Thursday, March 25, 2010

Advocating = Courage

I listened to a very engaging speaker the other night at my professor's home. Sterling Van Wagenen has worked with Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival and has worked on multiple other projects for independent films. He spoke a lot about advocacy and the courage it takes to sincerely advocate something. You have to personally find the things to which you truly can commit yourself. If you can't really give your all to it, don't do it.

He showed us a few examples of powerful advocates:

"The Cove": basically an illumination of the illegal killing of dolphins that is taking place in Taijii, Japan and the extent to which the directors and producers went to expose something they knew was wrong. I found it fascinating - there were a few parts that were a little hard to watch, (Japanese soldiers actually killing the dolphins) but overall, it was a fascinating look at how deeply committed these producers were to a cause.

"Triumph of the Will": I'm sure we have all heard of Hitler's propaganda films. We watched segments of this - one of the biggest propaganda films he made. I lived in Germany for 18 months and got to know a lot of Germans really well. I ached as I watched segments of this film. We discussed the differences between motivation and manipulation. What did Hitler use? Were his tactics a motivation toward something better or was he truly manipulating the people of Germany and the surrounding countries to believe and see things the way he saw them? I don't know. Either way, he was passionately advocating a cause which he saw was good.

"Small Fortunes": I was truly moved and inspired when I watched the segments of this film, produced by KBYU-TV. An economics professor saw a woman on the street weaving something out of bamboo and asked her how much money she was going to get from it - basically, she was living on less than $2 and was receiving hardly anything from her weaving because her money lenders were purchasing all her products and taking the money and giving her only a very small portion of it. (Too little for her to live on, save, or off of which to make any profit.)

So, he found a few other people with these problems and dished out $27 from his pocket. $27 provided these people a total change of life because they had at least $5 to thrive on. (Notice that I used the word "thrive" instead of "survive." That was intentional.) As little as $2 make the biggest difference from these people. What I found most amazing is that this is a trust-based credit. These people are given the credit and are simply "trusted" that they will pay back the loan. If I remember correctly, there is a 95 percent payback rate for women in the program. The percentage for men was a little lower than that. There are a lot of poor people out there that aren't poor just because they are lazy or haven't found a job yet - they are poor because they don't have any opportunities. This program is giving them those opportunities.

I want to advocate that. Find something in which you believe and are so passionate about and do something about it. This is the time of life that we can totally commit ourselves to something that we want to advocate. Honestly, if I could have it my way, I would work the next few months and save up money, pay off my car, (all the while getting involved in this micro-credit loan program) and then move to India or South America to work with the program. I would love that. I want to do something.

Well said, Mr. Van Wagenen.

1 comment:

  1. I like it. I like how we (I guess I mean our freshman ward?) are all realizing the potential for change that we each have individually. If you do want to do something with micro-lending you can check out It's a site where anybody can join from anywhere and help lend money. Really interesting stuff!


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