Leadership for the Long Haul

September 25th, 2008

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae collapsing. Lehman Brothers and Wall Street in trouble. Unemployment at historic levels. People in breadlines. Spending more on killing foreigners than on caring for our children. It looks like our economy is collapsing.

In many ways these are indicators that the chickens have come home to roost. We have created federal policies that are more concerned with increasing the wealth of a very few rather than investing in the health of our communities. We have created an economic house of cards that is not and never was sustainable. The Roman Empire and feudal Europe taught us that, as did our own Depression of the 1930s.

So what, as leaders in social transformation, are we to do? How do we sleep, those of us who are responsible for running organizations dependent on funding which, in turn depends on the vagaries of the market? Knowing that staff rents, mortgages and school costs rely on our capacity to raise funds in this financial climate?

It is very tempting to run screaming from the room. Unfortunately, most of us would end up running only into yet another room, since we can't really escape. We have important roles to play in this unfolding drama. So, here is some good old Rockwood medicine for the coming days:

First, remember Purpose. Ironically, many of us have been working toward this very collapse. There are those who have been teaching us that free market capitalism is neither humane nor sustainable, and that we must find new ways to maintain a vibrant economy. This moment is an opportunity to create new economies that are rooted in collective best interest and in an awareness of our interconnection and kinship. So, why are you here? Why do you do the work you do? Staying deeply connected to purpose gives us the energy and will to get up in the morning and to do our piece.

Then get in touch with Vision. What are you working toward? What is the big picture? This is just a moment in time, a brief step in our transformational work. MLK had a dream, even in the midst of terrible times. What is your dream?

From a place of purpose and vision, let's remember that we are always connected to everything. I am cousin to the Afghani soldier nervously holding his gun. I am kin to the fisherwoman on the shores of Bali. We are all in this together. Let's make a point to partner well with each other, to keep the circle whole.

Resourcefulness is crucial for this. We must take care of ourselves as we care for each other. This means managing our reactions and triggers, as well as getting enough rest and eating food that is good for us. Perhaps this is a strange question to ask right now, but is it time for a vacation? Maybe a weekend away to rest? A nap for the next 20 minutes, so that you can come back to the work at hand from a centered place? At the very least, take a breath...

At Rockwood, we believe that with all of the above in place, we can then bring about the changes we are working toward. We can begin to see the fruits of our Performance. We know that this takes time and work, and rest and play.

So let's make a commitment to be here for the long haul. I know that times are hard, but we've all been through hard times before. Economies come and go, but kinship networks remain. All our relations still require sustenance and attention. I know that most of you have committed your lives to something greater than what we have now. Let us renew that commitment, knowing that we are part of a vast collection of like-minded partners, even if we don't yet know all of our names.

Today I re-commit to my life and work. Even in this difficult time. I invite you to join me.


September 2008

THE GOOD FIGHT: What, in your life, is worth fighting for?

THE GOOD FIGHT is a new web series from Sundance Channel that looks at the places where environmentalism is a necessity, not a luxury.

This multimedia series sheds light on the activists and grassroots organizations -- including Rockwood community members Ludovic Blain III, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Majora Carter and Van Jones -- that are striving vigorously and resolutely for environmental justice for all.

Environmental rights are civil rights, and climate change has no boundaries.