applauded Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts and Glenn Witman as citizen leaders for their efforts to eradicate homophobia from amateur and professional hockey. These three men founded the You Can Play project — an outreach and advocacy program that challenges the culture of homophobia in locker rooms and among fans by focusing instead and only on an athlete’s skills, hard work, heart and competitive spirit.

As a direct result of their efforts since founding the project 12 months, yesterday, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association announced a groundbreaking partnership with the You Can Play project in what is likely the most comprehensive effort by a major North American sports league to support gay athletes. Hockey News reported, the agreement with You Can Play will see the implementation of an agenda of inclusion throughout the NHL that promotes better understanding of and respect for gay athletes. You Can Play will conduct seminars at the NHL’s rookie symposium and make its resources and personnel available to each individual team as desired. The NHL and NHLPA will work with You Can Play to integrate the project into their Behavioral Health Program to enable players to confidentially seek counseling or simply ask questions about sexual orientation issues.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement, “Our motto is ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’ and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way. While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players’ Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker-rooms and in the stands.”

In his statement, Patrick Burke reminds us that the You Can Play Project is not just for pro players. He said, “To me, it’s just as important that a young player playing lacrosse or a 60-year-old playing beer league someplace feel safe in their locker-room. We really want to work on the culture at its core because I believe in any sport, at any level, at any age, at any skill level, you should be able to play sports free of fear.”

Congratulations to Citizen Leaders Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts and Glenn Witman. Bravo to the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association.


NHL, NHLPA combine to form a partnership with You Can Play Project (Hockey News)

NHL, ‘You Can Play’ announce partnership to support gay athletes (LGBTQNation)

Major Sports Leagues Prepare for the ‘I’m Gay’ Disclosure (New York Times)

NHL Announces Support For Gay Rights, Pledges To Fight Homophobia With New Initiative (Huffington Post)

Citizen Leader: Co-Founders of You Can Play Project

Patrick Burke , Brian Kitts , Glenn Witman think athletes should be judged by talent, heart and work ethic, and not sexual orientation. Together, they have founded the You Can Play Project which works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, and are judged by other athletes and fans alike by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success and not by their sexual orientation.

You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit. They have received the endorsements (watch the videos) of professional athetes and college athletes to spread the work in support of the cause.

Citizen Leader: Zach Wahls, Co-Founder of Scouts for Equality

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls challenged the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy in May 2012 when he delivered three boxes of petitions demanding change, signed by more than 275,000 people.

Inspired by the story of Jennifer Tyrrell, a den mother forced to resign from her seven-year-old son’s Cub Scout pack because of her sexual orientation, and the groundswell of support she has received since, Mr. Wahls and a number of other Eagle Scouts frustrated with the Boy Scouts of America’s long-standing exclusion of gay individuals have created Scouts for Equality.

Shortly thereafter, Ernst & Young CEO James Turley made history by becoming the first Boy Scouts of America Executive Board Member to publicly oppose the anti-gay policy and promised to work from within to change it.

In an Act of Citizen Leadership…

Abby Goldberg, of Grayslake, Ill collects 155,000 signatures to petition Gov. Pat Quinn not sign legislation (SB 3442) that would make it illegal for her town — or any other one statewide — to ban the use of plastic bags. Abby is 12 years old. She explained to the Chicago Sun-Times. “You can make a difference no matter how old you are.” Full story >>

In An Act of Citizen Leadership…

…Zach Whals, a 19-year-old University of Iowa student, addressed the Iowa Legislature about the strength of his family headed by his two moms. Mr. Whals spoke with conviction before the House of Representatives in an effort to dissuade and even admonish its members intent on amending that state’s constitutional and repealing the existing right of Iowa same-sex couples to marry.

In my past blog posts, I have regularly described a citizen leader as the man, the woman, the young adult and the teen who applies their character, their convictions and their courage to speak up, take action and lead efforts that contribute to the community and serve the common good.

In this video of his address, Zach Whals shows us what citizen leadership looks like, feels like and sounds like.

In an era when we are all being assaulted by others’ agendas, tempted with profit, prestige and personal gain, or taunted by peer pressure and political expediency, it is our job to be solidly grounded in who we are and how we want to be in the world, and have the courage to stick by that. 

Citizen Leaders: Surfrider Foundation’s Local Chapter Leaders and Volunteers

Surfrider Foundation in their own words:

Our mission is the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.

You can think about that as three concepts:

“Protection and enjoyment”, we don’t want to put a velvet rope around a beach and tell people to keep off. We’re surfers, we’re beach goers, we’re watermen… we enjoy the coasts. We’re a user group.

Next up is “oceans, waves and beaches.” Think coastlines, we’re engaged with environmental issues that affect our coastlines.

Finally, our “powerful activist network” speaks to how we go about this mission. The Surfrider Foundation operates through a network of grassroots chapters who volunteer members take action to protect our ocean, waves and beaches through campaign, program and educational initiatives in their communities.

The core activities and campaigns that the Surfrider Foundation uses today to protect our oceans, waves and beaches fall into the categories of Clean Water, Beach Access, Beach Preservation, Protecting Special Places, and Eliminating the Use of Single Use Plastics.

Today, there are 73 Surfrider chapters in the United States. Surfrider Foundation is also pursuing its mission in about 15 countries around the world.

In the past 6 years, chapter leaders and volunteers have achieved 175 individual victories in their campaigns:

Clean Water: 41 Campaigns

Beach Access: 34 Campaigns

Coastal Preservation: 51 Campaigns

Ocean Ecosystems: 17 Campaigns

Rise Above Plastics: 29 Campaigns

Know your H2O: 3 Campaigns

Total: 175 Campaigns

Bravo and thank you to the Surfrider Foundation chapter leaders and volunteers for bringing the strength of your convictions to your efforts to protect what we all love — our oceans, waves and beaches. Your actions to improve life for all members of your communities — your efforts on behalf of the common good — are quintessential citizen leadership!

Citizen Leaders: The Founding Members and Staff of Plastics Pollution Coalition

Plastic Pollution Coalition is a global collaboration and effort of individuals, businesses and organizations inspired by and working together towards a vision of a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on people, animals and the environment.

The Coalition was developed and is currently championed by this handful of founders and staff whose dedicated actions on behalf of the common good exemplify Citizen Leadership:

  • Daniella Dimitrova Russo, Executive Director
  • Dianna Cohen, Art Initiatives and Creative Director
  • Julia Cohen, Coalition Manager
  • Lisa Kaas Boyle, Esq., Legislative Policy Director
  • Michaelanne Petrella, Publicist
  • Manuel Mansylla, Regional Organizer, East Coast US
  • Mark LeRoy, Web site

Through their daily efforts, these Citizen Leaders seek to put plastic pollution at the forefront of global social, environmental and political discourse with the aim of:

  • Elevating the discourse about plastic pollution to the forefront of the public attention;
  • Delivering access to information about all aspects of plastic pollution and their interconnections;
  • Connecting all involved parties—local communities, environmental organizations, public health organizations, environmental justice organizations, individuals and businesses—to each other in their work to end plastic pollution.

Here is what success will look like:

  • Individuals, organizations and businesses end their dependence on disposable plastic, and reduce their plastic footprint;
  • Plastic product manufacturers own the end of life of their products; invest in truly biodegradable products; and self-regulate the output of non-biodegradable matter;
  • International leaders form global alliances against plastic pollution
  • Economic incentives are created that move businesses to invest in plastic alternatives;
  • Legislation is passed that curbs irresponsible proliferation of disposable plastic