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.

We Must Stop Bullying. It Starts Here. And It Starts Now.

On Sunday, April 22, in response to the tragic suicide of a 14-year-old boy who had been relentlessly hasassed and bullied after coming out as gay, the Sioux City Journal faced down those who would say that bullying is simply a part of life and declared, “those people are wrong, and must be shouted down.”

We must make it clear in our actions and our words that bullying will not be tolerated. Those of us in public life must be ever mindful of the words we choose, especially in the contentious political debates that have defined out times. More importantly, we must not be afraid to act.

The Journal published the following full page opinion piece on the front page of the paper to stand up to bullies, to those who condone their behavior and to their apologists.

“Siouxland lost a young life to a senseless, shameful tragedy last week. By all accounts, Kenneth Weishuhn was a kind-hearted, fun-loving teenage boy, always looking to make others smile. But when the South O’Brien High School 14-year-old told friends he was gay, the harassment and bullying began. It didn’t let up until he took his own life.

Sadly, Kenneth’s story is far from unique. Boys and girls across Iowa and beyond are targeted every day. In this case sexual orientation appears to have played a role, but we have learned a bully needs no reason to strike. No sense can be made of these actions.

Now our community and region must face this stark reality: We are all to blame. We have not done enough. Not nearly enough.

This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area. Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots. Until now, it has been too difficult, inconvenient — maybe even painful — to address. But we can’t keep looking away.”

Read the full editorial >>

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 Leadership = Courage to Act on Convictions

My heart goes out to the Citizen Leaders on the University of California Davis campus who demonstrated, by their peaceful sit-in, the courage of their convictions, only to be assaulted by the campus police. 

These sons and daughters, these American citizens, part of the Occupy Wall Street movement on the campus, became the latest victims of alleged police brutality to be captured on video. The videos show the students seated on the ground as a UC Davis police officer brandishes a red canister of pepper spray, showing it off for the crowd, and then dousing the seated students in a heavy, thick mist. (Note: This was an officer of the UC Davis Police Force, not the officers from the city of Davis, California).

“The UC Davis students were peacefully protesting on the quad,” wrote the student who took the videos in an email to The Huffington Post (from which this blog posting is excerpted). The filmmaker, a senior, asked that his name not be used for fear of retribution by campus authorities. “The cop gave them 3 minutes to disperse before he said they would come and disturb the protest. The main objective for them was removing the tents… The students did have a right to be on campus, they were assembling peacefully and the campus was open at the time.”

UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza defended her officers’ actions to KCRA. She argued that it just wasn’t safe for students to camp on the quad. “It’s not safe for multiple reasons,” Spicuzza said.

Claudia Morain, a UC Davis spokesperson said, “We are just not going to allow a tent city. Just period. In these budget times, we shouldn’t use resources that should be going to our core academic mission going to a tent city. The police tried to use the least force that they could.”

The UC Davis chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, released a statement Friday. It states, “We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested. We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal.”

Nathan Brown, an assistant English professor at the university, released an open letter to the chancellor, calling for her resignation. He wrote, “You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt.”

The student filmmaker, who says he is not part of Occupy Davis, told HuffPost, “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think such a thing would ever happen on campus over a tent being on campus. It’s embarrassing on the part of the police to take such actions.”

Excerpted from The Huffington Post 11-19-2011


Words to Inspire: Robert Kennedy

Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest of walls of resistance.

Robert Kennedy

Peter’s Perspective: Citizen Leadership is the Prerequisite to Engaging Leadership

Q.  What exactly is a citizen leader? 

A.  A person who brings their character and courage to making a contribution on behalf of the community and the common good. 

Look closely at the people around you who are in positions of leadership or who aspire to positions of leadership.

Character: What are their guiding principles? Are their values ones that inspire you to want to follow their lead? Do those individuals regularly speak and act in ways that reflect the qualities they profess (or is it lip service)? Which individuals do have the qualities of character that would engage your enthusiasm?

Courage: Which individuals do have the courage of character to live by their values? 

Contribution to one’s community and the common good: Do the man and women who aspire to leadership positions participate in or champion efforts to better their world and create great places for us all to live, work and play? or conversely, Are their efforts regularly or largely self-serving?

Now, with the responses to these questions in hand, which of the individuals would you want to follow?

If you hope to be an engaging leader — that is, if you hope to have anyone want to follow your lead – then you need to be a person that others would want to follow.

And by extension, if companies or communities or churches or schools or civic and social organizations hope to grow their cadre of leaders – they need to insist that their men and women be people whom others would want to follow.

It starts with citizen leadership.

Words to Inspire: Steve Jobs

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Excerpt from Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address “You’ve Got to Find What You Love” at Stanford University, June 2005

Citizen Leaders: All-Americans Hudson Taylor and Colin Joyner

Citizen leadership is:

Character and courage: men, women, young adults and teenagers acting and speaking with the courage of their character day in and day out, in private and public – at home, in school, at work, in their club, in church and temple, on a team, in a troop, in the support group, in the neighborhood.

