We have all been there, seated in a crowded restaurant flooded with the tumult of voices amalgamated into a decibel level so high it is untenable, making it impossible to have a normal conversation. People are talking, but no one is really listening. It is just noise. This serves as a perfect metaphor for our legislative process – the din of voices and wagging tongues, but no one is really listening! Unless you are one of the favored few who can buy ears to listen, you just become part of the noise!
It was not always this way, nor should it be. One of the unique attributes in the origin of America was the embracing and promotion of Freedom of Speech – granting VOICE to everyday common folk as a prized human right. George Washington said it plain enough, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we will be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” We may still have “Freedom of Speech” as a constitutional right, but I believe it is waning as an esteemed social value, especially amongst an extreme segment of our culture.
At the Family Care Network, I have always valued and promoted VOICE, and the free exchange of thoughts and ideas. I truly believe that our Executive Team serves as a wonderful model of how government should work. We have frank conversations, very diverse opinions, sometimes heated, emotionally charged discussions; but, at the end of the day, we make our decisions, live with them, and depart as friends leaving behind our differences. I firmly believe it is essential to have diverse opinions and VOICE in order to make the best decisions for our organization. I have strong opinions, but they are not un-bendable, and often change for the better upon hearing other perspectives. What a concept!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned these simple words, “The human voice is the organ of the soul.” What we say is a reflection of who we are, our beliefs, our values, our character and our flaws. If we truly care about others, then we must respect and value what people have to say – even when we do not agree with it! The VOICE of others is no less or more important than ours, it just may be different. I love the attitude conveyed in the Dave Mason song, “There are no good guys, there are no bad guys, there’s just you and me and we just don’t agree.” The beauty of the American experience is the right of everyone to have a VOICE in shaping, guiding and governing our destiny. It is essential that we must preserve this freedom!
I find it very disturbing that we have political parties, social groups and religions whose position is: “if you do not think like we do – you are wrong and un-welcomed in society.” This is so contrary to the principles on which our country was built and it is extraordinarily destructive to the fabric of our society. It creates division, promotes hatred and extreme social strife. No good thing can come from a haughty, self-righteous attitude and practice.
I think we need to hearken to the words of one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of our nation will begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” A careful scrutiny of every oppressive regime, dictatorship and political tyrant, be it Nero, Hitler or Vladimir Putin, makes clear a defining strategy – silence opposing VOICE! Every American should be alarmed, even frightened, by calls to limit or silence the VOICE of others.
But, oppressing VOICE is much more subtle than that. I have learned over years of advocating for children, youth and families that most political leaders turn a deaf ear--they don’t really care about your VOICE. Our political system has become so corrupted by greed, the only VOICE heard is the VOICE of money. Years ago, I tried to get an appointment with our current House Minority Leader when we were in his district. I was never successful. Basically, I was told, he will only meet with contributors, i.e., bring your checkbook and you will get an appointment! Unfortunately, I have found that our local representatives are not much different. If you are not a person of influence or wealth…well, you get the point.
Nonetheless, I will not be daunted or inhibited by this callous indifference; nor should any of us be! My work is about giving VOICE to the unheard, and reiterating the VOICE of the heard in such a way that you question, or re-examine, the “soul” behind it.
I believe that we who value people, desire a society where everyone experiences an enjoyable quality of life and seeks the best interest of all, have an obligation to build a VOICE of reason and change. History has taught us that you can create a social VOICE of such tumult, and bravado that it drowns out all other negative influences and produces change. This is how the United States of America was created!
It is time for us to lift our VOICE together and say, “Enough is enough!” We will only become a stronger nation when diverse VOICES are valued and heard--unimpeded and not disdained. Otherwise, the sobering words of our first President will become prophetic, “...then dumb and silent we will be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
We challenge you to use your voice on issues and/or causes you're passionate about to help make a difference in our community!