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Democracy, Citizenship & Canaries: How are we doing?


One of my heroes, whose teachings I sometimes lose track of - but always welcome remembering - is Marshall Ganz.


I ran across a 2017 keynote of Ganz today, and I was reminded - as I usually am - why he is such an inspiration to me. 


This was not the smoothest speech I’ve seen Ganz give - but as always it is heartfelt and passionate about what is at stake, and how we all need to focus on what it is we’re really trying to do.


Fact is there is plenty of poisonous gas in this ‘coal mine’ that we’re all in. There are a lot of things wrong with the world today. The question - which I ponder on more and more - is are we focusing on changing the right things to get at the real roots on what needs changing.

This is not easy work.


To do it, Ganz reminds us we need to engage with our ‘head, heart and hands’ - and to persuade others to join us. This is key. We CANNOT do any of this work alone.


We must work together. We must have hope. And we must BELIEVE we can do it.


For Ganz, the head is often engaged - but how we reach the heart is through story. Through our emotions. How we do that is a whole other piece - but it is essential to persuade others to join us on this journey - to a better, more just world.


Heady stuff, but really about the heart. If we’re not leading with our heart, and a commitment to make a difference - then what are we doing? 


That’s also extremely important to Ganz. We all need to make a commitment - and not just to do our best, but to really create change - we must be prepared to commit all that we are. Our time. Our selves. This is what the civil rights movement asked for. The women’s movement. And so many others.


Are we ready to really, truly commit? 


This is the ‘hands’ part. The commitment to action. Admittedly, it sometimes can be tough to know what actions / commitments will really make a difference.


This is where the canary comes in.


We need to make sure we all make it in this world. There are plenty of signs we are not doing well. There is plenty of poison. How do we get rid of it - really and truly - is the question?


The answer - not sure yet. Because, for me, it’s also about leadership. Not just ‘leaders on high’ so to speak. But the leadership we all need, and all have - as citizens, to make a difference. 


We need all of us to act. To commit. To have hope. And to believe.


Only then are we likely to make it.


Ganz ends this speech with some lyrics from a song called “Pass it On..."


Freedom doesn’t come like a bird on the wing… Doesn’t fall down like the summer rain. Freedom. . . freedom is a hard-won thing. You have to work for it, fight for it, day and night for it And every generation has to win it again!


Pass it on to your children, Brother. Pass it on to your children, Sister. They’ve got to work for it, fight for it, day and night for it. And every generation has to win it again.


Pass it on, sister. Pass it on, brother.

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