Two women hold up protest signs at a rally and smile.

We Must Persevere

In the face of today’s political rhetoric, the work we do as foundations and nonprofits is more important than ever.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

Another outrageous outburst from the highest office in our land.

This time, it was a racist, personal attack against our fellow Americans. And not just any Americans, but four members of Congress democratically elected by the people in their districts to represent them.

I have wondered what, if anything, to say.

After Charlottesville, I was horrified by the violence and white nationalism, and the suggestion that “both sides” were to blame.

I wondered, “Is it important for the Barr Foundation to lend its voice in response?”

Then, I recalled Martin Luther King’s exhortation: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I didn’t want us to be counted among the silent. So, I wrote, “We Must All Speak Out,” encouraging all of us to use our voices and whatever platforms we have to affirm our values, and to condemn violence and hatred.

After the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, I wondered again whether a public response would make any difference.

Then, I joined with hundreds of others from throughout Greater Boston, as they gathered in the Boston Common. Inspired by that experience of solidarity and community I wrote, “We Must Stand Up.”

There are surely countless other incidents during the past few years that I might have written about too. Yet, as the reasons for outrage have grown so many and so unrelenting, I have found it increasingly difficult not to feel discouraged, worn down, even numb. I know my colleagues feel the same.

So, in the face of the latest outrage, I ask myself again what difference one more voice can possibly make.

In writing now, I have no new course of action from Barr to announce, no new grantmaking program to launch, and no panaceas to put forward.

But what I do have is the inspiration of those leaders who are stepping up to this moment, confronting the vitriol and hatred head on, supporting those who are being targeted and marginalized, and showing all of us the importance of showing up, speaking out, and stepping up.

As Sean Gibbons from the Communications Network wrote earlier this week: “what might it look like if, over the next few weeks, every nonprofit or foundation did a simple, decent thing and used their institutional voice to clearly and publicly affirm their core values, purpose, and aspirations? Silence speaks volumes. And words matter. They can harm. Or they can help, heal, and keep hope alive.”

We must boldly proclaim the values that unite us, drive us, and bind us to our work of higher mission and purpose. Tweet This

This latest outrage was sparked by words with clear intent to demean, to divide, and to distract. As our own Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley noted: “This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people.” Now is the time to refocus our efforts on that very work. We must boldly proclaim the values that unite us, drive us, and bind us to our work of higher mission and purpose.

As exhausting and dispiriting as it is to find ourselves at such a moment again, we must persevere. And, as we do, as the circle of voices carrying this message of resolve and of hope grows larger and stronger, the best of who we are is manifest again. So is our collective power to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.

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