Margaret Mead is often quoted, and for good reason. She held a simple but very powerful view of community success and one always worth revisiting at year’s end.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Mead was an academic and cultural anthropologist who believed that the ceiling for personal growth wasn’t limited by an individual’s birthplace or genetics. She saw strength in every human being and taught that all people have the capacity to teach and to lead.
This is often the time that folks give pause and think about the well-being of others. As we do, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on our own role in community and what might be possible if we think big and look beyond what we once thought we might accomplish.
Every year, I’m fortunate to see leadership like this play out in communities across our worldwide network. There’s no more inspirational example than that of Ithaca, New York Mayor Svante Myrick. Earlier this fall, Mayor Myrick spoke to a group of worldwide young leaders attending the Student United Way Leadership Retreat here in Washington.
“Get in there and be the example of the good you want to see … imagine a world different from the status quo and be brave enough to make the leap from the world as it is to the world that can be.”
These words carried great meaning to this audience.
In 2011, at age 24, Svante Myrick was elected as the youngest mayor in Ithaca’s history. He knows what it means to be a student with his own ideas about changing his community, and the challenges of being a young leader and ensuring that your voice is heard. The Mayor was a member of his own Student United Way while attending Cornell University.
But, even more remarkable is his story. As a baby, he and his family were often homeless. Svante’s mother worked multiple jobs and the family often relied on public assistance and the support of others. Growing up, Svante saw sacrifice and experienced what it meant to have to ask for help.
Experiences like these profoundly shape a person. I’ve seen it throughout my own life. For Svante, he used it as an opportunity to grow and to lead. He knows the power of kindness and giving lift to those who are less fortunate.
United Way advances the common good by creating opportunities for all people to have a better life. Everyone, everywhere, deserves the opportunity to achieve her or his own potential. Svante shows us the result.
Perhaps, most importantly, Svante is living proof that there’s leadership in everyone, and that what might otherwise seem insurmountable really is possible. You just have to dream big.
Enjoy the holidays and have a safe and happy New Year.