…10 year-old Milo Cress started BeStrawFree, a website that encourages restaurants to cut plastic waste by not automatically offering plastic straws to customers. “I’m not out to ban plastic straws,” he said. “Just cut back on them. Way back, if possible.” Full story >>
The culture of our communities is, for better or for worse, the predominant pattern of our collective behaviors, speech, choices and actions. Our families, our schools, our neighborhoods, our towns, our teams, our troops, our places of worship, our places of work – all of these are the communities that make up our world. Each one of us, through our daily behaviors, speech, choices and actions contributes to the character of these communities. We shape the world in which we live and work, for ourselves, for our families, for our friends, for our colleagues, for our co-workers and for our fellow citizens. As such, it behooves us to ask ourselves, what is the character of the culture that we aspire to create and live in as a community?
Whatever the answer to this question, and whatever the size or scope of our community, we have an opportunity to be more deliberate and intentional. We have an opportunity to choose how to behave and speak and act, individually and collectively, with renewed commitment, to craft a purposeful culture.
Crafting purposeful culture is an act of dedication and ownership – both individual and collective. Purposeful culture doesn’t happen because we will it to happen. It happens because we and many other people in our community turn our wills into behaviors and words and choices that honor and demonstrate the characteristics of the culture that we aspire to create. Everyone can be involved. Everyone can accept ownership and take responsibility. Now, whether everyone accepts that ownership, whether everyone takes responsibility by holding themselves and one another accountable – that is another issue. Accepting ownership for oneself is an act of citizenship; asking others to accept ownership and holding them accountable, regardless of our position or title, is an act of leadership. Not to do so, especially if we are entrusted with the responsibilities of a leader, is an act of abdication.
It is abdication among those who were most entrusted at Penn State that we now painfully learn about. (It is abdication among those who were most entrusted in the hierarchy of the American and Irish Catholic Church that we have painfully learned about for a decade now).
Crafting purposeful culture requires our full commitment. It requires ongoing conversation and dialogue between and among the leaders and the members of our communities to define the characteristics of the culture that we want to create or safeguard for the future.
During that deliberative process, we need to consider:
- What do these cultural characteristics really mean?
- Why do we each personally care about these characteristics?
- How do or could each one of us turn these characteristics into tangible behaviors and action?
Our candid and collective consideration of these questions will better prepare us to engage other members of our communities in a conversation about the whats and whys of our culture. In turn, they will better understand the importance and implications of their dedicating themselves to taking ownership for their own behaviors and actions. Equipped with a clear understanding of the culture that we want to create collectively, we, the leaders, can more confidently distribute ownership to the other members of our communities for behaving, speaking, and interacting in ways that assure that the culture we aspire to, becomes a reality. They, in turn, are better prepared, and indeed expected, to identify and take action on what needs to be promoted, what needs to be protected, and what needs to be put to an end.
…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 >>
…Ryan Slezia, a former student at Texas A&M, mobilized over 650 current students to block a planned protest of a soldier’s funeral by the mean-spirited members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Full story >>
There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.
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.”
Dear Lady Gaga,
I am writing to you in your capacity as champion of the Born This Way Foundation to make you aware of The Citizen Leader as a potential tool to use in your foundation’s mission to empower youth and inspire bravery. The Citizen Leader: Be the Person You’d Want to Follow is a guide to help young adults and teens be authentic and courageous and to make an uncompromising and unapologetic commitment to a set of personal core principles that speak to who they are, how they aspire to be, and the kind of world they want to live in. I have written this book to help young adults create great places for us all to live, work and play. I think my book could be a very useful tool in helping to forward your foundation’s mission — to connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a braver, kinder world.
I try to impress on our young people that their future, our future, is largely in their hands. When all is said and done, I believe we are all co-creators of the world we live in. Through our actions, words and choices, we help shape our immediate communities, be that at home, school, work, club, church, etc. The Citizen Leader challenges young adults to be clear about what they stand for and prompts them to participate, serve, act and lead efforts to shape better communities for themselves and their fellow citizens.
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 battle the mean-spirited and often sanctimonious bullying and homophobia that you speak against so forcefully. Yours is a voice that reaches so many of our young people. You are challenging them and us to be the authors and actors in creating a safer world. I am grateful to you for creating the Born This Way Foundation and for championing its efforts to engage our youth to build a world where humanity is embraced, individuals are empowered and intolerance is eliminated.
In my wilder dreams, I’d like to believe that the introspection like the one I offer in The Citizen Leader — the exploration of self, the discernment and dedication to core principles and the call to better one’s communities and the world — could be embraced as an essential element in the curriculum for our young adults during their formative years in high-school, vocational school and college.
I hope that my book can be a useful tool to help with your foundation’s mission.
Thank you and with my every good wish,
Dear Mrs. Obama,
Please have a stern talk with your husband about the importance of living by one’s values. He seems to be losing sight. Two days ago, he signaled that he will not issue an Executive Order that would protect men and women who work for Federal contractors from either being discriminated against in hiring or being fired because they are gay or lesbian.
For all of your husband’s talk about fairness, this decision flies in the face of fairness and continues to support discriminatory practices that are perpetrated on good men and women, good American citizens. For all your husband’s talk about the greatness of our nation based on enabling every American citizen who works hard and plays by the rules to get a fair deal, the President’s refusal to issue the Executive Order to make that “talk” true for millions clearly signals that “talk” is all it is. His pretext that he prefers the legislative process is hollow since we all know that there is no chance that this Congress will send the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) to his desk.
Does he have the humility to walk this one back and the courage to walk his talk? I can only believe that if your daughters were older, and were one to come out as a lesbian, the President would issue an Executive Order barring discrimination in a heartbeat. Perhaps he might want to put himself in the shoes of the millions of parents whose kids are gay, and who want only that their kids get a fair deal.
My thanks go out to Marcia Yerman for this article that emerged from our conversation about my book, The Citizen Leader, and the everyday application of its many ideas in families and in the community.
Posted on The Huffington Post on April 4, 2012, Ms. Yerman begins:
As the 2012 election fills the news cycle with a mixture of information and noise, many people will tune in and some will opt out. Crucial issues will be debated and discussed. One of them will be clean air. How best to connect with the average voter?
I recently picked up a book by Peter Alduino called, The Citizen Leader. Alduino’s biography describes him as having twenty years of experience in the field of leadership development, personal growth, and executive coaching. The book, which is a mixture of insights, guiding exercises, and work tools—embraces key points about “active leadership.” Alduino’s “core belief” is that we are “co-creators of the world we live in,” thereby contributing to the character of the society around us.
Alduino describes the process of constructing community as being “engaged, participating, and proactive.” The building blocks of this endeavor include principles, personal integrity, and engaging others to create a better social order.
I couldn’t help thinking about the set of environmental activists that I have been connected with for a year. The Moms Clean Air Force are parents—predominately mothers. “Creating action, through shared values,” as Alduino says, has galvanized this demographic to support and build a safe planet for the next generation.
My thanks go out to Robert Thompson and Mike Niess for inviting me to talk about The Citizen Leader on their show Thought Grenades on Blog Talk Radio. The topic of our conversation: How to Become a Leader You’d Want to Follow.
Click on this link to hear the show.
You can also download the podcast from iTunes by going to Thought Grenedes and selecting podcast #44 (3/26/12)
Send me your comments. Let me know your thoughts on the show.