I came across this portion of a commencement speech today. I thought it was an interesting way to phrase some of the choices that we make…
“Today, America is at a scary inflection point. Fear for the self is everywhere. We find it hard to care for the homeless when our mortgages are under water. Seniors fear they can’t afford to retire, the middle class worry about going on food stamps. The poor have no job security and too often no job. We divide ourselves by being part of the 1 percent or the 99 percent. The poor feel under attack, the middle class feel under attack, even the wealthy feel under attack.
Our team, the team that rallies us around the common good, that emphasizes self-sacrifice and altruism, is losing. Their team, the team that says “every man for himself,” that makes us turn our back on the poor, feel no empathy, that feeds off of our vulnerabilities, our insecurities, our personal demons and prejudices, is winning. Their team is winning, our team is losing, and yet I offer you a wondrous opportunity, to join the losing team. …
I know this opportunity sounds too good to be true. Yes, you can join the losing team, but not quite yet. You might need more seasoning. You see, it’s not easy to be on the losing team. You have to be careful. If you are not properly prepared, you will become a loser. We don’t want losers. We want winners who aren’t afraid to play on the losing team. I dare say that your preparation here is a good beginning, but you need more experience. It’s tougher than you think out here. There is evil out here. I’m not talking about some mystical, theoretical, hypothetical construct. I’m talking about the real thing: pain and suffering, despair and death.
So our team needs you. The other team offers you money, power, luxury cars, vacation homes, and stock options. Our team offers you challenge and struggle, a rich intellectual life, honesty as a guiding beacon and a good night’s sleep. Well, to be honest, their team offers a good night’s sleep also, but I just wanted to put it on our side. We seemed a little light on benefits.
But do you know why I offer you this opportunity to play on the losing side? Because in the end we are going to win. Because we are right. There is no way that our great democracy will continue to be a beacon to the free world if the rich hate the poor, and the poor hate the rich. If our middle class becomes a thing that your children will read about in their history books because it no longer exists, our country will decline. If we continue to have neighborhoods that the affluent are dying to get into, and the poor live in neighborhoods where they are just dying, we will have lost the promise of America.” –Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone
Last week during our Wednesday night discussion, we talked about coming up with a name (and a group tattoo, which would be AWESOME! Seriously guys, I am totally in). People ask what we are called, but we don’t really have a defined name right now. We have gone through Jezreel and Thundercroft, which each have their own stories. Ultimately, I think we decided to hold off on coming up with a name. It is difficult to think of a title that would define all of us.
Though we don’t have a name, according to this speech we are definitely playing on the losing team. And sometimes it really feels like it. I think that this speech is a good reminder that we are playing on this team because we are right. That seems like a egotistical thing to say, but I think it is true. I usually don’t feel comfortable saying what is right or wrong. Things are relative, people are different, etc. etc etc. However, rallying around the common good is right. Go team losing! Or something. I shouldn’t try to write using sports metaphors.