Four weeks ago, 50+ people left Washington [state] after being reminded of many things that they held valuable and after an introduction to many new ideas. During the week of the Natural Leaders Legacy Camp (held at the Islandwood campus), the participants learned about leadership styles, networking, team building, community organizing, communicating, and how to effectively tell their individual story. Discussions about “nature deficit disorder” and ways to get more people outdoors were central themes. Not only did people learn, but they formed deeper connections within themselves, the natural world, and with others who came from many different places and backgrounds.
Four weeks and 50 years ago, 250,000+ left Washington [DC] emboldened in a similar way, towards a different cause, but inspired just the same. On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most influential and memorable speeches of the 20th century. Given during the March on Washington, this eloquent oration called for an end to racism in the United States and was a key part of the demonstration for support of the civil rights legislation then in the works.
At first glance, it may seem that these two are not connected. How can sit-ins, marches, and dreams possibly be connected to sit-spots, marshes, and streams?
One major focus of the Legacy Camp and the Children & Nature Network is to connect like-minded individuals all across the world with the focus of getting people outdoors. The more I learned about the mission, the more I grew and bonded both to the task at hand and with all of the other natural leaders in the network. But as the week ended, the questions of what would come next and how that experience would come with me grew prevalent.
The lessons I learned as a Natural Leader and the lessons that many people learned during the civil rights movement are where the two issues connect, and it is here where those keys and the lessons learned before can be applied again.
In dealing with the issue of nature deficit disorder, or the decline of people spending time outdoors, there are many critics or naysayers who proclaim that it is too late to overcome past problems. This pessimistic attitude is only passed down to another generation who then trumpets the same misguided message: “It’s too late.”
But there remains a nugget of optimism and hope, carried along and shared by those who passionately believe in hope. The steps of the Lincoln Memorial hold that first key. Dr. King reminded America “of the fierce urgency of now.” During the Legacy Camp, author Richard Louv spoke with the group and echoed the same sentiments, saying that it is never too late to create change. Dr. King spoke of 1963 as “not an end, but a beginning,” a movement towards the balancing of civil rights and job inequality. And for the participants in this Legacy Camp, for the entire network of Natural Leaders, and for anyone facing any issue whatsoever, this key takeaway rings true. We learned that there is no better time than now and no one better than us to be good influences and create positive change for the natural world or anywhere else.
The leaders who participated in the Legacy Camp came from different ethnicities and backgrounds. We all traveled to Washington from many different places: Canada, Peru, and all across the United States. It is amazing not only that close bonds were formed between all those who participated in the Legacy Camp, but that it was so hard to leave the environment where those bonds were created. The safe haven of individuals who supported the same ideals we did provided for almost unlimited encouragement, learning, and inspiration in contrast to what we were experiencing in our own corners of the world. In a sense, our coming together was a fruition of the movement that Dr. King and those alongside him pushed forward. We are a part of their legacy, a result of their efforts.
Since I was not there that day, I can only imagine that those listening to Dr. King that August afternoon experienced some of the same things. Coming together with thousands of others devoted to the same cause and hearing inspiring stories and learning how to further advance the movement must have given all supporters present tremendous hope.
And Dr. King gives the second key in a charge that echoes to the Natural Leaders today. He implored the crowd to “go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this can and will be changed.”
Fifty-two people came together for the legacy camp and learned about nature deficit disorder. Over 250,000 came together to rally for job equality and civil rights. We were inspired and encouraged, but the real power of a movement comes in the moving. So even as we stretch the bonds of the network we joined, we know that they will not break. As we move back to our individual environments, neighborhoods, and challenges, we do so knowing that we stand connected. We, like the participants in the March on Washington, branch out like the radiating spokes of a snowflake, knowing that we carry along the lessons of our experience as tools to build a legacy and create change.
Our inspiring experience is the catalyst that moves us, as a Natural Leader said, “From I CAN to WE WILL.” Moving forward, we glean parallels from movements started by people before us and take note, knowing that NOW is the time when WE WILL, as Natural Leaders, be that change that our communities and the world needs.
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Almost two months later, I finally got around to reading this. VERY nicely put. Reading your words brought me back to the island and gave me some reigniting of the fire we all created together. Thank you.