This week’s topic is “leaders who inspire you.” I think it might also be, “quick, show us your value system!” because I am finding that my choices reveal a tremendous amount about the things that I value deeply.
1. The Dalai Lama: Leader of the Tibetan people, although in exile, he is an articulate voice for peace, interfaith understanding, and human rights.
2. Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ: A Jesuit priest who has devoted the majority of his career to working to end the gang violence in East LA through community organizing, a jobs program, and amazing relationships with the teens in the neighborhood. I actually know Fr. Greg–he was best friend of one of my exes. I have been in his car, driving through one of the most dangerous areas of LA and watching him be amazingly available to the kids in this war-torn neighborhood. He has raced to the scene of gunfights brewing and has had a bullet land in the headrest behind his head. If you want to be really inspired by what commitment and love can do for families and neighborhoods, read his biography (link above) and his more recent book about his work.
3. W. E. B. DuBois Brilliant leader in the African American community for almost a century, writer, editor, sociologist, educator. I took a whole course on him at Brown and read volumes of his novels, non-fiction, speeches, autobiography. He was not necessarily an easy guy–definitely an intellectual snob, but he cared deeply about impacting racism in the US and the world at large, and brought his amazing intellect to bear on the problem for decades.
4. Martin Luther King, Jr.: This week especially, it is impossible not to acknowledge his tremendous leadership in the Civil Rights movement. His peaceful methods of protest, his eloquent speeches about race in this country, and his ability to organize thousands of people, black and white, to make fundamental changes in the society inspire me profoundly. If you are in Atlanta, go to the MLK Center there, but give yourself a lot of time, go slowly and really read the exhibits. I am awed by the courage so many people exhibited in that era, and only wish that more of us could show that level of commitment every day. I wish that he had lived to continue his developing work on poverty, as we might be much farther along as a nation in that domain, had he lived. While I’m on the topic, if you want insight into the human experience of individual black southerners of that era, get a copy of Tony Grooms’ Trouble No More for an amazing set of short stories.
5. Martin Seligman: Former president of the American Psychological Association, prolific researcher, and author of important popular press books on psychology, Seligman is the founder of the positive psychology movement. This movement focuses the work of researchers and practitioners in the field on factors that don’t simply fix problems in mental functioning, but make life better and deeper. He looks at prevention and helping people maximize the impact of their strengths. To learn more about his work on optimism and its role in preventing depression, see my latest post at my professional blog.
6. Jon Kabat-Zinn: Trained as a molecular biologist, Kabat-Zinn has brought important changes to the management of pain and stress in medical settings, training thousands of professionals and laypeople in the techniques of mindfulness meditation. I’m actually very excited to be starting a course next week based on his training model, which I hope will bring increased mindfulness to my day-to-day life, and also new skills to help patients in my psychology practice. A growing body of research indicates that mindfulness is a powerful tool, not only against stress and chronic pain, but against relapses in cases of treated depression.
I may add some additional people to this list later, but here is my initial list. Let me know who inspires you! Oh, and join the list party on your own blog and link up with the rest of us at this week’s organizing page.