Look for hope.
That was my goal as we all barrelled —
or stumbled, or limped — our way into 2017.
Look for hope in people, in situations,
And after a rough start to 2017, I was
ripe for it this past week.
And throughout this week, I found hope
in three speeches.
Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes
Barack Obama’s farewell address.
And (although it was last week)
Michelle Obama’s last formal speech as first lady.
Now, stick with me here, because while
there’s been plenty of partisan bickering about these addresses,
the statements I want to pull from them go beyond politics and can —
and should — apply to anyone, particularly in a community like
Carroll that cares.
These statements are about hope. They
give me hope.
And hope has never been a partisan
Here are a few of the remarks from
these three speeches that will stick with me.
First, Streep’s speech:
“Disrespect invites disrespect,
violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position
to bully others, we all lose. … We have to remind each other of the
privilege and the responsibility of empathy.”
It’s possible to lead gently. It’s
possible to have empathy as a leader. It’s not as easy, perhaps,
but I’ve found, in my admittedly short professional career, that it
leads to better results.
On the flip side, a leader who bullies
is a recipe for disaster, as any history book, or current news
article from around the world, will tell you.
And it’s not just leaders. Anyone who
lives out the belief that bullying or belittling others is a way to
move ahead has a serious problem. I think anyone can learn from
Streep’s reminder that empathy is vital.
“Take your broken heart — make it
Here, Streep was quoting actress Carrie
Fisher, Star Wars’ Princess Leia, who died just after Christmas. I
love this quote, as a writer and musician who believes strongly in
creativity and also as a resident of Carroll. This city has impressed
me during the past few years with its focus on the arts. I believe
athletics are vital and have their place (don’t ask me about golf,
though) — but the arts are invaluable, and I think the music, art
and acting opportunities available to Carroll students will always
play an important role in their lives.
Next, Obama’s farewell address,
during which the outgoing president implored Americans to accept,
respect and support each other — “We weaken … ties when we
define some of us as more American than others.”
He spoke about the years and decades of
not only legislative changes but changes of heart, which he said
sometimes need to span generations before prejudice and
discrimination are reduced.
“If our democracy is to work the way
it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us
needs to try to heed the advice of a great character in American
fiction, Atticus Finch, who said ‘You never really understand a
person until you consider things from his point of view, until you
climb into his skin and walk around in it.’ … We have to pay
attention and listen.”
Living with fear and discrimination
toward people who are different won’t change without talking to,
and listening to, and learning from them. I believe that with enough
of that, and it’ll become clear that different isn’t bad — but
the listening has to happen.
“I’ve seen the youngest of children
remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our
obligations to care for refugees or work for peace and, above all, to
look out for each other.”
I joke sometimes that the reason I like
animals so much (and by that, I mostly mean my cats) is because
there’s no hatred in them. If they’re grumpy, they’ll bite you,
but there’s no passive aggression, no prejudice, no malice.
In some ways (except for the human
part), you can say the same about children. Kids aren’t born with
prejudice — we teach it to them. They’re not born with hatred
(even when they poop on us). I’ve learned so much from young
children who would never treat their black, Hispanic, hijab-wearing
or wheelchair-using classmates as someone to look down on, make fun
of, dislike or fear. They should inspire us.
“Let me tell you, this generation
coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve
seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and
just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been
America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something
to embrace. You are willing to carry this hard work of democracy
forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result
the future is in good hands.”
As a member of the millennial
generation, I’ve gotten plenty of flak. Some of us likely deserve
some of the millennial stereotypes and jokes that are thrown around,
but plenty more in this generation don’t get the credit they
deserve (don’t even start with the snarky remarks about the
participation trophies that we never asked for anyway).
This comment reminded me of a
conversation I had in February with Jill Tiefenthaler, a Breda native
who now works as president of Colorado College.
“I love millennials,” she said.
“They are creative, they go around the problem, they figure out the
problem, they’re so respectful and they love adults, they love
mentoring because they like their parents — and that’s not true
for our generation, really. They care about the environment, they
care about balanced life, they’re a very accepting and tolerant
generation — so there are lots of wonderful things about
“I am extremely optimistic that
they’re going to help us sort out these problems that we have in
And that mindset led into the ideas
Michelle Obama shared last week in her last official speech as first
lady. During much of the address, she spoke to America’s young
“So to the young people here, and the
young people out there — do not ever let anyone make you feel like
you don’t matter. Or like you don’t have a place in our American
story, because you do. And you have a right to be exactly who you
She discussed the power of hope —
hope for the future, hope born in the idea that the problems many of
America’s young people face today might not be quite as bad down
“So don’t be afraid — do you hear
me? Young people, don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be
hopeful. Be empowered. … Lead by example with hope, never fear.”
I think anyone can learn from these
statements, and anyone can draw hope from them, as I did during this
That’s what I’m going to continue
to look for this year.