Crafting A Message

What is the mark of an effective communicator? This is a question I’ve asked myself a lot lately as I prepare to reenter the job market. To be sure, an effective communicator must be passionate about the message, but how should that passion be relayed to an audience? Certainly not with the belligerence often displayed on social media. Even those schooled in the art of communication sometimes trip over their biases until both feet end up in their mouth. How can the public be expected to make sense of messages delivered with malice? The answer may be as simple as – we are not expected to understand them at all. Instead the intent is to provoke a response so ignorant, so violent that messages are exchanged until only their damage remains.

These last few weeks I have done a great deal of research into leadership opportunities as I decide what’s next for me, and this is what I think – in the wake of recent bloodshed at home and abroad, there is an urgent need for a coherent message that will unite those of us who desire to live in peace. In my reading, I came across these words:

We live in age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road but even of its direction. There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much excitement and feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our own ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long. It is our duty to find ourselves.

This message is as relevant today as it was in 1907, when it was included in an address given at Princeton University by Woodrow Wilson. It does not surprise me that we have made little progress in effectively communicating the message that we are all in this together, because there are many people committed to creating divisions that serve their own agenda. This is effortless for those who live for the sound bite. Abraham Lincoln said in his speech at the Republican State Convention in 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” How’s that for a sound bite?

There will always be those whose goal it is to spin thoughtful remarks into a puddle of blather. It occurs to me that my quoting Lincoln paraphrasing Jesus might be contorted into some insensitive religious commentary on the uncivil war currently underway in the United States. To rise above it I think Rudyard Kipling said it best when he counseled, “…If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,…” I take comfort in knowing I have the courage of my convictions. Plus, we don’t have knaves in the U.S. We do, however, have our fair share of fools.

I obviously have too much time on my hands.

Public Service Job Description

Tattered GloryAs we endure yet another presidential campaign it is hard to ignore how the people’s branch of government is failing us. Social programs, once thought to be enduring, are insufficient for current need and unsustainable for future demand. The electorate has all but abandoned the political process due to the lack of qualified candidates. We have, from coast to coast, a significant shortage of ideas and an overabundance of stagnant waste. In other words, a cesspool from which to choose our representatives.

This may seem like a harsh assessment. Some might even feel the need to rip it to shreds. However, I have given a great deal of thought to the state of public service lately, and it seems to me that self-service is a more accurate picture of our local, state, and federal government. It is with these thoughts in mind that I have come up with a few requirements of candidates seeking public office.

Candidates unable to speak publicly without using divisive language, including but not limited to sexist, homophobic, racist remarks and fear mongering ignorance, need not apply. In addition, voters deserve to know the following about potential public officials:

  • Criminal Record
  • Scholarly Writings
  • Team Building Experience
  • Math Skills (because someone has to do the math)

Other qualifications for a role in government should be a person’s willingness and ability to tell the truth, whether or not under oath, and a general understanding of human anatomy, in case a question about how babies are made comes up in the course of, you know, a televised interview. These are only a few ideas. There are certainly others worthy of consideration. Please share yours if you feel so inclined.

The Bounds of Reason and Humanity

What is the value of a human life? Is it priceless or can personhood be quantified in mere dollars and cents? According to the International Labor Organization, the current market price for a human hovers around ninety U.S. dollars. What is the value of human dignity then? Does dignity have worth beyond measure or is there a sliding scale based on geography?

As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no estimated market value for a person’s dignity. I wonder why that is when there are advocates doing battle on all fronts in the name of the right to life. If all lives matter, surely lives deprived of dignity merit some rallying cry, some social media campaign, some public demand for action, or at the very least, a ribbon.

In my search for some reason as to why there seems to be no value ascribed to human dignity, I made a disturbing discovery. It turns out that slaves are in high demand, and it’s a buyer’s market. That’s right, the buying and selling of humans globally generates billions of dollars annually. What makes this business so lucrative? The answer is not complex. Ready? Buyers for the large inventory of disposable people drive more than one segment of our global economy. To be certain, slavery is in the supply chain of many goods traded legally around the world. Cocoa, harvested by children on Africa’s Ivory Coast, for instance, fills the shelves of our supermarkets. This documentary tells the story.

