The program’s goal was to partner congressional members, each with ten kids in their district…and as a group they would train for a 5k together.
Along the way they would learn about leadership…
The curriculum I wrote for the program was chock full of activities around the power of listening, compassion and empathy…seeking first to understand…the importance of honoring each other’s stories.
Several members had signed on. Two in particular had agreed to be Honorary Chairpersons!
With less than a couple months out from the kick off…the chief of staff of one of the honorary chairpersons called me.
“We need to meet.”
Michelle Barbeau, who had also given countless hours to the program, and I flew to Washington, DC…filled with hope…
It was approximately three years ago today that we sat across the table from him…when he told us that there was no way his “boss” (that’s what staffers call the Congressional members they work for) could ever participate in a program that used words like compassion, love and understanding.
He became increasingly angrier as the meeting ensued.
For the first time…I witnessed just how threatening Love, empathy, understanding can be to the political status quo.
I told him the program was for the children…that I had given my life to children…and that it was more about them…how they longed for leaders they could emulate, look up to, believe in.
He told me it was too “Kum bah yah” and Kum Ba yah didn’t fly on Capitol Hill.
When I got back to my hotel room I cried. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, elbows on knees and my head in my hands and I wept. I had seen and what I saw made me feel hopeless.
It may surprise you to know that my tears were not for the program lost, or the amount of work and effort that would never come to fruition.
They were for this young man…this chief of staff…who had fallen prey to the political climate we have become all too familiar with in this recent campaign. This young man who could be my son, your son…who had come to Washington wanting to make positive change and had instead been told that “to survive up here, you have to play the game.”
As I sit back and observe the current election…the anger, the fear, the love and the hope…as I read and see it in the media, social media and in particular from my friends, who, by the way represent all political perspectives…I am overjoyed, filled with hope and thrilled to see that at last…at last so many of us are waking up to see…that this “us versus them” “win at all costs” mentality in politics (heck everywhere) no longer serves any of us.
If your first inclination is to suggest that one party has awakened to this earlier than another…let me challenge you to reconsider that thought. I have friends who run the gamut in terms of their political persuasions and all are exhausted by and aware of how this mentality is no longer serving us.
And this my friends…gives me great hope for the future.