Friday, January 31, 2014

Watch and Search Newly Digitized Conversations with 148 People Who Witnessed the Great Depression

by Evie Hemphill, Open Culture:

This post was written by Evie Hemphill (@evhemphill), a writer and photographer for Washington University Libraries in St. Louis.


In March of 1992, many years after photographer Dorothea Lange’s 1936 image of a migrant mother in California (above) became one of the most iconic images from the Great Depression, a camera crew sat down with two daughters of the subject of Lange’s photo.

For about 40 minutes, Norma Rydlewski and Katherine McIntosh shared their stories with Blackside, Inc., a company founded by award-winning filmmaker Henry Hampton.

In the footage and transcript of that conversation, accessible for the first time along with many more such interviews through Washington University Libraries, the family’s daily challenges come to life.

The sisters describe not only their strong, beautiful mother but everything from field work and playing with dirt clods as children to early union meetings and the economical “saving grace” that was World War II.
When The Great Depression, Blackside’s seven-part documentary series, debuted on PBS in October of 1993, the program wove together short segments from extensive interviews with 148 people who experienced the Great Depression, including Rydlewski and McIntosh.

As illuminating as the documentary is in its own right, the many additional hours of oral history that Blackside recorded in the process of creating it are a treasure trove of primary source material - all of it now viewable, browsable, and searchable online through the efforts of WU Libraries’ Visual Media Research Lab and Digital Library Services (DLS).

The diverse range of individuals whose reflections on the 1930s are now easily accessible include a grandson of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, celebrated authors Maya Angelou and Gore Vidal, longtime New York Times political reporter Warren Moscow, actors Karen Morley and Ossie Davis, Morton Newman, who worked on the Upton Sinclair campaign for governor in California, and many more from all walks of life.

The multicultural, multiregional approach brings needed depth and color to an era that is often remembered and depicted as a monolithic event dragging the nation down for a decade, says Special Collections assistant Alison Carrick, who managed the workflow of the digitization project.

“When we think about the Great Depression, images of the dust bowl and breadlines immediately come to mind,” Carrick says.

“And that is part of the history Blackside covered with this series, but they also revealed complex and lively stories that are often overlooked - from union struggles, to heated political campaigns, Works Progress Administration projects, the New Deal, and more. What Blackside managed to do with this series and these interviews was to bring that period of history back to life in a vivid, engaging way.”

The intent behind The Great Depression Interviews project is to provide a seamless, powerful tool with much potential for interdisciplinary research.

“One of the best features of the site, thanks to DLS, is that it is text/keyword searchable,” Carrick says. “This creates a way for users to pinpoint a subject, name, or event and quickly look to see where it occurs in each transcript. Our hope is that this feature will lead users to other transcripts they might not have thought contained similar subject matter.”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mallika Dutt: Extraordinary People Changing the Game

English: Mallika Writing
Mallika Dutt (Wikipedia)
by Peter S Horsfield

Why Mallika Dutt is Extraordinary

Mallika Dutt is one of the finest leaders of this generation.

She is the founder of Breakthrough, an organization that upholds human rights and uses technology to get the message across.

Prior to that, Mallika helped her best friend set up SAKHI for South Asian Women and became its founding director until 2001.

A decade later, Breakthrough is now considered an award-winning producer of ads that sell human rights and ideologies that change the world for the better.

Breakthrough's Achievements

One of the most successful campaigns in the history of human rights was started by Breakthrough. They called it Bell Bajao ("Ring the Bell").

They released a music video in India that featured a Bollywood famous artist singing a song about a woman's escape from the abusive hands of her husband.

The campaign became a hit, along with its compelling ads about "ringing the bell" to disrupt violence, therefore doing our part in creating a community conscious of each person's rights as a human being.

The video garnered many awards, including the National Screen Award for Best Music Video, a nomination for Best Indipop Music Video, and the Link TV Award for Best Music Video.

Currently, Breakthrough has started #ImHere and America 2049. She explains #ImHere in an interview as follows:

"The war on women and the war on immigrants have coalesced in the lives of immigrant women and through #ImHere, we're asking everyone to stand up for immigrant women and their human rights" (Source: IBN Live).

America 2049, on the other hand, is more than just a video game. Through it, they are hoping that more and more people will become more concerned about the rampant disregard for human rights in other parts of the world. The more the people understand about the issue, the more likely they are going to be willing to help address it.

Called by Newsweek/ The Daily Beast a "breakout star" of the Women in the World conference, Mallika is a force to be reckoned with. Her hard work has earned her the International Humanitarian Award in 2013 and the Asian American Justice Center Courage Award in 2009.

She was included in 50 Fearless Minds Changing the World by the Daily Muse and named one of the "50 coolest Desis in the world" by

Mallika found a strong ally in technology and social media. Some people may still frown at the means she's using to bring the issue pertaining to human rights at par with famine and health-related concerns of the world.

But we have organizations badgering the government to draw up policies that will safeguard human rights. Mallika saw the need to get people to participate and vigilantly guard, not only their rights, but also of those around them.

In the words of Mallika, "Human rights begins with you."

Top Reasons Why Mallika Dutt is Extraordinary

1. She founded Breakthrough, an award-winning human rights organization
2. Breakthrough won Gold for Best Integrated Campaign in Public Service, Appeals and Charity category at Gold at Abby Awards and received Radio & TV Advertising Practitioner's Association of India Award for Best Film with a Social Message
3. She co-founded SAKHI for South Asian Women, now a highly regarded NGO itself
4. She is a lawyer by profession and an activist by destiny
5. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, International Relations from Mount Holyoke College and a Mary Lyon scholar
6. She has an honorary degree in Humane Letters from Mount Holyoke College and was awarded the Vanderbilt Medal for Extraordinary Contribution to the NYU Law School Community
7. She received the Asian American Justice Center Courage Award and the International Humanitarian Award
8. She was included in 50 Fearless Minds Changing the World by the Daily Muse and called by Newsweek/The Daily Beast a "breakout star" of the Women in the World conference
9. Upon establishing Breakthrough, she received the South Asian Women's Creative Collective, SAWCC, Annual Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to the South Asian Community

To read more about Mallika Dutt visit

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

More Signs a Mediterranean Diet Helps Prevent Cardiovascular Ills

by Allison Aubrey,

A study found that a Mediterranean diet with extra nuts and olive oil was associated with a lower risk of a cardiovascular condition called peripheral artery disease.
Nuts, olive oil
(H Rousseau/NPR)
There's fresh evidence that a Mediterranean diet can help cut the risk of artherosclerosis, a disease caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

A new analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, builds on the work of a prior study, which looked at how a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and healthful oils - namely olive oil - cuts the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

That earlier study found that the risk was 30% lower for people eating the Mediterranean diet compared with those on a standard low-fat diet.

