Ian’s little sister Michelle here. I just returned from a night at the pool hall where I, if I may, *smoked* everyone in sight. Such releases are desperately good for my soul… particularly since at the gym today, five meatheads were mean to me, so my revenge is to spank their kind over a green velvet table.

Anyway, tonight’s blog is not about my prowess at billiards. Tonight is the first night, since the birth of la Lucy, that Ian and Tessa have been away from her. I hear tell they are skiing somewhere, at a somewhat “corny” resort, and living it up with a lake view and a fireplace. It sounds wonderful, and they most certainly deserve a blessed night off. And thus, kind readers, you are stuck with me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to move people, and what exactly moves people- moves them to change, to take action, of any kind, be it in their own lives or for a specific cause or whatever. What compels us to do something that is even ever so slightly different than what we did the day before? When Ian wrote the blog about the “ten things you can do for the environment”, or whatever it was, why exactly did those of you who did buy low-emissions light bulbs? Is it because it’s the right thing to do, or is it more because you care about Ian, or are moved by his writing? Or a little of both? If someone who was even half as eloquent with the written word had made such a suggestion, would you have paid attention?

I’m thinking about this because yesterday I attended the California Arts Council statewide conference- which they’ve not had the funding to host in over four years- and I had the rare opportunity to hear Dana Gioia speak. Gioia is the Chairman of the NEA, and my god, one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen live. He’s a poet, and quite accustomed to the public eye, but his ease, his humor, his brilliance- he could have been, as they say, reading the phone book, and I would have been mesmerized. Instead, he was talking about arts, and arts advocacy, which is the very thing I spend each day doing myself, and I could barely breathe. Annette Benning also spoke, and she was lovely, and numerous other folks as well, but Gioia was something altogether different. So inspiring, and so refreshing, and so moving, and so incredibly sincere, hilarious, and *real* that it was hard to believe he was addressing 450 people.

I know I’m a good public speaker, but he was eons, light years, beyond what I am now, someone who commands respect even while he’s totally screwing around. NEVER self-deprecating, NEVER apologetic, because why in the hell should he be?

And it’s times like these that I realize how massive social shifts happen. It’s hard to imagine how Hitler could have been so successful in his horrid mission; it’s hard to comprehend what Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished in such a short lifetime. I know these are opposite spectrum folks, but from what I’ve learned, both were captivating speakers, and experiencing them was nothing short of infectious.

I think what I’m taking away from this is that change is possible, so clearly possible, even when people insist that it is not. Case in point: 30 years ago, if someone in the Bay Area said they were going to Napa Valley, it meant they were going to the insane asylum that still thrives in the city of Napa. Napa Valley was for “loonies”, as they were called. Now, to go to Napa Valley means visiting a world-class wine & food destination. So when people tell me that Napa Valley will never be an arts destination, I’m realizing I should just give them the metaphorical finger- or, at the least, realize that they just don’t know. But it is strange that it is not facts & figures, not reports or information, that move people- it’s people with an incredible gift of the gab that move people. So those with that gift should think long and hard about what they want to do in this world, because, in my experience, they are the only ones who can really create change.

And so, to a question, since that seems to be the order of the day on Ian’s blog: if you had this gift, what would you fight for? I mean, beyond politics- seriously. If you could talk large groups of people into seeing the light as you see it, what would be your issue? What, outside the leadership and direction of our country, would drive you to the soapbox? This can be anything- from advocating for the use of a particular product to massive change in our social strata. What, if you had this gift, would you fight for? Hot dogs and buns being sold in the same numbers? Universal yoga classes? Increased funding & support for all expectant mothers? What?

0 thoughts on “Movement

  1. Ann

    That saving/making money needs to be balanced with an appreciation of what money needs to be used for – that decisions in organizations need to be made as much by the people who appreciate the organization and what it is there for as an end in itself as by the people who are only concerned with the bottom line as an end in itself. Both are important but the bottom line is winning the day all around.

  2. Steph Mineart

    I would of course convince the world that equal marriage rights for gay people would be a huge benefit for our culture – not only for individual couples, but for society as a whole.
    Allowing a whole class of people stability, better financial footing and a basis for raising happy, well-adjusted kids would strengthen everyone.

  3. Beth

    I’d convince humans that they need to be responsible for animalkind, especially “pet” animals, such as dogs and cats. They aren’t disposable, they require care, thought, training, vet care, spaying/neutering, and the right, if they’re going to be kept in a household, to be members of the family (not necessarily in that order).

  4. scruggs

    I convince folks that no expense should be spared to address childrens’ issues such as abuse, foster care, health care, education etc.

  5. kevin from NC

    One person, one car is dead. People need to start paying for their choices of living out in the burbs.
    It is difficult to ride a bike to work, but could you ride it to the store? Most trips in the US are under 3 miles. If we took two of those a week by anything other than one car, one person we would no longer import oil from the ME.
    Our problems are so easy to solve, but ‘it’s not going to be me’!

  6. Jody

    As a highway engineer I would say, stop driving, stop sitting in traffic, stop believing that your half acre 20 minutes outside of town is truly “country living with city convenience”. Put me out of work, deliver your crap and yourself on trains, reduce the contention over highway projects by rendering them obsolete, show me a year in which the number of miles driven decreases, don’t let Houston build an 18 lane freeway. I like taxpayer dollars but I could easily go build something else…

  7. Deb

    Beth–You took the issue right out of my mouth. Pets are legally considered “property” in most states, making veterinary malpractice impossible, custody issues laughable, and cruelty infractions only so punishable. What needs to change are the statutes, defining pets not as property, like a chair or computer, but as living members of a family.

