It has been a long 10 weeks since the November election. And now we come to this week. Deep breath. Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States.
I write this for those who don’t feel very powerful. For those who feel as if all of the work that was done for the last 8 years is lost. For those who feel it will be difficult or impossible to have a voice. For those who feel as if all we can do is stem the tide. For those who feel as if we are about to enter into a dark period of America’s history.
Pay close attention to what happens this coming Saturday. The day after he is sworn in, I will participate in what I believe will be the unofficial start to a movement of resistance, change, and transformation: the Women’s March on Washington. This march will be the largest inauguration march in history. But that is not all. There are over 600 sister marches all over the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and beyond. I sense the start of a movement. Do you?
I know a little something about change. For the last 25 years of my life, I have worked with people who have felt powerless. From the hills of eastern Tennessee to the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, I have supported and united with communities who simply want clean water, safe air to breathe, and a climate that protects all of us. But the odds are almost always against them.
When these communities ask for change, in almost every instance, they feel as if their voices are not heard. But I have watched again and again how they reclaim their power and create positive change despite enormous odds.
Here are a few things I have learned from them about feeling powerful:
1. Take action however big or small.
Find a place in your life where you can take an action that creates a ripple. It can be a donation. A letter to a politician. Volunteering for a local organization. If you felt bold enough, run for an elected office. Reclaiming that space where you can make a change can be your first best step.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”– Barack Obama
2. Remember you are one of many.
You are not alone. There are millions of people all around you who want a world like you do. Connect to these people who share your values and find how you can work together. Be wary of entering a cycle of despair where you convince yourself of how change is impossible. I have been in too many conversations these past few weeks focused exclusively on how we lost it all. This is not the place for us to start. Let us leave that behind.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa.
3. All is not lost
Let us not claim defeat before the first day of this Presidency. If we do this, we choose failure. I have decided I cannot look at the election of this president as a loss. That does not serve me. Instead, I will look at it as an opportunity for something bigger and better. I am turning to what is possible – not what isn’t.
“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Marilyn Monroe
If there is one thing I have seen in all of my years of being a changemaker is that persistence makes all the difference. As my good friend David LaMotte author of Worldchanging 101: Challenging the Myth of Powerlessness reminds us, Rosa Parks didn’t just one day decide to go sit in the front of a bus. She had been an activist for 12 years by the time she was arrested, had been involved with the NAACP, and had traveled to a training camp to learn more about non-violent civil disobedience. It was not one day in her life.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Mahatma Ghandi
It is never about the lonely leader who takes one step and creates the change for the rest of us. It is a movement of people that together push for change.
This Saturday is not just about one march. It is not one petition. It is not even one election. It must be about the many actions by each and every one of us. Be part of what is about to start. And go into the next 4 years feeling abundantly powerful about what can be done. Trust me when I say this is the feeling that will help you and all of us bring about change.
We have spent 10 weeks feeling defeat and despair. The first day of this new movement is not a moment to feel defeated or wronged. It is not even a time to declare victory. It is a moment for reclaim the power of what each of us can do as individuals to effect change for a better world. And then dig in and work.
And it all starts with the first full day of this next administration on Saturday. I’ll start by taking a walk.