The minute a person whose word means a great deal to others dare to take the open-hearted and courageous way, many others follow.

The minute a person whose word means a great deal to others dare to take the open-hearted and courageous way, many others follow.Marian Anderson

The author of the quote, a truly great and gifted singer, only belatedly recognized in her home country because some people couldn't see past the color of her skin. But her voice was not silenced. FDR used his influence to help bring her to the masses for an open air performance at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939.

What does that mean?
This quote is about influence, and the courage to use it. It says that the moment a person of influence takes a stand, people will listen. Sometimes they are people who are famous before they take a stand, other times they become famous because they take a stand. Some people are known to whole countries or even to the world. Others are known only to their friends or their family.

But when someone can no longer be silent at a perceived wrong and speaks out, others hear them. Many of these people have been thinking the same thing, but have not had the courage to step out and say it themselves. However, once that line has been crossed by one, many others feel more confident in expressing themselves. This can be a great power for good, or for ill, depending on what the topic is.

Why is personal influence important?  
While I hate to bring him up, Hitler was an excellent example of how personal influence can be used for ill, rather than good. A lot of people in Germany were thinking they got a patently unfair deal at the Treaty of Versailles (and I would agree). While some talked about how unfair it was, few were willing to do anything about it. Unfortunately, Hitler used his influence to get others to step forward and lead the world into a devastating war.

On the other hand, Mother Teresa became famous for, among other things, caring for those sick with HIV/AIDS. For many reasons, the disease caused people to be treated worse than lepers. Many people thought it was not right to treat people that way, but the media in most countries echoed some of the popular beliefs that the disease was a result of poor choices in lifestyle. By tending to their needs, she helped to humanize them and that act helped to influence other people to step forward and state their beliefs as well.

Where can I apply this in my life?
I feel it is safe to say that most of us don’t have an international or even national presence. Then again, when they started, neither did either of my examples. As I usually do, I will recommend that you start small and build as far as your comfort level will take you.

These days, at least in the USA, there are plenty of things different groups think are wrong and need to be stopped/started/altered/etc. Where any one person stands on these issues are as much a measure of what their beliefs are and what they stand for, as well as party and group affiliation (age, gender, etc).

I would urge caution to anyone who would consider moving past voicing their concerns and into violence (as some have in a few of these issues). Violence might seem to solve one problem, but it almost always starts many more problems (just ask Gavrilo Princip. While in some countries, it might be necessary as the only option left to the people (I’m looking at you, Bashar Al-Assad of Syria), it should only be used as a last resort.

In most of the rest of the world, we have other ways of dealing with that which we believe to be wrong. We state our case, we gather with like-minded people and we talk to those in positions of power, in an effort to influence them to step forward as a person of influence and bring more people to our cause.

Another way to use your influence is to start at the grass roots. Talk about your issue with your friends and family and spread your influence one person at a time. While it isn’t as fast as getting a convert in high places, I have found that the personal touch is very important in swaying the opinions of others.

The ability you have to immediately answer their questions and give counter-examples to their arguments or statements are often far more convincing than someone important lecturing them (and a thousand others) without any way of getting questions answered.

So, what do you think is wrong with the world, your country, city or neighborhood? What are you going to do about it? I would suggest you first do extensive research on the topic, so that any argument raised against you can be handled deftly, accurately, and eloquently. Then it’s time to start talking to your friends. Who knows, you might end up famous and influential.

From: Twitter, @NetworkerMK
confirmed at :
Photo by Carl Van Vechten
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]

Happy Birthday to Marian Anderson, born 27 February, 1897

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