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The Tension Seekers

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At the heart of this week's Aspen Leaders Action Forum is the text of Dr. Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail, written 50 years ago. Though written in the throes of civil rights' darkest days, Dr. King's rebuttal to fellow clergymen who challenged his perceived impatience echoes a present-day call to action we can't ignore: "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

The beauty of this gathering has been getting to know some of the world's foremost tension seekers, the incredible, amazing minds who in their own sphere refuse to accept the status quo, advocating for change while enlisting others to fight for the same. They have inspired beyond belief.

Allow me to explain.

At Building Tomorrow, we're working hard to put a growing number of the 57 million children in the world UNICEF estimates to be out of school in a safe, permanent classroom for their very first time. Our USA and Uganda teams spend their days meeting with Ministry of Education officials, potential donors who are learning about our cost-sharing model and poring over data, designs and budgets to ensure we can reach as many out of school children as possible.

But above all this, the clear takeaway is that Building Tomorrow's work, or any other organization's work, is incomplete without creating what Dr. King called a 'constructive tension,' a climate around a particular societal issue that leaves absolutely no space for anything but direct action.

Be it a panel of trailblazing superintendents unwilling to compromise the expectations of any child in their school district, human rights activists who've fought injustice while peppered with death threats or business owners who've married private enterprise with social benefit, this group of assembled tension seekers has for me sparked an incredible flurry of ideas for how to advance the call that we mustn't deny a single child around the world the opportunity to access quality education.

I'm incredibly grateful for my three days with the tension seekers of today, leaving inspired and emboldened to achieve the vision Building Tomorrow has set for itself as society continues the ever-so-important quest of heeding Dr. King's wisdom and doing our part to eradicate injustice.