The new analysis looked specifically at how a Mediterranean diet influences the development of peripheral artery disease. This is a common condition among older men and women in which arteries narrowed by atherosclerosis cut off the flow of blood to limbs such as legs and feet.

The study, which included some 8,000 men and women in their 60s and 70s, had participants follow a Mediterranean diet with extra olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with extra nuts, or a standard low-fat diet.

The researchers found that the people on the Mediterranean diets had less buildup of fatty deposits in their arteries compared with the men and women on the low-fat diet.

"We were surprised because of the great magnitude" of the association between the diet and the reduced risk of PAD, study author Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, a researcher at the University of Navarra in Spain, tells us in an email.

"This is a very important step in confirming a truly causal relationship between the [Mediterranean-style diet] and cardiovascular protection."

As we've reported, there are a host of beneficial compounds in olive oil that may play a role in reducing inflammation and build up of fatty deposits.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

4 Things That Make the Difference Between Surviving and Thriving

by , Owner and founder, Be You Media Group, Huffington Post:

What makes the difference between people who get knocked down by life and stay down, and those who get back up?

In his book The Resiliency Advantage, Al Siebert wrote that:
... highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will. They have a knack for creating good luck out of circumstances that many others see as bad luck.
While defining the characteristics of highly resilient people is helpful, what habits can we cultivate to strengthen our ability to respond to the difficult parts of life?

We cannot change our innate personalities. We cannot change how we were parented. We also cannot choose many of the circumstances we will encounter in our lives.

In light of those things we cannot change, it makes sense that we would do everything in our power to choose habits that will serve to strengthen our ability to bounce back in difficult times.

The following habits can make the difference between getting up in the morning to face the day when life gets hard and wanting to crawl back under the covers:

1. Choose connection

It can be tough to reach out when we are going through difficult times - even if we crave connection. For those of us who tend to be introverted, it can be even more difficult.

Like all of the physical and mental resilience factors, this is a habit that we can cultivate; like building muscle, it gets stronger the more we do it.

We don't have to become extroverted social butterflies to reap these benefits. Reaching out to a single friend or family member on a regular basis to touch in about how things are going is sufficient.

In our social media-saturated world, it might seem like this isn't an area that needs work, but consider how short and often superficial these interactions can be.

Making the effort to have a genuine connection with a few friends or family members on a regular basis can help create that habit, so that when things are hard, it's already second nature to reach out instead of collapsing inward.

It will also help in difficult times, because those you are connected with will be in the habit of checking in with you and may notice you've withdrawn.

2. Be present

Our brains have an area called the "default mode network." We are in this mode when we are distractedly thinking about the future, or re-hashing a conversation we had yesterday.

While entering into this distracted default mode may sometimes be helpful for creative inspiration, too much time functioning at this default mode level keeps us from being fully present and engaged with what's going on. Constantly being in this state of self-referential examination can make us unhappy - if not neurotic!

One simple activity that can help us find balance here is developing a meditation practice. When we practice stilling our minds and being present, we shift from default mode and experience greater focus, even when not meditating.

3. Be positive

This doesn't mean becoming an idealistic Pollyanna or just wishing your troubles away. What it does mean is choosing to look for the good in life and cultivating gratitude.

Studies indicate that those with a spiritual practice reap physical and emotional benefits from having faith. This doesn't mean that you need to start going to your church or synagogue in order to be emotionally resilient, but connecting with others and a higher power is a huge boost for many people.

For those who don't feel drawn toward a particular spiritual path, belief in the goodness of humankind and having hope may have similar effects. Einstein may have said it best, "The single most important decision any of us will ever to make is whether or not to believe that the universe is friendly."

4. Give back

The choice to give back and be of benefit to others and the world strengthens us as well. Recent research shows that even practicing small acts of kindness raises levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the body as well as boosting the immune system.

As with number one on this list, when we feel connected to the greater whole of humanity, we strengthen our own ability to respond to life with resilience.

On a final note, another piece of emotional resilience is being gentle to ourselves.

Being emotionally resilient doesn't mean that we keep our chins up and paste on a smile when we feel rotten. It's okay not to feel okay. Choosing these habits that help keep us connected can make the difference between having a "not okay" day and a "not okay" year.

If we can cultivate habits that create resilience during low stress times, we will have a greater chance of accessing them when things are difficult. 

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Monday, January 27, 2014

VIDEO: The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck

Grand Canyon National Park
Photo: Grand Canyon NPS (Creative Commons)
by Trinica Sampson, UTNE Reader:

According to a study by Harvard psychology students, experiencing a sense of awe can offset stress, sleep disorders, diminished satisfaction with life, and other adverse effects that often accompany the feeling of having too much to do and not enough time.

Results showed that awe, characterized by an urge to reevaluate one’s psychological perception in the face of a significantly emotional experience, can modify a person’s assessment of time availability by bringing them “into the present moment.”

Participants reported feeling as if they had more time to spend, leading to an increased enthusiasm for volunteering, a higher satisfaction with life, and an inclination to choose experiential rather than material goods.

In this video, filmmaker Jason Silva elicits the awe that is so vital to the human experience while discussing the Harvard study, Nicholas Humphrey’s research on the biological advantage of being awestruck, and Ross Andersen’s response to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Creative Thinking Process - Three Examples

Thinking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)
by Colin Bates

Creative thinking can be learnt.

And to do so it helps to understand the creative thinking process: the structure and steps that you need to take to generate (and sometimes evaluate) creative ideas.

Here are 3 examples of the creative thinking process.

They all start with a definition of the creative challenge, or creative goal. In my case, this is to 'generate new ideas for a holiday'.

Information, Incubation, Ideation

This creative thinking process begins with gathering information. To generate ideas we need input, ideas won't emerge from an empty vessel! In my case, looking for ideas for a holiday, I'd go online, talk to friends, look through the travel magazines ... any relevant source of information!

Next, relax. Put the challenge to one side. Forget about it. Let the information incubate in your mind. This process is rooted in the belief that generating ideas should be natural, stress-free and almost effortless. Let the mind do it's work in the subconscious.

The key thing is to make sure you're ready to capture the ideas as they emerge. Because the final ideation stage is quite fluid you need to be ready to write down the ideas before they're lost.

Keep a notebook handy, especially on the bedside table, so that you can write down the ideas as soon as they emerge. You'll soon find you have plenty of great ideas!

Observe, combine, create

This process begins in a similar way: observation is a way of gathering information. The key to this process is combine. It's a technique of idea generation which involves taking existing ideas, and combining them to create something new.

This process is great for creating new products. As a very simple example, putting a camera into a mobile phone combined two existing products to create something new.

For my holiday, I might see a 'foodies' holiday in Italy, but chose to combine it with my original destination, Thailand. This inspiration could result in a tour around the gastronomic hotspots to sample Thai cuisine.