In addition, sexual exploitation accounts for more than half of the humans being bought and sold worldwide. People who buy children for sex, referred to innocuously as Johns, strip the human dignity from their victims and cast it aside as if it were trash, without threat of prosecution. This documentary tells that story.

Reason tells us we should be collectively outraged by the knowledge that in 2016 people are being sold into slavery. Reason tells us that there are no innocent bystanders, because we cannot unknow the truth of vulnerable populations living in every state, every country, every place there is poverty and corruption. Survivors’ stories should compel us to rise up against this assault on human dignity. Unless, of course, we do not value human dignity.

We do, don’t we?

If you believe there is value in human dignity, show someone that their life matters. Volunteer, talk to your neighbors, vote, help someone learn to read and write, get involved in your community, contact your local, state, or federal representatives, listen to someone who needs compassion. Check out these sites to find out how you can prevent human trafficking.

The study abroad experience gave us an opportunity to learn about Eastern Europe’s response to human trafficking. What we do with that knowledge now is in our hands.

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Reposted from DFST Study Abroad 2016 – Romania Blog by Stephanie Briggs.

Independence

 

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Parliament Palace, Bucharest, Romania Second Largest Public Building in the World – Second only to the Pentagon

The long, low rumble of an approaching storm awakened me at 3am. Flashes of light sliced the white wooden slats of the shutters that cover my bedroom windows. A thunderclap shook the room. Going back to sleep was not an option.

I began to think. First, about what day it is, July 4, 2016, Independence Day here in the United States, then about what independence means to me.

I believe independence is knowing your own mind. It is choosing for yourself and not permitting your mind to play tricks on you about the choices that you make. Independence is not isolation. Independence is acknowledging the validity of your own judgement while accepting the limitations of that judgement. It is, in fact, the freedom to choose interdependence over isolation.

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Group Hug for my Birthday in Brasov, Romania

I recently returned from Romania where even after almost three decades since the fall of Communism, the older generation is still acutely distrustful. Partnerships are approached with cautious optimism, and for good reason; public trust is still routinely dealt a death blow at local and federal levels. This is something that is equally familiar to Americans.

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Bureaucracy from the Balcony

The future, which requires engaged dialogue about poverty, violence, and corruption, seems tied inextricably to the past. By engaged dialogue I mean more than merely shouting opinions at one another. The ebb and flow of independence and interdependence over time calls for leaders to respect the balance of power, to take responsibility for their own poor judgement, and above all else, to never underestimate people who desire to assert their independence.

As the storm rages on and the power continues to flicker, the dawn’s early light reveals what I know in my heart to be true; the land of the free and the home of the brave can be wherever we choose it to be. That is the beauty of independence.

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We’ll Always Have Bucharest

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My traveling companions, all sixteen of them, and I have taken thousands of steps this past week. We traversed the city so that we could better understand its history and perhaps glimpse its future. Along the way, we have witnessed poverty and experienced sadness, anger, and disbelief. We have also encountered loving kindness, joy, and hope as we stood in the midst of everyday heroes. Not heroes to the world, but to their neighbors and to one another. The kind of heroes we all need from time to time, ones who will help us when we lose our way and rejoice when we find it.pic

Stories of life and death engulfed us and made us fully appreciate the commitment our hosts have made to their mission of preventing children from being trafficked. This happens in several different ways, one is called “loverboy grooming.” This is a long game in which traffickers build trust and create a psychological dependence through promises of a better life. Traffickers can then manipulate their victims effortlessly into domestic servitude with sexual exploitation as the traffickers’ end game.

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Once trapped, there is little support from society to help women who have been trafficked.

We came here to learn about Romania’s response to human trafficking. It is quite possible we knew more about how to appropriately respond than we realized, because in addition to participating in games and crafts with the children, we developed and delivered lessons on the importance of respect for ourselves and others. Recognizing the dignity of others helps us to show compassion. As a result, respect becomes an exchange.

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Parliament Palace

Days of community outreach are emotionally intense. For that reason some sightseeing was built into our schedule. This gave us an opportunity to process what we learned about human trafficking and our interactions with the children and young women we have met.

 

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Tomorrow we travel by bus to a new city. Three hours to prepare our hearts and minds for what’s next. Tonight, there’s dinner on the patio. And gelato!

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