The Contenders: 16 for ‘16
I was watching a special called The Contenders: 16 for '16 on PBS. It’s an 8-part series that looks at 16 of the most fascinating presidential campaigns in recent history. The title of this particular series was The Straight Talkers. The contenders were Shirley Chisholm and John McCain.
Most of us learned about Shirley Chisholm as kids. For those of you who don’t know her, Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to be elected to Congress. She was elected in 1968, which was three-years after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. She was also the first black woman to run for President.
Unbought and Unbossed
Shirley Chisholm was independent, outspoken and fierce! She was raised by working class Barbadian parents who instilled a mindset of being the best, so she was expected to excel. She was honest, straightforward and courageous. She was also a trailblazer. In her own words, she had “guts.”
Shirley fought for fair wages, living wages, equality for women, universal healthcare and comprehensive early education. She believed we were all entitled to sit at the table and to do that you needed to be on the inside.
In 1972, Chisholm ran for president on a platform of being "Unbought and Unbossed”. Those words really spoke to me. They say, you can’t buy me, because I’m not for sale. My values aren’t for sale. Because you can’t buy me, you also can’t control me.
You can't plot and scheme with me behind closed doors. You can't tell me what to do. You can't shame me into quitting. I'm my own person. I think my own thoughts. I do what's best for me, because I'm the boss of me.
Not only do you need guts to take this kind of stand, but resilience to keep going. And she did. Time and time again.
Fast Forward to Today
If we fast forward, forty-four years later, we’re facing some of the same issues Shirley Chisholm fought so hard to beat. We’re still fighting for living wages, fair wages, equality for women, quality education and access for our children. We see joblessness, homelessness, poverty and hunger. We have concerns about immigration and police brutality. There’s a growing income gap between the rich and poor. Let’s not even talk about government debt, healthcare and the economy. Maybe we need to be more unbought and unbossed ourselves.
Conviction and Choices
When I think of people being unbought and unbossed today, Colin Kaepernick comes to mind. Colin is standing in his own convictions. He’s doing what he thinks is right for him. It’s amazing how much energy people are putting into his choices. You don’t have to like his decision to kneel during The National Anthem. But you can at least respect the fact that he’s standing up for what he believes in.
I get it. He’s a public figure, so a certain amount of scrutiny comes with the territory. But what gives any of us the right to judge. What would happen if instead of trying to dictate how Colin chooses to make his difference, we put that same energy into making our own?
Shirley Chisholm said “I am not the candidate of Black America. Although, I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women's movement of this country. Although, I am a woman and I’m equally proud of that. I am the candidate of the people of America.”
What I Think…
I’m nobody’s candidate and no political authority. I just have opinions like so many others. They’re not good or bad. They’re just mine.
If I had to sum them up:
It’s easy to tear down what someone else is doing, but why not refocus that energy and build something of your own. Find your own way to be unbought and unbossed!
You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.
Latarsha Horne is a Certified Professional Coach with a strong background in learning and development. Her coaching style is open-minded, straight-forward, instinctive, creative and caring. If you want to be challenged and grow, she's the coach for you.