Dreamer, Realist, Critic

This final creative thinking process involves not just generating ideas, but also evaluating and improving them. It's know as 'The Disney Way' as it was originally used by Walt Disney to generate ideas and evaluate ideas for his movies.

The Dreamer is free of all constraints, has infinite resources and anything they think of is guaranteed to succeed. This mindset is designed to overcome limitations, and generate the 'free thinking' required to come up with great and outrageous ideas.

The Realist is more practical: evaluating and refining ideas.

And finally, The Critic asks if the ideas are really good enough. If not, it's back to The Dreamer!

As I search for a holiday, I might dream of going to the moon. Not possible, but as I become a realist it will trigger more thoughts. Perhaps I could visit NASA? Or try skydiving? Or visit Area 51?

In summary: Three Creative Thinking Processes

Next time you have a challenge that requires a creative solution, try using these techniques. You'll soon be developing your creative thinking skills, and generating more and better ideas too!

Visit for more articles on creativity and change.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

7 Ways Leaders Maintain Their Composure in Difficult Times

Leadership (Photo credit: glennharper)
by Glenn Llopis,

Leaders need to show more composure than ever before in the workplace.

With the change management requirements, increased marketplace demands and intensifying competitive factors that surround us, leaders must have greater poise, agility and patience to minimize the impact of uncertainty.

How leaders respond to these and other growing pressures is an indicator of their leadership preparedness, maturity and acumen.

The composure of a leader is reflected in their attitude, body language and overall presence.

In today’s evolving business environment, it is clear that leadership is not only about elevating the performance, aptitude and development of people - but more so about the ability to make people feel safe and secure.

Employees have grown tired of working in survival mode and thus want to be part of a workplace culture where they can get back to doing their best work without the fear of losing their jobs.

I worked with a colleague that lacked composure and was always in a panic. Though he had tremendous credentials, he lacked the ability to remain calm and thus often made his employees feel uneasy. His leadership role was just too big for what he was capable of handling.

He was often too dramatic and the smallest of problems  launched him into crisis management mode. Needless to say, his wasn’t an effective leadership that could deal with real crisis and change. Because he was unable to reinvent himself and adapt to the unexpected, his tenure was short-lived.

The 21st century leader sees adversity through the lens of opportunity. Rather than panic, a leader with composure takes a step back and begins to connect the dots of opportunity within adverse circumstances.

These types of leaders quickly detect the causes of adversity and solve for them immediately. They then enable the opportunities previously unseen that could have avoided the adversity to begin with.

Many times crisis results when composure is missing. The next time a problem arises, ask yourself if you or your leader could have shown a greater sense of composure and avoided the problem from surfacing.

When leading - especially during times of uncertainty and adversity, crisis and change - you must avoid showing any signs of leadership immaturity or lack of preparedness that will make your employees feel unsafe and insecure.

Here are seven ways to maintain leadership composure during the most pressure-packed moments:

1.  Don’t Allow Your Emotions to Get in the Way

Seasoned leaders know not to wear their emotions on their sleeves. They don’t yell or get overly animated when times get tough. These types of leaders have such emotional self-control that even their body language does not give them away.

When you allow your emotions to get in the way, employees interpret this as a sign you are not being objective enough and too passionate about the situation at hand. Strong-willed leaders can maintain their composure and still express concern and care, but not to the point that their emotions become a distraction - or that they can’t responsibly handle the issues at hand.

2.  Don’t Take Things Personally

Leaders shouldn’t take things personally when things don’t go their way. Business decisions and circumstances don’t always play out logically because office politics and other dynamics factor into the process. As a leader, remain calm and don’t get defensive or think that you always must justify your thinking and actions.

When you begin to take things personally, it’s difficult to maintain your composure and make those around you believe that you have things under control. In fact, when leaders take issues too close to heart, they allow the noise and politics around them to suffocate their thinking and decision-making capabilities.

3.  Keep a Positive Mental Attitude

Employees are always watching their leader’s actions, behavior, relationships and overall demeanor. During the most difficult of times, leaders must maintain a positive mental attitude and manage a narrative that keeps their employees inspired and hopeful.

This is where your leadership experience and resolve can really shine - by staying strong, smiling often and authentically exhibiting a sense of compassion.

Leaders set the tone for the organization they serve. A positive attitude can neutralize chaos and allow a leader to course correct through any negativity. Employees feed off the attitude of these leaders during times of uncertainty.

Keep a positive mental attitude and never stop moving forward. Stay focused on building positive momentum for the betterment of the healthier whole. 

4.  Remain Fearless

When leaders project confidence, they instill it in others. During uncertain times, leaders must remain fearless and project a cool persona that communicates composure to those they lead.

I’ve been through ups and downs in my career and have learned that when you begin to fear adverse circumstances, you not only put yourself in a position of vulnerability, but it becomes extremely difficult to act rationally and objectively. When you panic, you mentally freeze and your mind loses focus.

When you begin to get fearful, ask yourself: What is the worst possible thing that can happen? If you are objective about it and have the will and confidence to face it, you will eventually realize that the situation is manageable and can be resolved. Faced with adversity several times over, your fears will eventually vanish and uncertainty will become your best friend.

5.  Respond Decisively

Leaders who maintain their composure will never show any signs of doubt. They speak with conviction, confidence and authority - whether they know the answer or not! With their delivery alone, they give their employees a sense that everything is under control.

Recently, Mack Brown, the former coach of the University of Texas (UT) football team, was put under a lot of pressure to resign as a result of his team under-performing in 2013.

Though the University handled his forced resignation poorly - considering Mr. Brown had coached the team successfully for the past 16 years - his decisiveness the day he announced his resignation made you feel that his transition out of the job was a positive thing for the university.

Human nature will tell you that he must have been hurting inside, but his decisiveness and presence of mind made those that were watching him speak believe that the future looked bright for UT football.

6.  Take Accountability

Leaders are most composed during times of crisis and change when they are fully committed to resolving the issue at hand. When you are accountable, this means that you have made the decision to assume responsibility and take the required steps to problem solve before the situation gets out of hand.

When leaders assume accountability, they begin to neutralize the problem and place the environment from which it sprung on pause - much like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did when he announced that he did not have any prior knowledge of the decision his aides made to close down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.

Though there may be legal woes to come, the manner in which he handled the initial news conference (temporarily) neutralized the crisis - as he answered all of the reporters’ questions and took full responsibility and accountability to punish the perpetrators and keep something like this from happening again.  

7.  Act Like You Have Been There Before

Great leaders know that one of the most effective ways to maintain composure during difficult times is to act like you have been there before. Leaders that act to show they have been through the problem solving process numerous times before are those with strong executive presence who approach the matter at hand with a sense of elegance and grace.

