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.
General 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.
As 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.