  8. jordi's friend jill

    Fewer competitive sports in school, more music, dance and art. I think we’d be much better off if we taught our kids to value the completion of a project, making something beautiful, rather than the short-lived thrill of victory.

  9. Amy

    I heard on NPR the other day that a Registered Nurse with an Associate’s Degree will make 40K at his/her first job. And I think that’s *totally appropriate*.
    However, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish lit, a Master’s Degree in elementary education, and five years of teaching experience, and I don’t make that much money.
    When will teachers be paid what they’re worth?

  10. JamesD

    I’d ban people like Kerry from owning 6 mansions.
    I would stop people like Edwards from building a 29-Thousand square foot house, such as he just did in NC; especially considering he has a beach house and had a mansion in Georgetown and another mansion in Raleigh and a condo elsewhere.
    I’d take away private jets from people like Al Gore and the Hollywood crowd.
    I’d take away the Bentley from Ben Affleck and the v-12 Ferraris from the rest of the Hollywood crowd.
    I would do all of that before thinking about a 60-watt lightbulb.

  11. Scott M.

    I’d try convince people all over the world that religious extremism (in any form or denomination) is dangerous, unhealthy, and the biggest current threat to the world.
    I’d try to teach people that it’s okay to believe whatever they want (as long as it doesn’t involve hurting others), but that their right to religious freedom requires a willingness to allow that same freedom to others, regardless of how much they may disagree with them and their religion.
    And I’d try to convince people that doing something bad (e.g., hurting others) in the name of religion is the very worst affront to God.

  12. Neva

    Well, first I would ensure everyone had access to health care and wouldn’t put off what they need for their health because of cost (or wait until they are in dire straits then go to the ER). Whether folks realize it now or not we are all paying for folks with no insurance already but they are suffering more because of it. Every single day I deal with someone who is making bad health decisions (be in getting tests, medicines, etc.) for their health based on costs – and I only work part time and in a private practice (although we take all comers). In my experience in public health settings this was even worse.
    I’d also actually encourage everyone to live by a simple idea – treat everyone as they would like to be treated. This simple idea of living becomes clearer and clearer to me as I face lots of different life issues. I realize this is not new, but every day I am faced with situations where things would’ve turned out so much better if folks had thought, “now what I would I want done if this was me or this was my mother”, etc. etc.
    Finally, although I’m really not a huge John Edwards fan I must address James D above – Edwards sold his home in Georgetown and Raliegh before building his home in CH. Also, his house in Wilmington is only 2700 square feet. I’m not saying a 29,000 square foot house makes sense (if for no other reason than he was asking for just this kind of criticism) but I think you are damaging your credibility by making erroneous statements.

  13. JC

    I’d try to stop people from adding fuel to the celeb-reality obsession. Can you imagine the wasted man-hours we’d get back if people quit dissecting paparrazi photos of Gwen Stefani’s baby and watching Pete Doherty shoot up in a hostel in Thailand?? Give the celebrities, and us, our lives back (and throw Pete in jail)!

  14. hilary

    hi michelle–i’ve been a fan of yours since reading about your experiences in new orleans.
    i’d push for the state to work together with corporations AND small businesses to subsidize childcare.
    and for people to be kinder to and more respectful towards strangers.
    and therapy for everyone (the state and corporations/small businesses could work together on this one too)

  15. gina

    I’m with Scruggs in advocating for children’s rights.
    Beyond that, increased funding for cancer research and a push to find the most brilliant minds to conduct and manage that research.

  16. Rebecca

    Someday, when I have more time, I hope to be able to devote my volunteer work to helping end hunger in America. In a nation where obesity is a national epidemic and the root cause of so many diseases, it appalls me that there are millions of children and adults who go hungry every day. It’s very difficult for a child to learn and concentrate in school when their stomach is rumbling.
    On a tangent to obesity, I think that the apparel industry is complicit in the fattening of America. Has anyone else noticed that they’ve dropped a size lately? It appears to me that the manufacturers are making the sizes bigger to compensate for our bigger guts and asses. I mean, seriously J.Jill, am I really an XS sweater? Because what the hell size to really small people wear?

  17. Alyson Peery

    Hey, Michelle. I, too, am a fan of yours.
    As everyone else said, this is a great question! I think that if I had supreme gift of gab, I’d convince people to read more books. All kinds of books, too. Not just quick supermarket novels and self-help books. I’d encourage them to find books about their favorite subjects written by experts who also have the gift of gab. I’d encourage everyone to read good novels that will help them sort out their own lives through beauty and metaphor.
    I’d also like people to generally pay more attention. I’d like them to watch more news, to read more news, to think more about news and what events mean in their lives. I’d like them to pay more attention to the ways they can control their own lives. I’d like them to see the connections between riding the bus and living in a more pleasant, prosperous environment. I’d like them to see the connections between more art in schools and fewer criminals. I’d like them to see the connection between trying to be the first to apologize in conflict, instead of the last, and having fewer conflicts.
    Wow, that’s a lot.


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