By David Hart
NVI Intern Jules Slater Wins Prestigious Oration Competition
NVI is blessed with the volunteer leadership of three amazing interns. Those who follow our social media are starting to get to know Katherine Whiteside who is hosting our Spotlight on Nonviolence series on our new YouTube channel. Sam Lynch has been taking substantial leadership on a range of essential nonprofit management tasks. Working with each of them is a joy. Today, I'm thrilled to introduce you to Jules Slater who just won a 111 year old competition at their college.
Jules won with a powerful speech on what I consider the single most important topic of our time. What do we do with our anger about the state of the world? Can we find ways to allow ourselves to feel whatever we are feeling - pain, despair, hope, anger - and channel those emotions into effective action? Check out Jules' insightful and beautifully presented remarks starting 27 minutes in to the video below. And, for those interested see below the video for some of my thoughts on this topic.
1st Place: Jules Slater ’21 - Advocacy Communication
The Bailey Oratorical stands as the oldest ongoing tradition of academic excellence at Juniata.
First Place: $1,000 and the name of the winner is inscribed on an antique Loving Cup.
Regular readers of this website may know of my love and respect for the great nonviolent activist and thinker Barbara Deming. Before coming across her writings, I had read and learned a great deal from Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, but reading Deming as a kid spoke to me in a way beyond even those esteemed visionaries.
Our successful webinar series is named We Are All Part of One Another after a line from Barbara Deming. See much more about her including fun links here.
I was deeply moved watching Jules' speech. I have had the pleasure of working closely with them and learning together as we dive into many pressing NVI tasks. Jules created and has been updating our new webpage on Burma. So I knew Jules to be smart and could tell from their approach to their work that a deep love of people and planet guided their daily efforts. I didn't know that Jules was pondering some of the same issues I was as a young activist and still am today. Because I've grown to love and respect Jules, it was clear to me watching the competition that they should win, but I also knew I was deeply and understandably biased. I celebrated when the impartial judges agreed and Jules won first prize!
In a world as beautiful and broken as ours how can we not feel despair and anger? I remember that old bumpersticker that seems even more true now... If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention. For those who are brave enough to pay attention today, the painful reality is hard to grapple with. So we understand why so many close themselves off from the suffering - largely unnecessary suffering - all around us. Looking directly at the depth of the intersecting crises facing us is hard, but it is also essential to finding creative, constructive ways to address them and doing so with the fierce urgency they demand. Barbara Deming's essay On Anger spoke to me in deep and transformational ways and helped guide me forward to a lifetime of sustained activism. I hope Jules' remarks and Barbara's essay will be helpful to you as well. As she does with so many of her essays, Barbara says a great deal in a short piece.
After watching Jules impressive speech above, please read Barbara's essay at: http://www.satyagrahafoundation.org/on-anger/
A few years later when I was in college I learned about the work of Joanna Macy. Her book Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age inspired me to teach a course for credit for three semesters. Decades before I arrived at Oberlin college students had pushed through the Experimental College where - if you jump through the right faculty hoops - you can teach other students and they will earn college credit. Doing this three times with a different co-instructor each semester was a deeply meaningful experience for me and came directly out of Barbara and Joanna's work that is now being carried forward by Jules and many other brave young leaders ready to claim their future by facing the reality of the world today and finding ways to act together.
I urge people interested in this kind of work to check out: joannamacy.net. She suggests ways to face our fears and be moved to sustained loving activism. This approach has helped keep me going in this challenging and wonderful work for decades.
Those of us not immersed in the Juniata community may miss a few references in Jules' speech, but the core messages are universal and are being felt by an ever increasing percentage of young people today. Jules asks if 2020 will be remembered as the angriest year ever. They express frustration at being told "this will not be tolerated here... when clearly it is." And, notes a core lesson we all benefit from meditating on regularly..."we are not alone."
We face serious challenges that we have foolishly allowed to go unaddressed for far too long. The intersecting crises are now forcing a great global awakening. The transition to a new and better world will not be easy and vast suffering that we could have avoided is already underway, but our capacity to claim our personal and collective power is directly impacted by our ability to face the reality of our situation. Jules and the other exceptional young leaders I get to work with through NVI give me hope that we may yet create the living loving revolution that has been needed for so long. Thank you Jules for your award winning speech, for all you do, and for giving me hope in hard times.
We are very curious what you think of all this. Jules and I have started talking about co-hosting a team meeting on this topic. Might not be a public webinar, but an internal gathering for those working closely with NVI and new friends interested in this part of our work. Please let us know if you might want to join us.