Sunday, July 13, 2008

Leadership: We Must Become the Change

I have to be away for a period of time tomorrow, so it's possible I won't be posting until later in the day--if then.

Meanwhile, since a weekend will have come and gone before I resume posting, I don't want to leave blank pages in this online journal. In case readers are looking for something to read, I'd like to make a brief mention of two interrelated resources.

First, I'm grateful to Bilerico blog for publishing the posting I wrote some days back on Barack Obama and post-homophobic models of African-American leadership. The Bilerico copy is at For readers of this blog, the discussion of the text at Bilerico may be of interest.

I admire Bil Browning's Bilerico blog for all kinds of reasons. It aims at an inclusivness that crosses racial lines, as well as the the bizarre line that sometimes causes the gay community to exclude the transgendered or those considered gender-inappropriate. Bilerico is progressive without being dogmatic: it entertains a variety of political perspectives and conversations, and encourages free speech about these. Even when I don't agree with the political position someone is taking on Bilerico, I find the conversation instructive.

I also like the inclusion of younger and less official (and officious) voices than those that often appear on LGBT blogs. As someone drawn to education, I've always felt that each generation needs to make a strong effort to transmit values to the next, to draw the coming generation along, and to have the good sense to let go at some point. It's important for those of us accustomed to droning on and on to stop talking at some point and let younger folks have a go at it. When we do so, we might be surprised at what we learn.

This concern forms the background to some of what I've been posting on leadership--including what I said in my posting on Obama and the need to develop post-homophobic models of leadership in the African-American community. That posting focused on the hopefulness that (in my view) one may see in the gradual shift from generation to generation, towards a more respectful and inclusive attitude to gay citizens.

In my recent posting on Bayard Rustin entitled "Prejudice Is of a Single Bit," I noted Rustin's emphasis on the need for leaders to model leadership: to embody the values they hope to enshrine in the process of social transformation. I'm strongly persuaded that churches and educators and plain old human beings, in the process of transmitting values from one generation to the next, cannot expect to be successful unless the process of transmission is more than verbal. It's imperative that leaders model what it means to lead.

When values are what's being transmitted, it's imperative that leaders model the values they believe it's important to pass on to the next generation. My reflections on Obama (and Rustin) note the need for leaders to model inclusiveness, respect for dialogue, openness to the perspectives of the least among us, the willingness to talk beyond the lines of ghettoization that divide marginal community from marginal community.

These are essential virtues for leaders in any participatory democracy that wants to remain viable. They're traits I'm looking for as I assess the current crop of political candidates. I intend to keep the feet of any leader I help elect to the fire, regarding these virtues.

And, in case anyone is interested in further ruminations of mine on this point, I'll end this posting by pointing to another resource. This is an essay of mine on the them of leadership at

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