They are patient, they are active listeners, and they will genuinely take a compassionate approach to ease the hardships that anyone else is experiencing.

Just ask any technical support representative. When you are on the phone with them, their job is to make you feel that even your most difficult challenges can be easily resolved. They are there to calm you down and give you hope that your problem will soon be solved.

Pay attention to their demeanor and how they are masters at soothing your frustrations. They always act to show that they have been there before; their composure puts your mind at ease.

It’s easy to lose composure during times of crisis and change if you let concern turn into worry and worry turn into fear.

By maintaining composure, the best leaders remain calm, cool and in control - enabling them to step back, critically evaluate the cards that they have been dealt and face problems head-on.

A show of composure also puts those you lead at ease and creates a safe and secure workplace culture where no one need panic in the face of adversity.

As the saying goes, “Keep Calm and Carry On!
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Friday, January 24, 2014

The Power of Resilience

Future & Past
Future & Past (Photo credit: tind)
by JD Roth, More Than Money:

Seth Godin wrote recently about three ways to deal with the future: accuracy, resilience, and denial.

In Godin’s paradigm, accuracy is predicting correctly what will happen tomorrow, and is the most rewarding way to deal with the future. The problem, of course, is that’s tough to make accurate predictions.

You have to invest a lot of time and/or money, have access to inside information, or be lucky to get things right.

Denial, on the other hand “is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today”. Like it or not, you live in a world of change. The people and places around you are constantly evolving, and as much as you like the status quo, you can’t assume things will remain the same forever.

If you accept that (a) things change and (b) you cannot predict what will happen, then the most effective strategy for dealing with the future is to foster resilience. Instead of betting on a single outcome, you prepare for a range of possible results.

Godin argues that our society fosters a “winner-take-all” mentality that emphasizes accuracy over resilience.

This benefits the few who have made accurate predictions, but penalizes everyone else. And it forces many people to take the path of denial, where they don’t prepare for the future at all because they realize there’s no way they can reliably guess what the future will be.

Like Godin, I believe that successful people foster resilience. In psychology, adaptability refers to how well a person can adjust herself to changed circumstances. Because we live in a constantly changing universe, your ability and willingness to adapt is a barometer that measures both your ability to thrive and your capacity for happiness.

So, don’t simply assume that tomorrow will be like today. And don’t try to guess precisely what the future will hold. Instead, prepare for a range of likely outcomes.

Be open to alternatives and new ideas. Allow yourself to grow in unexpected directions. Doing so will ultimately bring you a happier, more fulfilling life.
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

What If Tomorrow Never Came: How To Build Your Legacy

Benjamin Franklin 1767
Benjamin Franklin 1767 (Wikipedia)
by Eric J Leech

How you see yourself, and how others might refer to you are often two different things.

While you might be concerned with protecting your reputation, have you ever given thought to how it might live on?

What it stands for is something many of us don't really consider until we reach a certain age and realize that we're not immortal.

If tomorrow never came, what would you be leaving behind for the world to remember you by?

This is something that has probably crossed your mind before.

However, what are you currently doing to ensure the legacy you are en-route to, is one you can be proud of?

The Moment of Denial

When most people hear the word, legacy, they start to think about their portfolio, life insurance policy, will, and lingering debt.

In reality, when you consider what should be most important, it isn't your money, property, and financial inheritance that will be remembered the fondest and longest, but rather what you've left to the world that can be used and cherished for years to come.

There are several options a person has when considering their future. You can offer up words of encouragement and knowledge to your children and/or business partners, or confess your love and admiration to your significant other or close friends.

You may also give away personal relics that will serve as reminders for who you were. You can donate money and time to a noble cause, give away property or stock, or designate a final resting place that will be visited by loved ones for decades to come.

These are all worthy goals. However, probably one of the most sought after goals in life is the one that says you left the world in better condition than when you entered it.

That the world is better off for having known you, and people will look back on your life and appreciate the sacrifices you made to accomplish the things you set out to do. But what if you haven't set out to accomplish anything? It's probably time that you decide ...

How You'll Be Remembered

When you consider the legacy you are leaving behind, what matters most is not how you see yourself, but how others weigh your character and accomplishments.

A better way to describe this is to ask yourself this important question, if a tree falls in the middle of a forest, and nobody was ever there to witness it, does it really matter? And when the day comes that you fall, will you matter? That choice is up to you.

There are several recommended means to leaving behind a noble legacy. One important thing to consider is that not all legacies are considered equal.

In fact, depending on the route you choose, your legacy can last anywhere from a couple months to many centuries. Starting from the least to most memorable, let's discuss your options.

  • Property and Money - The problem with property and money, is while they may represent years of hard work and dedication, giving away a portion of your financial worth is not often as significant as you'd like it to be. In fact, it may only be remembered for as long as it takes to buy a new SUV or plastic surgery procedure. This is why it may be better to begin giving away small portions of your inheritance while you are around to enjoy it. This will cut out a portion of the red tape and taxes, plus you can oversee how it is being used, and ensure it is going to a good (memorable) cause.
  • Experiences - It has been said that one of the best ways to create happiness for yourself, is to spend your money on experiences, rather than tangible objects. It is easier to bestow fond feelings towards someone you've had the chance to experience life with. The one word of caution is not to think of it as one last hurrah before the curtain closes. The problem with saving up for a certain point in your life, is that you never know when the end will come. Instead, it is better to live your life creating memorable experiences with as many people as you can.
  • Donations - Speaking of good causes, donations are another good way to leave behind a good portion of yourself. Part of a legacy should be to empower your existence while you are still around. Knowing that you have (and will be) supporting a worthy cause can give you a real feeling of accomplishment. And the good news is, no matter what's currently in your financial profile, there is always room to volunteer your time, which can make as much difference as a moderate monetary donation.
  • Gifts - Think of the last time you crossed by an object in your home that reminded you of a fond person or moment in your life? This is the power of leaving behind a personal artifact to a friend or loved one. These can take the role of a relatively small gift, yet carry the emotional value of a much larger inheritance. The greatest limit to a gift is that it often loses a portion of its value and significance as it is passed to the next generation.
  • Goals - You may not have thought about it before, but almost all your goals can be accomplished by those you leave behind. This may be best taken advantage of in business, where a loyal staff or partner can take over from where you left off, and continue to accomplish your life's goals. This is often called a business exit strategy, and is worth doing right. Incidentally, to successfully leave any business in good hands, the torch must begin to be passed years before your actual retirement, so it is really never too early to start.
  • Lessons and Values - Along the same lines as passing the torch in business, is passing your life's lessons and values to those who will make good use of them. Many successful people find the most satisfaction in teaching others what they've learned in life, and seeing this advice accomplish things that would have never been possible if they'd kept it to themselves. The fact is, you can only do so much as one man. Invest a portion of your time and energy by sharing your knowledge, and your contributions to the world could become infinite.
  • Body of Work - If you think about a few of the most famous legacies that date back centuries (Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, etc.), many of them involved a body of work that impacted the world. While personal artifacts and lessons can lose their significance over time, a body of work continues to inspire, because it does not require someone's memory to give it value, as it is inspirational in itself. This could be a book, art, or an invention. This may not be an easy feat to accomplish on a large scale. However, there are many levels to this success, including a self-published novel.

