#TalkToMe: The Five Conversations We Need to Have But Aren't is a non-fiction memoir from inspiring thought leaders on how the power of dialogue can overcome racism, xenophobia, intolerance, and violence.
#TalkToMe About Parenting
We can write volumes on how religious organizations, governments, public leaders, and educational institutions must do better to promote pluralism and tolerance. We can oblige them the improve communication opportunities, teach meaningful conversations, and create platforms for dialogue and mutual service to humanity. We can speak until we are blue in the face. We can, and frankly should do each of these.
But reflect and you’ll arrive at the obvious conclusion that each of the aforementioned pale in comparison to the people who have the most impact on humanity’s future—parents. Their impact begins in the womb and through the most formative years of a child’s life. Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you that by and large, a child’s behavior in the classroom is a direct reflection of their parenting at home. Henry Ward Beecher, a 19th century anti-slavery clergyman once wrote, “There is no friendship, no love, like that of a parent for a child."
So, talk to me about Parenting.
#TalkToMe About Race
The riots in Ferguson and Baltimore should not be the first time you realized something might be severely wrong racially with our society. The epidemic murder of people of color by police should not be the first time you realized there might be a systemic miscarriage of justice in our systems. The incomprehensible economic disparities stacked against people of color in this country should not be the first time you realized poverty is not a life choice but a life sentence.
Our country is better than this. Our humanity is better than this. This is a difficult conversation to have because emotions are high. No one wants to be labeled a racist. And it isn’t necessarily outright racism that’s the issue. It is the seeds of prejudice that creep in. It is the reality of things like white privilege, subconscious bias, and micro aggression. If this is the first time you’re hearing these terms, then you’ll benefit most from this section. Yes, this conversation is difficult, but far more difficult is the status quo for tens of millions of minorities living in America. That status quo cannot remain. So, talk to me about Race.
#TalkToMe About Faith
Too many believe it is only governments who can oppress, when in reality governmental oppression is merely one form. Societal oppression is just as powerful a destructive force—often led by clerics and individual politicians. Likewise, the oppression need not be violent for it to be destructive; it merely needs to promote fear of the other through ignorance. I believe oppression of conscience is the single biggest cancer to humanity right now, and virtually every other problem stems from this disease.
In this section, we’ll discuss what obstacles exist to interfaith dialogue, what fears prevent such dialogue, and relate some powerful examples of overcoming that fear. As I reflect on the real-life examples of this fear and the harm it causes, I realize this ignorance is not just from “other” places—but also from our own back yard in America. Contrary to the old saying, ignorance is not bliss. So, talk to me about faith.
#TalkToMe About Leadership
What is a leader? The textbook definition doesn’t help much, stating, “A leader is a person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” I stopped paying attention to this definition when it said “a leader is a person who leads.” This is more management than leadership—we need a better definition. As Peter Drucker writes, “Management is doing the right things, leadership is doing things right.”
Then what does a good leader look like? Is it merely the number of followers? I don’t believe so. Hitler had millions of followers, yet is among history’s most barbaric men. No sane individual argues Hitler was a good leader. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is among history’s most compassionate and noble men, and had hardly a dozen followers. Yet who can argue that he was not a great leader? Harriett Tubman committed acts deemed criminal by law and would have been arrested were she caught. She was a “rebel” of her time, yet who today can argue that her breathtaking service to humanity ranks her among the greatest leaders in history? So, talk to me about leadership.
#TalkToMe About Death
We all know and lose those people who gave everything they had to make this world a better place. Those heroes who literally sacrificed themselves to create a better world for their children, for humanity of all colors, of all religions—and in doing so become legendary leaders.
They say that every person dies twice. Once, when they stop breathing, and then when someone says their name for the last time. Perhaps it’s my foolish hope in writing about my inspirations, I hope they never die—though they’ve breathed their last. It is my sincere hope, however, that you continue this conversation in your own lives. Think about those who’ve inspired you. Talk about them, emulate them, and keep them living. Even if they’ve breathed their last, delay their second death as long as you have your breath.