Man's greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done. -- Frederick Douglass
I learned how to advocate in five minutes and thirty-two seconds. I stood in front of a judge who dressed in a long black robe and whose eyes peaked out over the top of gold-rimmed glasses. I advocated for a man I'd only read about, advocated for him so he would not lose his life like he'd lost that of his wife. I advocated for him for five minutes and thirty-two seconds, and he was found not guilty.
I became an advocate for others when I learned I had opinions, when I spoke in class with the skills I'd learned in five minutes and thirty-two seconds, when I refused to let my male counterpart explain to me in oversimplified terms that "mansplaining" doesn't exist. I became an advocate for others when I used Le Chatelier's principle to demonstrate to impressionable minds the phenomenon of ocean acidification, when the teacher they placed their faith in stated the impossibility of climate change and nearly doomed the students to a future of non-ending, nonconstructive debate.
I became an advocate for myself when I told my father I couldn't maintain my grades or my health moving between his house and my mother's each week, when I clung to my composure as he told me I was selfish, when I hugged him but maintained my decision to live with my mother. I became an advocate for myself when I spent a night writing instead of sleeping, crying instead of resting, desperately attempting to communicate in 650 words the internal conflict I faced my junior year when my father told me he was transgender - and the terror of not being able to communicate with the most honest truth my fear I had ruined my opportunities of applying what I learned in five minutes and thirty-two seconds on a global scale.
Change cannot occur without the ability to communicate "things needed to be done". I have learned the urgency in developing the means of sharing knowledge; I have learned the satisfaction that accompanies conveying an idea wholly to another.
I've learned the necessity of choosing the best means of communicating, a short story to demonstrate the efficacy of fiction in inciting an emotional connection, a novel that plays on grecophilia in 1983 Germany to overcome censorship and share a social critique of the communist regime with an oppressed audience, or a five minute and thirty-two second opening statement to a jury to save a man's life.
I is imperative students develop the skill of communication, in any course or program. Communicating is how I effectuate change, and choosing the best platform for communication is a skill I emphasize and practice rigorously.
The use of literature in effectuating change is often overlooked, and should strongly be considered in this era of social and political discourse. I am inspired by Christa Wolf, who overcame censorship in communist East Germany (1983) by masking her critique of the system's usurpation of individualism in Cassandra, and by Kurt Vonnegut, who develops anti-war sentiments in a fictionalised, Kafkaesque existentialism in Slaughterhouse-Five. These authors demonstrate the ability of creative language to effectuate change, in the same way I have learned and chosen to exercise my "powers for things needed to be done".
I have spent four years becoming an advocate, four years of making coffee at three o'clock in the morning, of sweaty palms and heart palpitations, driving to the Jefferson County Courthouse, playing my guitar and singing for patients at the Littleton Care and Rehab Center, painting pictures of a house I hope to raise my children in, discovering my mother's suicide note and convincing her she is not selfish for leaving my father, researching the use of inhibitors to block the secretion of mood-altering hormones, making memes about the Treaty of Versailles, and learning all that I could about simply communicating, to arm myself to the fullest capacity with a passion to effectuate change.
I am an advocate, for myself and for others. I write, speak, and smile. I am an advocate, and I use what I learned in five minutes and thirty-two to exercise my "powers for things needed to be done".
Why do I write?
Why wouldn't you?