Live Life as if it Defines Your Last Words

Live your life with direction and inspiration, as every moment offers the opportunity to create a new and worthwhile legacy. When all is said and done, a person is rarely judged by the number of quality accomplishments in their life, but the quality of life that resulted from their accomplishments.

A graduate of Colorado State University with degrees in Psychology, Social Sciences, English, and Performing Arts, Eric J. Leech is a writer at Urbasm on style, dating, gear, gadgets, health/fitness, where to meet women, and how to be a better man.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Coyote Thoughts: How To Be Resilient in 2014

by Dr. Beau Washington, Indian Country:

Courtesy Beau Washington

It’s the start of a new year. A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions like: lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, save money, and perhaps find Big Foot. You can add your own to this list. Sometimes our resolutions work and often they don’t.

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions years ago because I seemed to forget about them quickly and all my good intentions faded away. However, years ago I made a non-New Year’s resolution to understand resilience.

Resilience is the ability to spring back, that is, when trouble knocks you down you get right back up, ready for whatever comes your way. Resilient people enjoy life. I am happy to say I kept that resolution and that is why I write this column.

Some people are great at being resilient, and others struggle. Resiliency is not just a matter of surviving. Instead, it is flourishing, making the best of life even through the hard times.

Here’s where the sly Trickster Thoughts come in to make us weak. Trickster Thoughts like to push us over the edge and tell us that something is going to be a problem, when in fact, it might not be.

Tricksters want to get the best of us, so their little lies seem to be true, but they are not true. They trick us into believing the worst. Even though everybody has Trickster Thoughts, resilient people recognize them and chase them away when they come up.

It is easier to catch the Tricksters if you know who they are. One sly offender is “Jumps to Conclusions.”

Jumps will tell you things like: “We are going to lose the game,” when it is only half time; or “He is mad at me,” when in fact, the other person is crabby about something else that had nothing to do with you; or “She didn’t text me back. I must have said something wrong,” when she might have been taking a nap or her car battery died.

“Knows the Future” Trickster actually pretends to tell the future and causes problems.

Knows the Future will say things like: “They won’t hire you ... so why try?” or “Don’t attend the party - you may see that person you don’t like,” and you miss all the fun; or “I know my boss is going to fire me,” but it doesn’t happen.

The problem with believing Knows the Future is that you are mentally paying for a problem (stressing) before it happens. Most of the time believing what Knows says only keeps us from enjoying the day. Knows is often wrong. Don’t let Knows the Future win.

The best answer to his messages is, “I don’t know what will happen.” It is better to acknowledge that you don’t know rather than guessing wrong and mentally paying for something that does not happen.
There is plenty of time to cry about your situation after it happens, so don’t cry until it is time.

“Name Calling” Trickster wants to make us feel like losers. Name Calling will jump on us when we make a mistake.

If you knock something over, Name Calling may say, “I am so clumsy,” when you haven’t knocked anything over in years, so most of the time you are not clumsy. Or he will say, “I am stupid.” If you are reading this, you are not stupid. Tell the Trickster I said so.

Here is the deadly one: “I am a loser.”

Most of the time most things go right rather than wrong. The problem is when we believe the Trickster. Yup, they have you believing things that are not true and you will feel like a loser. Oh, those sly, lying Tricksters.

Resilience is refusing to go under to the Tricksters’ lies. Instead we spring back by seeing what is true and accurate.

Everybody gets Tricksters Thoughts. The key is to recognize them and chase them away by looking for what is true.

I hope you will think about learning the Trickster Thoughts as your New Year’s resolution. When you start to see the Trickster Thoughts for what they are, you will find that your resilience will increase. We owe it to our ancestors to flourish, and we can.

Dr. Beau Washington received his doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado. A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Beau grew up at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, where his Father was a teacher. 

While researching depression, he also discovered the wide range of problems that rumination (dwelling) on problems creates in other mental problems as well. 

His active understanding of ruminative thought lead to developing a technique for effectively stopping the painful thoughts that plague distressed individuals. In addition, Beau developed cognitive models of depression and addiction.

Beau’s therapy model is entering the clinical trial stage at the University of New Mexico. He is training behavioral health clinics in his therapy. Beau is also adapting his therapy for sports, making it easier for players to focus on the moment.

He has also developed a Native suicide prevention program called “Coyote Thoughts” ©2013. Beau has trained Native mental health clinics and presented at reservations as well as regional and national conferences. Visit his website
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Martin Luther King Jr.

by ,

8 things you probably didn't know about Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

One could make the case that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the most significant American of the 20th century.

He is only the third American whose birthday is commemorated as a federal holiday, a distinction not even granted Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, or FDR, 44 years after his death.

Although King is one of U.S. history’s most widely chronicled individuals, there are aspects of his life that are less well-known than the pivotal speeches, the campaigns against Jim Crow city halls from Montgomery in 1955 to Memphis in 1968, and the dalliances that for some, tainted his personal life.

King was as complex a figure as exists in our social narrative. He was a man conflicted by his commitment to a movement into which he was drafted against his better judgement and by the overwhelming demands to fulfill the role of human rights spokesperson.

He was a husband and father who belonged to a people and a revolution, and the nation’s most prominent advocate of nonviolence at a time when violence burned on urban streets, college campuses and in Southeast Asia.

For all his gifts, MLK was quite human. Here are some things about him that may surprise you.

1. King was born Michael, and loved ones called him Mike

The future “drum major for justice” was born Michael Lewis King, and family members called him Mike. At some point after his father, the Rev. M.L. King Sr., changed his own name to Martin Luther, the oldest son’s name was also changed. Neither man spoke or wrote publicly about the change.

The elder MLK insisted that his oldest son’s name was incorrectly recorded as Michael at birth, implying that the boy was named after reformer Martin Luther.

Some accounts state that both names were changed in 1934 (when Junior was five) following the father’s visit to Germany, when King Sr. developed an appreciation for the first Protestant.

Other biographers state that King Jr. changed his name as a teenager so as to again be named after his preacher father. Whenever the appellation occurred, it was never filed legally.

Like religious figures before him, such as the disciple Simon and the apostle Paul, King underwent a spiritual name change. Though his wife called him Martin, to his big sister Christine, and the rest of his immediate family he was forever Mike. 

2. King wanted to marry a white cafeteria worker

At Crozer Theological Seminary, in Chester, Pennsylvania during the late 1940s, King fell in love with a German cafeteria employee named Betty.

