Monthly Archives: April 2010

Power at its Best

By Eliana Godoy, 2009 Reynolds fellow

Recently I had the privilege of attending the first Social Entrepreneurship Summit of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, held in Washington D.C.. 

Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novogratz set the tone for the conference by highlighting the importance of addressing issues of power dynamics and analyzing the structural systems that are preventing development in the most marginalized communities and populations.  Mrs. Novogratz alerted us to the fact that our efforts to alleviate poverty will not be significant unless we also address the roots of the problems.   She concluded her presentation by reminding us of Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: 

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.  Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” 

Standing in Washington, amid people who, on a daily basis, make decisions that affect the nation and even the world,  was itself an introduction to the display of power, which I hope led me to question in the way that Dr. King intended. 

135-colin powell-thumb-300x200-134.jpgGeneral Colin Powell focused a great deal on the wealth generation as the means and end to addressing our world’s most pressing problems.   After sharing his own story, from his roots in the South Bronx to reaching the highest ranks in the Reagan and Bush administrations, he concluded that all the answers lie in market-based solutions, citing the success of globalization and industrialization as prime examples.  He further advised us to go out there and make money, while creating jobs, because we too, one day, can become philanthropists.  

I found his lack of systemic analysis extremely dangerous.  As I gathered the strength to address General Powell in a polite and coherent manner, I was proud to hear the words of one of my peers as she challenged his glorification of globalization by sharing the story of someone she had met in Chiapas, who has a different take on globalization because of his community’s struggles.  

In Washington power is present in all its attributes, with its virtues and flaws, with the positive, the negative and the in between.  But, one thing is certain: there is a place in politics for those who want to give voice to the voiceless and to employ the power that Dr. King admired and advocated for – the power full of love

133-john lewis-thumb-300x200-132.jpgAs U.S. congressman and long time civil rights hero John Lewis told me that evening, “The work of public service must be guided by hope.  Keeping the hope alive is what inspires you to continue defending people’s rights.” It is certainly hope that inspires me but what really drives me full force are the people in the communities I represent, those affected by the very broken and oppressive structures that often limit them from realizing their own visions of growth.

See Eliana’s full post here.

Courts Undermined, America Uneasy: ACLU’s Anthony Romero on Defending Democracy

Here’s a letter from Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Be sure to come see Romero speak at the NYU Reynolds Speakers Series!

April 27 at 5:30pm //  NYU Wagner Rudin Forum for Civic Dialogue, 2nd Fl // The Puck Building, 295 Lafayette St. // RSVP here

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128-romero-thumb-163x204-127.bmpTo the NYU Reynolds Community:

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to speak about “Defending Civil Liberties in an Uncertain Age” at the NYU Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship on April 27.

These are a few of the issues that are currently on my mind at the moment.  I’m looking forward to discussing these topics at greater length later this month.

Bush and Obama Undercut the Judiciary

• For eight years, President George W. Bush eagerly diminished access to the courts, in order to shift power into his own hands.  What’s more surprising is the eagerness with which the Obama Administration has taken the baton from Bush.  And perhaps most dishearteningly, federal courts have been almost eager emasculate themselves.

• This is the result:  An executive branch wielding increasingly unchecked power, a rising wall between the American people and the American justice system, and a growing distance between the vision of our Founders and the lives of our people.

• In just one example of this, the Obama Justice Department recently urged the D.C. Court of Appeals to reverse a lower-court ruling that three detainees being held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan were entitled to challenge their detention under habeas corpus.

Congress Complicit in Weakening the Courts

• Congress has also too often been willing to weaken not only its own authority, but that of the federal courts.  Beginning with the USA PATRIOT Act, Congress has repeatedly deferred to the Executive in constraining access to basic justice for American citizens and those in American custody.

• Last fall, at the Obama administration’s request, Congress gave Defense Secretary Robert Gates the authority to exempt from public disclosure photographs whose release the ACLU had won in a FOIA lawsuit- reversing a Second Circuit ruling ordering the government to turn over the photos over.

A Vigorous Democracy Demands Checks and Balances

A Congress that teams with the executive branch to broadly restrict the power of the judicial branch throws the balance off.  We cannot remain a vibrant, moral and prosperous nation unless we have access to a court system willing to stand up to power and restore balance when justice is at stake. 

I’m looking forward to a vibrant discussion about these and other issues on April 27.

 

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union

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A Letter from Woody Tasch: Slow Money Alliance National Gathering

The following is a letter that Woody Tasch, former speaker in the NYU Reynolds Speakers Series, wrote to us this week. You can view Tasch’s speech from the series online here.

 

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131-tasch.jpgTo my friends at the NYU Reynolds Program,

I write with the same vision as always–bringing money back down to earth and bringing respect back to earthworms–through Slow Money’s principle aim to increase investments in small food enterprises and local food systems.

