That’s me between President Clinton and President Bush last week at the graduation of the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program. I had the honor of being selected for the 2016 class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) Program. This bipartisan program sought to bring together leaders from all walks of life and industry who share a commitment to helping solve society’s greatest challenges.
As our country struggles to find common ground regarding our most basic community needs, we need new opportunities to help us come together with the most unlikely people from our communities. This program showed me that by doing so, we may in fact unravel the myths that separate us to find that we have more in common than we believe to be true. Yet what is key is giving space for people to be heard, to learn from and empathize with their struggles, which ultimately should open our eyes to the cries emerging from our communities.
I strongly believe this is what it takes for the transformation many of us are seeking and hoping for in our communities. We cannot move to action without first knowing and listening to other perspectives around us. We cannot create new programs without first understanding what all stakeholders believe are the challenges and opportunities available before us. We should not proceed without first grappling with the complexity of issues we may be eager to resolve—from community violence, poverty to the health disparities ruining our communities.
This takes time, effort and may require more of us than simply moving forward with what we believe. Yet if we invest in our communities in this way, we may be surprised at what emerges. I believe that in so doing, you will find new allies to help, new resources that may have not been previously available, to new ideas and opportunities that may go deeper and wider in trying to meet the needs that have been unmet over time.
David Bornstein, founder of Ashoka said it best in his book How to Change the World “it takes creative individuals with fixed determination and indomitable will to propel the innovation that society needs to tackle its toughest problems.” The PLS program scholars reminded and inspired me to keep fighting for what I believe to achieve the work I so deeply care about particularly in our Latino communities. I hope they inspire you too to do the same as you work day in and day out to foster change in your community.