It’s been more than three years since I wrote that column, but I never really got out of the habit.
So I’ll tell you something about myself.
When I need to rise to the occasion for something, whether it’s picking up the phone to call a donor or testifying at a hearing or telling someone what I really think, I think of Macbeth.
I love the Orson Welles movie. You probably know the scene. Macbeth needs to go up and kill King Duncan in his sleep, so he can become the Thane of Cordor, and he’s sort of dithering around, and Lady Macbeth sets him straight by saying, “Screw your courage to the wall. Then you’ll not fail.”
I always hear it in my head with this Scottish brogue thing.
And I visualize Jeanette Nolan.
And that kind of does it for me. But there’s this sort of secondary process.
First I ask myself, “Is what I’m about to do more noble than ascending the throne by means of assassination.”
And the answer to that generally being yes, I ask myself the next question.
“Is what I need to do easier than plunging a knife into the heart of a sleeping monarch?”
And I find the answer is always yes there as well.
So, that’s what works for me, but the point is, we live in very trying times, and it seems sometimes that the hardest thing for us to do is to grasp the reality of the situation we’re in without looking away.
And to not be overwhelmed by the horror.
And to do what we need to do, even when it’s not comfortable. Even when there is risk involved. Even when we’re not sure of the right way forward.
When we become activists for a different kind of world, no one hands us a road map that says turn left at the democratic party and keep going up hill until you see the brick wall, and then, transcend.
It sounds trite to say, but phrases that become worn with use often get that way because they’re just right.
We make our road by walking. And it always begins with a first step.
For the last year, we at Real Change have been deepening our understanding of our unique position in the community. We have allies. We bridge issues. We have more freedom than most — thanks to our large community of grassroots supporters and our earned income through circulation and advertising — to say what we mean and mean what we say.
And, we have 270 vendors each month selling the paper, reaching more than 12,000 readers each week. And there is a bond there. And that’s where our power lies.
So this year, we’re kicking off what will be a great experiment in cross-class organizing. We know that poor and homeless people need to have a stronger voice, but we can’t do it on our own. We know that our readers and other allies have political clout, and that their interests, and the interests of poor people, are linked.
We’re not really exactly sure where we’re going, but we’re taking the first steps toward building a space where people can come together and find their fire.
Real Change isn’t just a community. Real Change is many communities. Our work, we think is to increase the size of those spaces where these communities come together.
Text of speech for Real Change 13th Anniversary Breakfast, 10.24.2007