Fellow seminarians, both white and black, talked him out of it, partially on the grounds that King’s father would frown upon the interracial romance of a son he was grooming for a successor role in the pulpit.

Not only would the relationship have been taboo in King’s native Atlanta, but even had King chosen to pastor in the North (and further disappoint his father), MLK Sr. would have still viewed the cafeteria worker as below his son’s station. Daddy King was dead set against his oldest son “marrying down.”

David Garrow, in his seminal civil rights book Bearing The Cross, wrote that King never recovered from the heartbreak caused by the socially unacceptable affair.

The senior King was not all that enamored with his son’s matrimonial choice of conservatory student Coretta Scott either, as his arranged choice of a bride for Martin Jr. was opera singer Mattiwilda Dobbs, whose father founded the Atlanta Civic League and the Atlanta Negro Voters League.

3. Picking tobacco revealed to him a more open society

When King was 15, and again when he was 18, he worked summers harvesting tobacco in Simsbury, Connecticut, not far from Hartford.

His experience as a middle-class son of a prominent black family from Atlanta’s prosperous “Sweet” Auburn Avenue performing menial labor in Yankee territory helped shape his future. “On our way here we saw some things I had never anticipated to see,” he wrote his father in astonishment.

“After we passed Washington there was no discrimination at all. The white people here are very nice. We go to any place we want to and sit anywhere we want to.”

In a correspondence to his mother, he continued the theme, “I never thought that a person of my race could eat anywhere but we ate in one of the finest restaurants in Hartford. And we went to the largest shows there.”

The teenage King was equally moved that there were racially integrated church services in Simsbury. More than a decade later he would famously say, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

The fact that King could not enjoy such freedoms in most of his native Deep South inspired him to become a man of the cloth.

When King applied to Crozer Theological Seminary in 1951, he stated that after a second summer exposure to Northern racial tolerance, “I felt an inescapable urge to serve society. In short, I felt a sense of responsibility which I could not escape.”

4. King was not the first black American leader to adopt Gandhian principles.

Dr. King was not the first black leader to tour India and be influenced by the nonviolent teachings of Mohandas K. Gandhi. He was preceded by James Farmer, who founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

Farmer, in turn, learned of Gandhi from Howard University theologian and educator Dr. Howard Thurman. Thurman had met Gandhi, and asked the Mahatma how his ideals might be implemented in the U.S. Gandhi responded that he wished nonviolent resistance as a strategy for social change had more of a global footing. Perhaps, he suggested to the theologian, black Americans could employ the tactic.

In addition, Howard U.’s first black president, Dr. Mordecai Johnson, had visited India, and was impressed by Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha, or passive resistance.

While at Crozer Seminary, King had attended a lecture by Johnson, who lectured about Gandhi. While the address had a lasting influence on King, the threat of violence and terrorism inherent in the struggle for racial equality in the 1950s were such that it took years before he could fully embrace Gandhi’s tenets and strategies as applicable or even practical for black Americans.

In February and March of 1959, Dr. King and Coretta toured India. Upon landing, King told the gathered media, “To other countries I may go as a tourist, but to India I come as a pilgrim.”

5. Dr. King applied for a gun permit to protect his family

In the mid-1950s, King was not yet committed to the principle of passive resistance. He applied for a firearms permit during a period when his home and several Montgomery churches were bombed. He was more concerned family man than pacifist.

It was not until later, according to King’s own writings, that he decided he could not advocate nonviolent resistance while resorting to armed self-defense.

There was also the issue of gun ownership vis-a-vis his faith in God to protect himself and his family, or his persecuted race as a whole.

One civil rights colleague, Glenn Smiley, described King’s home as “an arsenal,” something that those who wave the Second Amendment in the face of black progressives are quick to seize on.

However, the weapons were not King’s, as Alabama refused his application for a permit. They belonged to aides de camp.

While colleagues like Charlie Evers (brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers), and North Carolina activist Robert Williams (author of the controversial 1962 book Negroes With Guns) were committed gun owners, King’s interest was a temporary reaction to a terrorist attack on the home where his newborn first child Yolanda slept.

6. King had the Occupy idea 45 years ago

King’s last great campaign sought to bring activists and impoverished Americans of various ethnicities, including Appalachians, Native Americans, Chicano migrant workers and Southern blacks, to Washington to live in tented camps on the National Mall.

The Poor People’s Campaign was an ambitous effort to draw attention to the issue of poverty in 1968, a presidential election year, by bringing the people to DC in mule drawn carriages.

The tented villages were called Resurrection City, and because of the time and energy the initiative occupied, King was hesitant to make personal visits to Memphis to champion the striking, predominantly black sanitation workers there.

Setbacks in the Poor People’s Campaign also contributed to some degree of depression and disillusionment for King, who was advocating for America’s poorest citizens in an atmosphere of federal budgets for both the Vietnam War and a manned mission to the moon.

Though King’s assassination in April 1968 derailed much of the momentum and sympathy for the Poor People’s Campaign, in the wake of his death, 3,000 citizens did live in tents alongside the National Mall for six weeks - a period unfortunately marked by rain-soaked muddy days, organizational bickering about King’s vision and its application, and physical eviction and hundreds of arrests when the squatters’ National Park Service permit expired in late June of ’68.

When Occupy protestors began camping in Washington, DC’s Freedom Plaza in fall of 2011, few knew to what literal extent they were following in King’s footsteps.

7. King attempted suicide as a young boy

When King was 12, he attended a parade against his parents’ wishes. His maternal grandmother suffered a fatal heart attack that day.

King blamed himself for her death, because his six-year old little brother A.D., whom he was supposed to be home watching, accidentally knocked their grandmother unconscious while sliding down a bannister. Young Martin did not know the unconsciousness was unrelated to the heart attack.

Associating his absence with the tragic turn of events, Martin attempted suicide by jumping from a second-story window in his family home. His father later reported that the boy was distraught for days, unable to sleep.

This sense of melancholy, while perfectly understandable, and a sign of his love for his grandmother, presaged the bouts of depression King experienced over philosophical divisions within the Civil Rights Movement (i.e. militants vs. nonviolent activists), and the challenges of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Of his grandmother’s death, King said, “It was after this incident for the first time that I talked at any length on the doctrine of immortality. My parents attempted to explain it to me and I was assured that my grandmother still lived.”

On the eve of his own death, King preached, “Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you.”

8. King left his family in dire straits

MLK Jr. died not only without financial assets, but without a will. Despite his widely known premonitions concerning his own early demise (most noteworthy in speeches such as “If I Had Sneezed,” and his final speech in Memphis the night before he was slain), King died intestate.

