It Starts with What We Believe
We reflect on two of the United States’ most iconic and treasured values statements during our national pause for Veterans Day – the commemoration and honoring of those who have served and sacrificed:
From the Declaration of Independence –
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all (people) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,
From the Constitution –
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
These are words of incredible beauty, noble statements of purpose and intent, timeless aspirations of what it truly means to have a ‘more perfect union’.
As we pause to honor those who have stood to preserve these values, we also acknowledge that historically our nation’s citizens have not always perfectly respected these heroes’ sacrifices. The Union has not always been just, tranquil, concerned about the general welfare, or worked to secure the blessings of liberty for everyone. We have not always spoken and acted as if all of us are created equal, endowed with rights that offer everyone a life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This is our nation’s centuries-old shame …
As we left the theater just one week ago, we looked at one another and the only words we expressed were:
“There are no words … “
We walked in silence as the film we viewed continued to pierce the depths of our hearts, the shadows of our souls, the very fabric of our ethical and moral beings. In the first moments after the credits began to roll, there were no remotely adequate words to describe what we had just witnessed.
The film was Till, a stunning, searing, very true-to-actual-events account of the last days of the Chicago-native Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old who was tortured and murdered – lynched – for complimenting a white female store clerk, as he visited relatives in Mississippi, in 1955. His horrendous death comes early in the film, which then follows his mother Mamie – a World War II widow of Emmett’s father – in her unrelenting and eminently courageous efforts to tell and redeem her son’s life and death, and to bring his murderers to justice.
The shame of our nation’s historic prejudices – and unequal practice of justice – is starkly evident in this unforgettable film.
Sadly, these prejudices begat so many horrific injustices against people of color, people who hold culturally-minority religious beliefs, people of differing sexual orientations and gender identities, people who are female, people living with disabilities, … people who are simply labeled as ‘different’, ‘other’, ‘less-than’.
One of Someone To Tell It To’s core and fundamental values is that everyone is endowed with a story to tell that needs to be told. So many people don’t have people in their lives to whom they can tell their stories – without fear, without judgment, without others trying to fix them and telling them what they ‘need’ to do.
We believe in the dignity and sacred worth of every person.
We teach that if we adhere to that belief in the dignity of every human being, we will listen with greater empathy and compassion, with deeper intent and graciousness, with a commitment to look beyond the surface and into another’s lived and felt experience.
We cannot listen well if we first don’t believe in one another’s dignity and humanity.
This is the first thing we teach, speak about, and try our very best to model in every one of our interactions with those to whom we listen and with those we help to learn how to listen better. Without this belief, none of us can listen effectively.
On this national holiday when we reflect on and commemorate those who served to ensure these rights for every human being, we recommit to this foundational value. For we believe that this value is an absolute key to equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, justice, tranquility, the common defence, and the general welfare that will preserve the blessings of liberty for all people for all time.
We believe that we honor best those who have served throughout our nation’s history by living out this value in every human connection we make.
This is the first in a series of six statements about the values and objectives of Someone To Tell It To’s listening, training, and educational programs, in the weeks to come. Living these values is how we are helping the world to listen,