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Be the Change You Wish to See

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

Ever since the election outcome became clear, I’ve contemplated what I’d say to you, the Family Development staff who work tirelessly to improve the lives of Minnesota families. Many were deeply disappointed, some were fearful about what the future holds, and others happy with the outcome. The election revealed a large group of Americans who want change from the status quo.

The lead-up to the election was bruising and divisive, and the future appears to hold more of the same. How do we move forward as individuals, as Extension employees, and as a society? These were the questions I asked myself. I have found no easy answers, but do have some ideas on where we begin.

First, I want to reaffirm Extension’s commitment to all of you and those you serve, no matter race, immigration status, sexual orientation, and economic means. Our commitment to the values and principles of diversity and inclusion remain unchanged and are even stronger.

Second, fear of violence — both physical and verbal — have become real concerns for many of you. Please find local resources that can assist and support your family and yourself to remain safe and to feel safe. For a list University resources, visit the University’s Resources for Concerns page.

Lastly, I want share some advice from a blog I have referred to in the past, Left Brain Buddha. A key theme in this week’s post was “After the election, tend the garden.”

Author Sarah Rudell Beach, M.Ed., writes that our urge might be to fight back and take on much more than we can handle. She reminds us that no matter who was elected, we’d still have to address issues of discrimination, income inequality, rising health care costs, and many other pressing issues. Her advice “to tend the garden” means:
  • Begin with our families and ensuring that love, kindness, and compassion thrive in them.
  • Focus our efforts on one, two, or maybe three passions where we can make a difference. We don’t have to buy the whole farm to make a difference, but tend a garden plot where we have the tools to make a real difference on these important issues.
  • Remind ourselves not to retreat from the world into our safe “bubbles,” but to engage and reach out.
Read the full blog post here: After the Election, Tend the Garden.

In closing, I am reminded of this saying from a greeting card I received 20 years ago from a close friend: Be the change you wish to see. For me, that means setting personal goals and taking steps to attain them. For others, it means making connections and taking action for social change. Whatever “be the change” or “tend the garden” means for you, I encourage you to find the courage and energy to move toward it.

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