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A solo trip to Russia

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When you hear about Russia, what images come to your mind? Grand Palaces, matryoshka dolls, vodka?

Since studying Russian history at school and in my endeavour to visit as many countries as possible during my lifetime (I’ve currently visited 42), I’ve always wanted to visit the largest country in the world and to see the Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Winter Palace with my own eyes. Read More »

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Thermometer or Thermostat? MLK Jr’s Letter from Birmingham Jail

April 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm PST

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 “…when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people;

…when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Martin Luther King Jr was a civil rights leader who transformed the conversation on race in the United States. He wrote this letter after being arrested while leading marches and sit-ins to protest racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. Eight fellow clergymen of Alabama wrote an open letter asking him to cease his leadership of the demonstrations and to pursue justice through the courts. I was drawn to re-read the full text of the letter after reading Dr. Eric L. Motley’s essay, “On the 50th Anniversary, the Living Legacy of “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Motley writes:

its ideas transcend the turbulent times in which it was written. Civil rights historian Diane McWhorter notes that the original conflict “was between not good and evil, but good and normal.” The brute racism that strikes us today as mass social insanity Read More »

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Getting Away from Group Think

When was the last time you had a team meeting with someone outside your usual circle of colleagues?

This is a question – and a challenge – laid down by Peter McDonald, a collaboration expert that I met with last week.

Peter works for a consultancy that focuses on helping people collaborate. And they go about it in a pretty radical manner.

One of the things they do is run workshops with people with different profiles, roles and jobs  (and often diametrically opposed perspectives). Many of their workshops involve going into charities and finding solutions to their most challenging business problems.

The results are fascinating. Given often really difficult and complex challenges to resolve, often the more diverse and potentially conflictive the group is, the more disruptive the thinking. And the more creative and interesting the ideas, suggestions and solutions are.

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Until Justice Rolls Down…On Martin Luther King Jr.

January 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm PST
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Maya Lin, creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was commissioned to design the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Lin found her inspiration in the words “until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” a paraphrase from the Book of Amos that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used in his “I Have a Dream” speech and at the start of the Montgomery bus boycott. Photo used with permission from this source.

It was a printer jam that made me realize the full power of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech.”  Growing up in the United States, I had studied Martin Luther King Jr’s  outsize impact on civil rights and American history.  That said, I had never heard the entire speech he gave in 1963  to 200,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Then, a few years ago, the printer at work jammed.  I pulled out the crumpled paper and power cycled it.  While I was waiting, I started reading the poster hanging in the hallway.  It was the full text of the “I Have A Dream” speech.  I was truly moved by the strength of the writing and the ideas it put forth.  I couldn’t believe that I had missed out on this powerful work for so long.  Kudos to people that put up guerilla art in offices!

Nancy Duarte does a great analysis of why the speech is so powerful.  I love her line about the speech “traversing back and forth between what is and what could be, and ending by describing what the new bliss of equality looks like.”

One of my favorite quotes from the speech is this: Read More »

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Redefining Disability

This week the world celebrated the United Nations International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

So let me ask you a question. What does disabled mean to you?

If you say the word aloud, what comes to your mind? Wheelchairs, white sticks and hearing aids, maybe. Go a little deeper and you might think of less visible disabilities – autism, learning difficulties. I’ve heard disability described as a “long-term impairment that makes it hard to accomplish daily tasks.” If you think about it this way, then conditions as varied as depression, asthma or eating disorders might be described as disabilities.

How many people do you know that might be considered disabled in this sense? My guess is that that number is much greater than you might initially have thought.

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