Dreamer of dreams

March 6, 2011

I continue to struggle with something I have written about on this blog before, which is how to take actions that uphold my ideals. I have not written much here recently, in part because I have not felt particularly inspired in the past few months. In fact, I have at times felt quite hopeless and powerless, such as when I read about the flurry of reactionary bills in Congress or budget cuts to K-12 education in Colorado.

I encounter many demands – through my church and on the blogs and websites I read – to be a political activist, to write yet again to my congressperson, sign yet another petition, or attend yet another rally. Even though I know there is evidence of such things actually having an impact, I find it difficult to gather the motivation to partake in these actions myself. I remain unconvinced at a visceral level that doing so actually makes a difference.

However, the constant bombardment of demands to act combined with my lack of motivation to do so results in guilt. Am I not doing my part to make this world a better place because I do not partake in political activism? When I am feeling neither completely hopeless about the world nor guilty about my political inaction, I remember that there are many ways of being in and contributing to the world. Political activism is only one such way, and it is not for everyone. Politics have always sickened me and made me feel hopeless and powerless, and I don’t think this is likely to change.

As I search for my way of acting towards peace and a better world, I take inspiration from the first stanza of the poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

I am a dreamer of dreams. I am a music maker. It is through being these things that I will move and shake the world. My way of acting is not in political activism, but in waking people up, shaking them out of their sleep and shifting their perspective on life, on the world, on their community, on their meaning. I believe that my way in the world is as a “quiet leader”: I am not out to be the next senator but as a dreamer of dreams I am a leader nonetheless.

Therefore, I must learn not to feel guilty in the face of demands for political action that I do not fulfill. For I am a dreamer of dreams, a music maker, and a mover and a shaker of the world.


Organization of the week: African Leadership Academy

January 18, 2010

I have said on this blog before that I think education is crucial to creating a more peaceful world. I generally mean education for the masses, but in this post I want to highlight an organization that is focused on educating the next generation of leaders in Africa: African Leadership Academy. Their mission is “To transform Africa into a peaceful and prosperous continent by developing and supporting its future leaders.” They accept applications from high-school age students across Africa and select (on merit alone) approximately the top 100 to attend their innovative two-year program. They prep the students to attend the top universities in the world, but with a focus on leadership development, entrepreneurial training, and an understanding of African issues. From their website:

African Leadership Academy was founded in 2004 with the belief that ethical leadership is the key to transforming the African continent. Founders Fred Swaniker, Chris Bradford, Peter Mombaur, and Acha Leke sought to create an institution that would develop, connect, and support those individuals who will lead the continent toward a peaceful and prosperous future. In the two years that followed, the founding team built a powerful network of advisors and developed a robust, sustainable operating model for the Academy, a world-class, pan-African secondary institution on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Their five founding beliefs are: address the underlying causes of problems, the power of one, the power of youth, the need for pan-African cooperation, and entrepreneurship is fundamental to growth. The core values that form a foundation for their program are integrity, curiosity, humility, compassion, diversity, and excellence. I admire the mission, beliefs, and values of African Leadership Academy and think it has the power to help bring peace to the world.