Although his wife Coretta had admonished him for years to set some funds aside for the higher education of their four children, King left his family with no appreciable benefits from his five books, hundreds of speaking engagements, his ministry, and of most concern to his wife, the $54,600 he earned as recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

While Mrs. King thought some of the award money should be invested for the children’s sake, her husband donated the funds to the movement.

Though he was a prolific writer and public speaker, King viewed his own financial sacrifice as a vow of relative poverty.

In keeping with this ethos, King’s funeral procession featured not Cadillacs or Lincoln limousines, but a humble casket drawn by a mule carriage representative of his final mission, the Poor People’s Campaign.

It was activists such as Harry Belafonte who raised money to ensure that the King children were supported through childhood and educated.

The absence of a will has led to many court battles over the use and intellectual property of the leader’s written speeches, his image, recordings, and his literary works.

Some related disputes have engendered rifts among King’s then-four surviving children (Yolanda died in 2008), and other close relatives. A will would have provided some direction in this regard.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Moving to An Area With More Green Space Can Improve Your Mental Health for Years

Institute of Mental Health 4, Nov 06
Institute of Mental Health (Wikipedia)
Joseph Stromberg writes about science, technology and the environment for Smithsonian and has also contributed to Slate, the Verge, Salon and other outlets:
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

How a Great Man Put Down His Guns: Martin Luther King's Path to Nonviolence

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo: Wikipedia)
by and , Yes! magazine:

This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence.

Few are aware that Martin Luther King, Jr. once applied for a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

In his 2011 book Gunfight, UCLA law professor Adam Winkler notes that, after King's house was bombed in 1956, the clergyman applied in Alabama for a concealed carry permit.

Local police, loathe to grant such permits to African-Americans, deemed him "unsuitable" and denied his application.

Consequently, King would end up leaving the firearms at home.

The lesson from this incident is not, as some NRA members have tried to suggest in recent years, that King should be remembered as a gun-toting Republican (among many other problems, this portrayal neglects to acknowledge how Republicans used conservative anger about Civil Rights advances to win over the Dixiecrat South to their side of the aisle).

Rather, the fact that King would request license to wear a gun in 1956, just as he was being catapulted onto the national stage, illustrates the profundity of the transformation that he underwent over the course of his public career.

While this transformation involved a conversion to moral nonviolence and personal pacifism, that is not the whole of the story.

More importantly, for those who are interested in how nonviolence can serve as a useful strategy for leveraging social change, King's evolution also involved a hesitant but ultimately forceful embrace of direct action - broad-scale, confrontational and unarmed. That stance had lasting consequences in the struggle for freedom in America. 

A personal conversion

The 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the campaign that first established King's national reputation, was not planned in advance as a Gandhian-style campaign of nonviolent resistance. At the time, King would not have had a clear sense of the strategic principles behind such a campaign.

Rather, the bus boycott came together quickly in the wake of Rosa Park's arrest in late 1955, taking inspiration from a similar action in Baton Rouge in 1953 (interestingly, the Montgomery drive was initially quite moderate in its demands, calling only for modest changes to the seating plans on segregated buses).

King, a newcomer to Montgomery, was unexpectedly thrust into the leadership of the movement, chosen in part because he was not identified with any of the established factions among the city's prominent blacks.

He was reluctant about his new role and its burdens. Soon he was receiving phone calls on which unidentified voices warned, "Listen, nigger, we've taken all we want from you. Before next week you'll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery."

After such threats resulted in the bombing of King's home in February 1956, armed watchmen guarded against further assassination attempts.

This response reflected King's still-tentative embrace of the theory and practice of nonviolence. In his talks before mass meetings, King preached the Christian injunction to "love thy enemy."

Having read Thoreau in college, he described the bus boycott as an "act of massive noncooperation" and regularly called for "passive resistance." But King did not use the term "nonviolence," and he admitted that he knew little about Gandhi or the Indian independence leader's campaigns.

As King biographer Taylor Branch notes, out-of-state visitors who were knowledgeable about the principles of unarmed direct action - such as Rev. Glenn Smiley of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Bayard Rustin of the War Resisters League - reported that King and other Montgomery activists were "at once gifted and unsophisticated in nonviolence."

Both Rustin and Smiley took notice of the firearms around the King household and argued for their removal.

In a famous incident described by historian David Garrow, Rustin was visiting King's parsonage with reporter Bill Worthy when the journalist almost sat on a pistol. "Watch out, Bill, there's a gun on that chair," the startled Rustin warned. He and King stayed up late that night arguing about whether armed self-defense in the home could end up damaging the movement.

While today's NRA members might prefer to forget, it was not long before King had come around to the position advocated by groups like the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Smiley would make visits to Montgomery throughout King's remaining four years there, and the civil rights leader's politics would be shaped by many more late-night conversations.

In 1959, at the invitation of the Gandhi National Memorial Fund, King made a pilgrimage to India to study the principles of satyagraha, and he was moved by the experience.

Ultimately, he never embraced the complete pacifism of A. J. Muste; later, in the Black Power years, King made a distinction between people using guns to defend themselves in the home and the question of "whether it was tactically wise to use a gun while participating in an organized protest."

But, for himself, King claimed nonviolence as a "way of life," and he maintained his resolve under conditions that would make many others falter.

In September 1962, when King was addressing a convention, a 200-pound white man, the 24-year-old American Nazi Party member Roy James, jumped onto the stage and struck the clergyman in the face.

King responded with a level of courage that made a lifelong impression on many of those in the audience. One of them, storied educator and activist Septima Clark, described how King dropped his hands "like a newborn baby" and spoke calmly to his attacker.

King made no effort to protect himself even as he was knocked backwards by further blows. Later, after his aides had pulled the assailant away, he talked to the young man behind the stage and insisted that he would not press charges. 

Nonviolence as a political weapon

Believers in pacifism often contend that such principled nonviolence represents the high point in a person's moral evolution.

They argue that those who merely use unarmed protest tactically - not because they accept it as an ethical imperative, but because they have decided it is the most effective way to propel a given campaign for social change - practice a lesser form of nonviolence.

Gandhi advanced this position when he claimed that those who forgo violence for strategic reasons, rather than ethical ones, employ the "nonviolence of the weak."

King echoed the argument when he wrote that "nonviolence in the truest sense is not a strategy that one uses simply because it is expedient in the moment," but rather is something "men live by because of the sheer morality of its claim."

Despite such admonitions, the opposite case can be made: Moral nonviolence without strategic vision rings hollow. And, in holding up King as an icon of individual pacifism, we fail to see his true genius.

It is possible for someone to make a commitment to nonviolence as a point of personal principle without ever taking part in the kind of action that would make their convictions a matter of public consequence.

Indeed, this is common, since most people prefer the comforts of private life to the tension of political conflict.

Pacifists who do put their beliefs to the test might undertake civil disobedience individually - performing acts of moral witness that pose no real threat to perpetrators of injustice.

