"He that is greatest among you shall be your servant." The late Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, modeled servant leadership in action. His leadership focused on the importance of community-building and empowering others to lead social change.
Although I've spent a fair amount of time with Morgan Freeman over the years, I can't say I feel as though I really know him. Someone once described Lake Superior to me as "a place so vast, with areas that go to such depths, they're impenetrable." That, to me, sums up Morgan Freeman.
Nelson Mandela Day was celebrated around the world on July 18th. It is a day to remember the greatness of a man who dedicated his life to helping the world understand democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation, and respect.
When I think about the killings in Charleston, two images of South Africa, where I was born and raised -- one anachronistic and repulsive, another timely and affirming -- churn in my mind.
The Dalai Lama's version of compassion is more muscular than Sunday-school stereotypes of a benign but soft and flabby kindness. He sees such full disclosure as one application of compassion in the public sphere, as is forceful action to right injustice of every kind.
Another incontrovertible fact is that American President Barack Obama has Luo blood flowing in his veins. This fact is as much a thorn on the sides of those who hold onto tribal allegiance as it is a source of pride for those who've felt shut out of the spoils of Kenya's independence i.e. "matunda ya uhuru."
15 years ago, when 40 companies formed the Global Compact at the United Nations, they laid out the principles for a more inclusive and sustainable world. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called for a "global compact of shared values and principles, which will give a human face to the global market."
The Principles, like many important UN conventions, are not legally binding, so of course the US is not legally required to ensure compliance within its borders. But one would hope that we would demonstrate at least a moral conviction to these standards while we admonish other states for not doing so.
South Africa's Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955. The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990. The United Kingdom followed five years later with the Disability Discrimination Act. Yet where are all the great leaders championing access for people with hearing loss?
It's a question I've been asking myself for years now and one I try to ask the CEOs, business owners and managers I come into contact with. (Notice I didn't say leaders I come in contact with. A title doesn't automatically confer leadership. Too often, it's a quality we take for granted, assuming that authority comes with a position.)
I wish I could give a more flowery, touristy account of the experience, but to be clear, it also gave me some deeper, more "positive" revelations. I was standing in the history of colonialism. But maybe more than that, I was the history of colonialism.
It seems nearly inconceivable today that Israel would become a single state with a Palestinian Arab government. But it was once inconceivable that South Africa would be led by a black government.
In the House and Senate budget proposals for fiscal year 2016, passed with only Republican votes at the end of March, there are big winners and big losers. The big winners are defense spending and contractors and very wealthy people and powerful special interests. The big losers are children, our poorest group in America, and struggling low- and middle-income families.
If we compare Black child well-being in America to child well-being in other nations, the U.S. Black infant mortality rate exceeds that in 65 nations including Cuba, Malaysia, and Ukraine. Our incidence of low-birth weight Black infants is higher than in 127 other nations.
President Zuma should make the climb to the moral high ground currently occupied by the victims. From there he may see more clearly the values that are needed to build the nation.
When it comes to equality, I stand on one side of the struggle as a gay person, but on the other side every day as a white one. Both of these positions are hopeful, daunting, and powerful, on every shore I call home.