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.

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.

And Here We Go

Study abroad is a fantastic way to spend a summer. I highly recommend it. Although, my class just began today and I haven’t actually started the “abroad” part yet. So, I am speaking hypothetically, of course. I hope I can make the same claim a month from now.

Yes, I graduated. Yes, we had a big party. Yes, I received gifts and praise from my friends and family. Yes, I could be conducting a job search. But two semesters ago I made up my mind that I really, really wanted to participate in the anti-human trafficking study abroad program before making any career decisions. Here is the reason why:

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery — a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom. –

During that semester, I read Kevin Bales’ book, “Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy” and Louise Shelley’s book, “Human Trafficking, A Global Perspective,” and frankly I was completely overwhelmed and depressed. That is until I realized that I did not have to figure out how to do all of the jobs for international counter-trafficking response. I only had to choose an area that made the most sense for my skills and tolerance level for dealing with the scum who buy and sell humans for sex and forced labor. Yes, the people who pay to have sex with children are scum. They don’t care if I call them scum. They know they are scum, and they don’t care. Yes, the people who, through fraud and coercion, enslave human beings are scum. They don’t care if I call them scum. They know they are scum, and they don’t care. As you may be able to tell, my tolerance level for scum prevents me from pursuing some jobs.

The U.S. Department of State publishes a Trafficking In Persons Report for those interested in reading more about the subject. To say that studying human trafficking is a challenge is an understatement. Students participating in this program will no doubt look poverty and violence square in the face. At times it may seem overwhelming, but each student in this class knows the value of meeting a challenge. We know there is value in helping others. We know what we bring to the table is valued by our professor as well as the organizations with which we will be working. It is a privilege for me to participate in this program. I only hope that I can live up to my own expectations. I will keep you posted.




The Precipice Of Our Own Madness

Copyright - Janet Webb
Copyright – Janet Webb

In the safety of community, we find guidance, choices, hope. The way forward is not behind us. Children watch us, taking note as withered wisdom’s blossoms fade, fortunes lost, ransoms paid. Icy roadblocks freeze our tracks, keeping us ever looking back, wishing for a different way than living to fight another day.

Surrendered to the calendar life seems futile. Commanded to obey instinct we lose the game of pray for prey. Melted puddles underfoot, embers defying ash and soot, dreams won’t be held against their will. Flickers flash one last mad dash soaring, imploring better angels, “Save us from ourselves.”


This week’s Friday Fictioneer prompt, courtesy of Janet Webb, inspired this poetic prose that pretty much sums up how I feel about current events. Final exams are next week and my brain has been working overtime. So, feel free to reel me back in from the deep end.