For those of you who attended my talk at the Speaker Series event in the fall, you heard me mention a National Gathering we held in Santa Fe last September, and for those of you who didn’t, I can tell you it had a profound effect on where Slow Money finds itself today in terms of wealth of support, members, exposure, and ideas.

This year, we’ve decided to host a second annual gathering June 9-11 at the gorgeous Shelburne Farms, Vermont in the hopes that we match the enthusiasm and success of last year’s occasion.

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We’ve confirmed an inspiring group of speakers I know will appeal to the Reynolds 
group, including Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, Stonyfield Farms’ Gary Hirshberg, Robert Zevin, the ‘father‘ of the socially responsible investment movement, and Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, made famous by Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and the film Food, 
Inc.

I very much appreciate all of the support that the Reynolds family has provided us with from Slow Money’s beginning and I sincerely hope some of you will make your way out to our event.

Additional information can be found at the event website: http://www.slowmoneyalliance.org/national-gathering.html

NYU folks will receive a 20% discount; enter code “nyu” to register for the gathering alone or “nyu+dinner” if you would like to attend the Friday evening farm table dinner celebration as well.

Another sincere thanks, look forward to seeing some of you soon.

Woody Tasch

The Power of Narrative

By Courtney Montague

2009 Reynolds Fellow

 

What do Speaker of the
House Nancy Pelosi, General Colin Powell, General James Jones- US National
Security Advisor, Anthony Romero (President of the ACLU), and Jacqueline
Novogratz (CEO of Acumen Fund) all have in common? They are master storytellers
and they understand how the power of narrative can be used to accomplish their
visions of change.

 

That much became clear
during the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation 2010 Social Entrepreneurship Summit
in Washington DC. Seventy of us had the privilege of hearing from over 30
of the country’s leaders in the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court,
the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, national health and education
organizations, and various members of the press.

 

Anthony Romero and
Jacqueline Novogratz are masters of the narrative and use their narratives to
highlight power structures that each are battling.

 

Romero pointed out that,
as Executive Director of the ACLU, he is involved in a case defending a man who
was prevented from protesting against gay rights. Romero pointed out how
important it is that he, as a homosexual Executive Director of the ACLU,
focuses on protecting the rights of an individual – even as this individual
wants nothing more than to protest 
his rights as a gay man.

 

Romero envisions an
American Society where the rights of all citizens are protected regardless of
personal beliefs – including the rights of those to protest whatever and
wherever they choose. After experiencing the lack of basic human rights in
developing countries, and how the lack of a rule of law breeds the corruption,
poverty and misery around the world, I sleep safer now knowing that Anthony
Romero is out there leading an organization designed to protect my rights as a
citizen.

 

Jacqueline Novogratz
told of leaving Wall Street to start the first microfinance bank in Rwanda.
After she left that country, the women of her bank played almost every role
imaginable in the genocide. Some watched their families be killed, some died,
and others were perpetrators. After telling this story, Novogratz acknowledged
that her initial development work was largely in an ‘information silo’ and that
only through the combined efforts of many disciplines could she change lives. To
deny the larger issues of structural violence and political power and privilege
within a country is to deny the poor any meaningful chance to escape destitute
poverty.

 

We also heard from General Powell.  His speech began with a narrative regarding how the only ‘true’ way to empower the poor is to provide them with jobs and create wealth. Powell’s narrative revolved around his parents, who were empowered by their respective positions as a seamstress and banquet waiter to move to a better neighborhood in Harlem and send their children to a decent public school. When NYU Reynolds’s members challenged the position that wealth creation/job creation are the development ‘answer’ and pointed out that they have in fact been detrimental to certain people around the world, he explained that globalization is coming whether we like it or not, and the idea of a pastoral utopia of the past has no basis in reality. 


Perhaps the conflict was unavoidable between Powell, a Republican, and a students from relatively liberal NYU, but Powell’s adherence to a narrow narrative of development prevented him from recognizing that power and privilege can conspire to keep people destitute and how job creation itself can propagate conditions of structural violence.


Finally, after watching
the final votes in the Senate regarding the historic health care bill we all
had the privilege of hearing from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. 
Bright-eyed and excited, Speaker Pelosi described the story of a young woman
whose child had a terrible cough, and died within three days because she was
uninsured and could not afford a simple x-ray. Pelosi articulately navigated her
narrative, connecting it from the plight of the poor in America to larger
structures within politics and, finally, her vision of change.

 

These remarkable
speakers brought into focus issues of structural violence, politics and power,
human rights and the power of the story for social change. Each gave me a new
respect for public service in the government and how a ‘small rudder can change
the course of a big ship.’ The huge ship of government may move slowly, but
changemakers within the system can make a tremendous difference for millions of
people.