The recent revelations by leaker Edward Snowden of the widespread access to all of our private phone records by the United States gvernment was disturbing for many reasons. There has been extensive criticism of both the NSA eavesdropping program and of Snowden. Let me take a slightly different tack. I think the actions of Snowden have both a hopeful and powerful aspect regardless of whether you view him as a traitor or a hero. And the lesson is so very timely as we approach Fathers Day.
The world is so big and complex, and the ability for change seems so difficult, that we as individuals question the possibility that we can really contribute in some meaningful way to society. We see immense bureaucracies and huge institutions and we think to ourselves there is no way we can make any kind of difference in this confusing life. The gift of Snowden, whether you love him or hate him, is that one individual really can affect profound change. And it is a lesson as we look back on our history exists time and time again.
Snowden, by his actions, put into motion a complete reexamination of our intelligence systems. He has caused people throughout the country to discuss the pros and cons of something that was hidden in secret. He has caused the Obama administration to wonder whether or not what they have been doing is correct. And Snowden’s individual actions have cracked open a debate much needed in this country on the proper balance between security and civil liberties. Wow, I would say that is a demonstration of the power of the individual.
And this ability of one individual to make a difference (whether it be positive or negative according to your viewpoint) is a important truth for all of us to keep in mind. So often we feel we have to be part of a larger institution or movement in order to make a difference. That we need to be a cog in a machine conforming and constricting to the demands of large conglomeration in order to achieve progress. The truth is actually the opposite.
Throughout history it is the change wrought by individuals that has been the engine for progress. It is the few people, not the many, who fight against the status quo or who make a difference in their families or neighborhoods or communities that are the ones who change the world. It is not the large institutions that bring change; in fact they fight change no matter the well-intentioned values they were constructed in.
And this brings us to Father’s Day. Being a dad to four wonderful children I realize the power so many of us have as individuals in our families and communities. I see the difference a warm hug can make in a child’s life, or a game played on a living room floor can light up someone’s eyes, or picking someone up when they have fallen down.
I have not been perfect in my role as a dad, and being a divorced father makes the connection a little more difficult and complicated, but it has been worth the effort to try and try again every day in my children’s lives. Like what many moms experience day and day out, trying to balance the demands of life and work and being a father is never an easy task. But if you really want to feel your power in life, and see yourself living a life of purpose and mission, embrace your role as a father.
Individual inventors throughout time have created things that have changed the world, truth-tellers have revealed information and opened doors that brought needed discussions to light, artists have created works that caused people to look at the world differently, and people every day risk their lives in order to save another in communities around the world.
It is time we consciously add fathers to this list. Every time one of us thinks we can’t make a difference, let us pause and reflect the roles we play every day in our own life. We don’t need to search around the world for the next big movement to be a part of in order to make a difference. We can start in the places we live and show where the most powerful change always begins.
And like moms, fathers should never forget the incredible power they have. If you really want to be a man, then man-up when you’re tired and your child wants to hear a bedtime story. It is the most powerful you will ever feel. And I thank Edward Snowden for again showing us the power one individual can have on this planet of more than 7 billion people. An awesome reminder of the strength in numbers – the number one. You.