Courage of character begins with their getting clear on who they are and how they want to be in the world, so they are or become the person they’d want to follow, and by extension the person others would want to follow.

Contribution to the community: men, women, young adults and teenagers applying the qualities of their character as they participate in or champion efforts to better their world and create great places for us all to live, work and play.

Hudson Taylor, an All-American wrestler and coach at Columbia University, has committed himself to eliminating homophobia from all levels of sports. His efforts have gained national and international recognition.

This is only about how we treat one another, how we speak to one another. It’s not about politics or religion or anything else. I just want to create a safe space for people.

Taylor created ATHLETE ALLY™, an online resource to encourage athletes, coaches, parents, fans and other members of the sports community to respect all individuals involved in sports, regardless of perceived or actual sexual-orientation or gender identity or expression. When you arrive at the website for the first time you’re presented with a pledge — ” I pledge to lead my athletic community to respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression” — and from there, you’re presented with other steps for action. Hudson says, “I created the Pledge so that we, as an athletic community, can take proactive steps to end homophobia and transphobia in sports. When we inspire entire teams and athletic departments to commit to a new standard of athletic integrity, we will change the environment in locker rooms and on playing fields.” 

Read the full article about Hudson Taylor in The Huffington Post, and hear him talk about his efforts in an MSNBC interview.

At Bowdoin College (the #6 ranked national liberal arts college), Colin Joyner is also attempting tearing down walls of homophobia in sports. Joyner, a three-time All-American tennis player and current men’s tennis coach, created Anything But Straight in Athletics (ABSA) with Kate Stern, Director of the school’s Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. The group’s aim is to help closeted athletes come out by dismantling homophobia in Bowdoin athletics. Joyner has expressed a great hope that more schools will build programs like his ABSA.

Read the full article about his efforts in OutSports.

Peter’s Perspective: When all is said and done, we live in a world we create by our actions and words

We are all witness to the torrent of fabrication, lying, maligning, intimidation and fear mongering that are being used (and all too often condoned or lauded) by people in all of our institutions – government, business, media, sports, religion – to pursue their ends. Hiding the truth, if not outright lying, seems to be emerging as a behavioral norm rather than abnormality. (This is the topic of the recently published Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff by Pulitzer Prize winning author, James B Stewart).

So many people are at risk of being or are already being swept up with the tide – choosing to act and speak in ways that mirror these public and private figures without pausing to examine the kind of world their words and actions are creating for themselves and for the people around them in their homes, at work, in school, on their teams, in their churches and temples, or among their neighbors.

It takes a strong and steady sense of self at one’s core, and the courage to act and speak from one’s core, to deflect the daily forces that would have us follow a leader who invites, tempts or at worst insists that we deviate from who we are and how we aspire to be in the world.

When all is said and done, we live (today and well into the future) in a world we create by our actions and words. Citizen leadership asks us to be clear on who we are and what we stand for today, and prompts us to speak and act in ways that create the great places where we would want to live, work and play, today and tomorrow.

Peter’s Perspective: We Need a Dorothy

Looking and listening to the players on the national stage, does anyone else feel like we’re watching a production of the Wizard of OZ – absent Dorothy?

I see it this way. We’ve got the scarecrow missing a brain played by the Tea Party. Add to that the tin man who lacks a heart – the Republican Party. And finally the lion largely lacking in courage – witness the White House and the Democratic Party. They’re all in need of a guide – someone with smarts, caring and courage.

Secretary Clinton, please help. Yes, you’ve said that you’re no longer keen to be President. But we desperately need the qualities that you possess in abundance: intellect, heart and resolve.

Your boss has capitulated one too many times and has lost the faith and trust of his base: He extended the heartless Republican tax cuts for the wealthiest (leaving the middle class shut out); he bowed to the brainless threat of the Tea Party to undermine the “full faith and credit of The United States” (and I thought it was the policy of this government not to negotiate with extortionists); and just this past week punting on the implementation of solid, health and science-based EPA standards to reduce smog and thereby safeguard the long-term health of vulnerable men, women and children. Why the punt? All because business concerns and the Republican leaders insisted that the indefensible current Republican-sponsored standards be maintained.

Mind you, these are the same business players who demand taxpayer-funded bailouts and handouts then often treat those same taxpayers – men and women in their employment – with contempt. Yes: cutting employee compensation and benefits while elevating the same for senior managers and executives to historical highs; investing in job creation overseas in order to reduce payroll expenses and increase profits at home; and lobbying for and finding every which way to avoid paying their fair share of state and national taxes (and by extension shifting a greater portion of that obligation, once again, to the taxpaying men and women in their employ) – these are what contempt looks like.

We need a Dorothy who will push back, fight back. We need a person of courage in action on this stage, or this play is going to end badly, very badly.

Courage: it’s made up of two elements, mental resolve and deep felt caring. When joined together, they are a force to be reckoned with. I see no such courage, no such force on the national stage today.

TO:          Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

The State Department

Washington, DC

 RE:         Casting Call

 MESSAGE:   We desperately need a Dorothy!