It is only when the tenets of unarmed direct action are strategically employed, made into effective weapons of political persuasion through campaigns of widespread disruption and collective sacrifice, that nonviolence gains its fullest power.

Martin Luther King did embrace strategic nonviolence in its most robust and radical form - and this produced the historic confrontations at Birmingham and Selma.

But it is important to remember that these came years after his initial baptism into political life in Montgomery, and that they might easily not have happened at all. 

The road to Birmingham

Following the successful bus boycott, King sought out ways to spread the Montgomery model throughout the South.

He knew that there existed strategists who had immersed themselves in the theory and practice of broad-scale confrontation, but he acknowledged that this organizing tradition had yet to take root in the civil rights movement.

In early 1957, King met James Lawson, a savvy student of unarmed resistance who had spent several years in India.

As Branch relates, King pleaded with the young graduate student to quit his studies: "We need you now," King said. "We don't have any Negro leadership in the South that understands nonviolence."

Despite this recognition, the idea of waging broadly participatory campaigns of direct action fell far outside of King's organizational frame of reference, and in many ways he remained a reluctant convert to mass action.

Founded in 1957, King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC, was conceived as a coalition of ministers. It thought of itself, in the words of one historian, as the "political arm of the black church."

However, as Ella Baker biographer Barbara Ransby writes, that institution was none too bold on civil rights, and "the majority of black ministers in the 1950s still opted for a safer, less confrontational political path."

Even King and his more motivated cohort "defined their political goals squarely within the respectable American mainstream and were cautious about any leftist associations."

Frustrated that SCLC's program in the first years involved more "flowery speeches" than civil disobedience, the militant Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham warned that, if the organization did not become more aggressive, its leaders would "be hard put in the not too distant future to justify our existence."

The next major breakthroughs in civil rights activism would come not from the SCLC's hesitant ministers, but through the student lunch counter sit-ins that swept through the South starting in Spring of 1960, and then through the 1961 Freedom Rides.

In each case, when young activists implored King to join them, the elder clergyman - himself just in his early 30s - held back. When King told the students that he was with them in spirit, they pointedly shot back, "Where's your body?"

According to John Lewis, then a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, King replied with irritation, making reference to the site of Jesus' crucifixion: "I think I should choose the time and place of my Golgatha," he said.

When King's SCLC did get directly involved in a major campaign of strategic nonviolence, the organization was drawn into an effort that was already underway - one in Albany, Ga., starting in late 1961.

Even then, the SCLC did not fully commit until after King and close colleague Ralph Abernathy were swept up in an unplanned arrest. Unfortunately, the effort in Albany was beset by rivalries between different civil rights groups, and it ended in failure.

As Garrow notes, The New York Times ended up praising "the remarkable restraint of Albany's segregationists and the deft handling by the police of racial protests," while another national publication remarked that "not a single racial barrier fell."

Nevertheless, the sense of potential he experienced in Albany, combined with the inspiration of the Freedom Rides and student sit-ins, convinced King that the time had come for a campaign of mass action that, in the words of Andrew Young, could be "anticipated, planned and coordinated from beginning to end" using the principles of nonviolent conflict. King had chosen his time and place: Birmingham, 1963. 

Big enough to fail, big enough to win

King's political genius was in putting the institutional weight of a major national civil rights organization behind an ambitious, escalating deployment of civil resistance tactics.

In the case of Birmingham, this meant taking many of the approaches that had been tried before - the economic pressure leveled against merchants during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the dramatic sit-ins of Nashville, the fill-the-jails arrest strategy of Albany - and combining them in a multistage assault that sociologist and civil rights historian Aldon Morris would dub "a planned exercise in mass disruption."

In creating an engineered conflict that could capture the national spotlight, King took huge risks. It would have been far easier for an organization of the size and background of the SCLC to turn toward more mainstream lobbying and legal action - much as the NAACP had done.

Instead, by following SNCC's student activists in embracing nonviolent confrontation, SCLC organizers and their local allies created a dramatic clash with segregationists that put the normally hidden injustices of racism on stark public display.

As historian Michael Kazin argues, the famous scenes from Birmingham of police dogs snapping at unarmed demonstrators and water canons being opened on young marchers "convinced a plurality of whites, for the first time, to support the cause of black freedom."

Likewise, King would later write that, in watching marchers defy Bull Connor's menacing police troops, he "felt there, for the first time, the pride and power of nonviolence."

Ultimately, King was a follower, not a leader, in cultivating a new tradition of strategic nonviolent action in the United States. Yet acknowledging this should not diminish his significance.

Because when he did commit himself to spearheading the type of broad-based nonviolent protest he had been talking about for years, it resulted in campaigns that profoundly altered the public sense of what measures were needed to uphold civil rights in the United States.

The Birmingham model would prove widely influential. Victory in that city sent ripples throughout the country: In the two and a half months after the Birmingham campaign announced a settlement with store owners that commenced desegregation, more than 750 civil rights protests took place in 186 American cities, leading to almost 15,000 arrests.

Given the demonstrated power of mass disruption to shift the political discussion around an issue, why don't more organizations pursue such strategies? Why aren't more groups using militant nonviolence to confront pressing challenges such as economic inequality and global climate change? There is a certain paradox at work here, one that should enhance our appreciation of King's courage.

As veteran labor strategist Stephen Lerner argued in 2011, major organizations have just enough at stake - relationships with mainstream politicians, financial obligations to members, collective bargaining contracts - to make them fear the lawsuits and political backlash that come with sustained civil disobedience.

What Lerner says of unions applies equally to large environmental organizations, human rights groups, and other nonprofits: they "are just big enough - and just connected enough to the political and economic power structure - to be constrained from leading the kinds of activities that are needed" for bold campaigns of nonviolent conflict to be successful.

As a consequence, explosive direct actions - from the Nashville sit-ins to Occupy to the revolution in Egypt - are often led by scrappy, underfunded upstarts.

Such ad hoc groups can risk daring campaigns because they have nothing to lose, but they commonly lack the resources to escalate or to sustain multiple waves of protest over a period of years, a rare and powerful ability that established institutions can provide.

To not merely adopt pacifism as a personal philosophy, but rather to stake your career and your organization's future on a belief in the power of nonviolence as a political force, requires tremendous determination.

It took years of deliberation and delay for Martin Luther King to take such a step. But when he finally did, the result was decisive: King went from being someone who had been repeatedly swept up in the saga of civil rights - a reluctant protagonist in the battle against American apartheid - to being a shaper of history.

Mark Engler is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus, an editorial board member at Dissent, and a contributing editor at YES! Magazine. Paul Engler is founding director of the Center for the Working Poor, in Los Angeles.

They are writing a book about the evolution of political nonviolence. They can be reached via the website
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