Where are you shining your light? Is it on the problem or the solution? Are you focused on the limitations of a situation or the possibilities it invites?
Wherever you are, these questions are intended without judgment to invite self-reflection and to check in with yourself. Recently, amid the continuing stream of news around horrific, inhumane acts of social injustice and unrest, racism, inequality, and the ongoing health, human and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, I was inspired to celebrate a story that sparked joy in me.
I posted a congratulatory message on LinkedIn sharing the news that Danielle Geathers was elected as the first black woman student body President at MIT in the institution’s 159-year history. I hesitate to put the qualifiers of “first”, “black” and “woman” in celebrating Danielle and her achievement. Her accomplishment is historically significant and noteworthy, and pioneering achievements deserve celebration.
Yet, I could not help but wonder: What if we as a society were in a place where these qualifiers were unnecessary? Where we could direct the attention and celebration to the person, their excellence, and their inspiring story?
This would mean we have made significant progress towards seeing ALL humans as equals, valuing ALL humans as equals, and caring for ALL humans as equals. With this reflection, I invite you to consider truly where you are individually and where we are collectively as a society, and to aspire to be a positive contributor to creating a world where we do not feel the need for qualifiers such as women leaders, or first black valedictorian at Princeton (shout out to Nicholas Andre G. Johnson, class of 2020 valedictorian).
Something unexpected happened as I shared news of Danielle and her accomplishment. The post went viral. That is not the story.
The story is the wonderful outpouring of love and congratulations from thousands of people globally who chose to join me in celebrating Danielle and her becoming student body President at MIT! I have since had the pleasure of connecting with Danielle and many others on LinkedIn whose life experiences and perspectives are different from my own. I am grateful for the opportunity these new connections (and existing ones) offer to expand and enrich my perspective, the diversity of my connections and relationships, and the richness of the conversations we will be able to have together.
I want to be part of creating greater equality, justice, and access to opportunity for all. This is not a new insight for me. I have recently asked myself better questions that move me from insight to taking action: how might I meaningfully take action to contribute to creating better WITH and FOR ALL human beings?
Wanting has evolved to more intentional choices to listen and learn so that I can better contribute from a place of greater understanding. I am approaching choices to join and continue to participate in communities with a keener eye on their intention, inclusiveness, and the diversity of the voices not only in the room but at the table. I am bringing this lens to my choices personally and professionally. This is bringing greater clarity to my beliefs, values, and choices.
Our choices reflect our beliefs. Our actions reflect our values. Our lived values reflect who we are. And inaction, indifference, not making a decision is a choice. I am committed to becoming better and I ask for your grace as I do this work.
I conclude where I began: celebrating and congratulating Danielle Geathers on becoming elected student body President at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I am excited about the impact you will continue to make personally, in your new role as student body President at MIT, and beyond as you continue to lead, inspire and uplift others to create better with and for the MIT student body and ALL humanity.
Who will you choose to celebrate today?