Monday, July 18, 2005

A world of possibility and a healthy disregard for the impossible.

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So today is my first day back in the Triad from the LeaderShape Institute ( held in Champaign, Illinois. YAY! It feels so good to be at home. My experience at this leadership conference was something special. This was not just your normal everyday leadership training conference. It was so much more, but yet it was so simple and even though it was so simple it is an experience that just cannot be explained in words. I learned so many things. Part of this conference and its process of teaching leadership to students was this: Leadership is not something that can be taught systematically, for there exists no systematic approach to learning how to lead. Also, leaders are not born; they are made through integrity, honesty, respect, inclusion and work. Leading is not what you are... it is what you do. Of course one can say, "I am a leader," but that statement does not come true unless you are doing something to make it so. Another gem of wisdom I learned from this conference is that one must live his or her life and lead with integrity. People become leaders for one reason: To serve people. If people do not respect you, they won't follow you. One of the biggest things that I think has changed my life is learning how to respect other people and accept them as they are, nothing more and nothing less. I've also learned how to not base my judgments of people on that first impression or on stereotypes but rather on getting to know people, their background and where they are coming from. Each and every time that the almost 80 participants did that this past week at the conference, people were drawn closer together and never were we pushed apart. We were taught to have a healthy disregard for the impossible and to live in a world of possibility. As a part of that we were told to come up with a vision. Our visions were dreams that we had for the future of our schools, communities, nation or the world. The great majority of the visions were, at first glance, "impossible" or "unrealistic," but what I have come to realize and what all of the participants came to realize is that a vision is just dream to which we strive. Working to achieve our vision does not mean that it will actually be achieved through us or through other people whom we might inspire to help us achieve it. As with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision of a de-segregated America, we might not live long enough to see the "impossible dream" materialize and become reality, but if we work towards the vision and inspire others to work towards our vision, or even their own vision, we can be confident that one day, maybe five, ten, fifteen or one hundred generations from now, our vision will become reality. Again, as with Dr. martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision in the 1950s, my vision is one which, at first glance, is "impossible" and "unrealistic" for 2005. I have confidence, however, that my vision will one day become reality. My vision's reality has already started and it started when two students at the conference came to accept me as a total person and to accept and, yes, even embrace my sexual orientation (it must be said that these two young men had admitted they were a bit homophobic and against homosexuality, just not in those words). Now that these two young men (let me add that they inspired me so much, for I hardly ever get see the change which I have caused... they showed me the change and they have inspired me) have changed they can go out and, maybe, help to change others. Through them my vision has already begun to take form. This is my vision:
I envision a United States of America where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans will be freely able to live, work, grow, learn, parent and love openly and honestly. Furthermore, I long for the day when our beloved nation will live up to its ideals of equality, liberty and justice for all by full heartedly treating, respecting, accepting and valuing LGBT Americans as equally and as fairly as straight Americans.
Achieving my vision won't be easy. That is why we must take small steps and go for and accomplish goals which we can achieve until everything adds up to completion and the vision is no longer impossible or unrealistic. At the point in which the vision does become possible and realistic, we must strive further and get to the point where the vision has become reality. I have spent six days with some of the many best student leaders in America. My life has been changed. I want to be like a pebble dropped in the ocean. I want the ripples I create to stretch out, for I never know on which shores those ripples might fall.