The title of this essay is a quote from Janna Cachola, a Filipina actress from New Zealand, which I discovered just after I had made my decision to write about advocacy for this month’s Chaparral. The quote was a reminder that people often resign and limit themselves to, “what can I really do?” when it comes to trying to effect change in our contemporary world. I’m not here to lecture you about what you should or shouldn’t do, but to remind you of something many of us tell our students: “please ask questions because you know ten other students in the class have the same question.”
This is our reminder to our students that they are not alone pursuing knowledge, nor are they alone in wanting to work for change. It’s a reminder to all of us that none of us are completely alone as citizens of our cities, state, and nation pursuing the betterment of our society. With necessary calls for improvements in racial and social justice, massive climate change, a global pandemic, and conflicts across the globe that affect us and our loved ones, these are challenging times. But we do not face these challenges alone, and our voices are not too soft. Our voices speak for others.
Change is hard, but it is constant, and the mechanics of how things change is where our voices are so important. We draw nearer to another election, one that many would say is for the existential soul of our nation, and voting is essential. But it’s not the only tool we have to make change—I ask that you not forget your own voice and how powerful it can be. Signing petitions, writing, calling, and meeting with your representatives, running for local offices, protesting, and even posting on social media are incredible ways that we can advocate for ourselves and others.
At its heart, advocacy is not a selfish enterprise. It’s an endeavor that, yes, one person may take on, but usually it’s for issues that the collective “we” face. And as a union of professional educators, our collective voice has power, but there is no collective without individuals. I believe in the power that one person has to advocate for themselves so that others may also benefit.
Don’t be afraid to use your voice in any way you deem appropriate. You’re not the only person to feel the same way. Have hope and try not to be discouraged with all that is going on. Please keep advocating for what’s important to you, even when you feel you can’t any longer. In the words of the street artist, Banksy, “If you get tired, learn to rest not to quit.”
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