If we don't stand for something we will fall for anything. anonymous
It's interesting to consider for whom and for what we stand! I meet people who can't answer this question. But we ALL stand for others whether we like or know it. Our ancestors, our families, our heritage, our organizations. Our brands, our trajectories, our futures and our destinies are grounded in the histories and values of the past. All of us have silent partners, silent beneficiaries, silent supporters, and silent investors. But do we remember and represent them?
I was reminded of new and different silent groups who we benignly ignore or forget. People who we know about but don't understand. In our defense, there are just too many "less fortunate" and "victims", and "people in need." It overloads our capacity for emotions and empathy. And frankly, exceeds our guilt bandwidth.
I met the silent this week. People who literally can not speak and or advocate for themselves. People who need help or their memory triggers our human desire to help.
I visited an extraordinary special education school called College View Elementary. It is a comprehensive treatment program for 4 to 22 year olds who cope with and live through serious physical and mental challenges. When we think of special education, we might think about a student with learning disabilities, possibly autism, or a physical impairment who are being mainstreamed. The vast majority of these students can not communicate verbally and most will never be mainstreamed. They were and are silent, and very much alive. Young people trapped in a bodies and minds that restricts their ability to express themselves. The parents of these students, the staff of the school, and their community of friends have to stand for the silent everyday.
Then I met a couple of orphans from the Japanese tsunami. 2000 children and young people lost at least one parent on 3.11.11. One of the young people described his new commitment to become a search and rescue team member to help find people in the sea that took his dad. He will be standing for the silent.
Lastly, I went to an inner city elementary school and saw a presentation made by Kyle Smalley. It was one of the most powerful presentations I have ever seen. It began with 7 students standing behind enlarged photos of 7 smiling youth. Each student read a brief story of bullying where the young person in the photo was driven to suicide. Kyle then mesmerized and engaged the several hundred 8-12 year-olds in the audience with his authenticity and his folksy style. He told the heart breaking story about his 11 year old son Ty, who was bullied for two years. Ty could not take it anymore and retaliated and was suspended from school. His mother Laura took Ty home that day and Ty tragically took his life that afternoon.
With the help of friends they formed Stand for the Silent. Kyle and Laura have devoted their lives to Stand for the Silent in memory of their son Ty and to make sure that "no other babies suffer Ty's fate." Stand for the Silent aims to help us respect one another, to love one another, and to stand up and make a difference for those that have been silenced.
A new documentary film which comes out later this month, Bully, features the Smalleys and their work. See it! It will move you to act and to act differently.
All of us stand for the silent, either wittingly or unwittingly. The "silent" are the vulnerable without voices to advocate for themselves. The silent are those we have lost who inspire our work and our dreams. The silent are those we represent on a daily basis in the values we embrace and the good we attempt to do. If we don't stand for them, who does?
All that is needed for the forces of evil to succeed is for enough good people to remain silent. (inspired by Edmund Burke)
Standing for the silent also means we can not remain silent. We tolerate too much bigotry, prejudice, hazing, hatred, bullying and mean-spiritedness. Not talking about political correctness. Nobody means to hurt another, except the socio-pathic. But we each see, hear and witness things that need to be stopped–where a teaching moment can possibly save a life. We can not remain silent if we are going to live our values. Easy to say, but necessary to assert.
What silence will we break to advocate for another?
Which silent will we stand for?
Let's all take the pledge to help one another. To keep the silent populations who need us in our hearts, our minds and in our daily work. To stand and speak for the silent.
Thanks for reading. John