Leading with Courage and Love
John Lewis is on my mind and in my heart as the events honoring him begin. He’s in the pantheon of those who I consider heroes, and played an important role in inspiring not only what I do, but how I aim to do it.
John Lewis’ life acts a North Star for what to aim for in terms of how to create change.
These are the 3 things that drew me to him:
1. Youth Leadership
As someone who was always the youngest person in my classes and spent the first several years of my professional life working against the biased assumptions about what young people don’t know, I have always found inspiration in young leaders. John Lewis’ youthful face jumps out of the photos from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.
|Even when standing amongst his elders, including legends such as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis was leading the charge in calling for a revolution to bring long overdue freedom to our nation. He was unwilling to wait for justice and freedom, and his legacy should be a reminder to all of us to take young folks’ demands for change seriously.|
What impressed me most about John Lewis is how he knew precisely what the risks were when he marched, sat-in, and spoke out – yet he kept on moving. Even after he’d experienced violent beatings, hatred spewed at him with words and spit, and solitude in hellish penitentiaries, John Lewis’ courage was indomitable. Several years ago, he coined the hashtag #GoodTrouble. It went viral and has continued to be popular in the years since. However, I worry folks will dilute the message behind that phrase. This happens often when Black Civil Rights leaders are remembered, and the same injustice must not occur with John Lewis.
For John Lewis, #GoodTrouble wasn’t mischief. It wasn’t a mic drop line at a public hearing. It wasn’t a scheme to settle a petty disagreement. And it wasn’t a sick burn in a Twitter argument. When John Lewis made #GoodTrouble, he was putting his life and freedom on the line. Let us ensure #GoodTrouble is not diluted or co-opted by folks who are looking to get some “likes” on social media, yet unwilling to do what it takes to correct injustice.
John Lewis spoke of the “way of love” being a better way. Rather than try to describe it for myself, I’d like to share some of Mr. Lewis’ words from a 2013 interview with Krista Tippett for the podcast “On Being.”
On Love in Action
“When we were sitting in, it was love in action. When we went on the freedom ride, it was love in action. The march from Selma to Montgomery was love in action. We do it not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s love in action. That we love our country, we love a democratic society, and so we have to move our feet.
On the Power of Love
“Well, I think in our culture, I think sometimes people are afraid to say I love you. But we’re afraid to say, especially in public life, many elected officials or worldly elected officials, are afraid to talk about love. Maybe people tend to think something is so emotional about it. Maybe it’s a sign of weakness. And we’re not supposed to cry. We’re supposed to be strong, but love is strong. Love is powerful.”
John Lewis was truly one of a kind. However, his legacy will continue to act as a North Star for me as I seek to honor youth voices, act with courage, and lead with love. I know I won’t ever reach his level, but it is hard to imagine a better guide. I hope you will hope hold me accountable.
Rest In Peace, love, and power, Mr. Lewis.