The Legacy We Leave

In my MBA class we discussed a scene Freedom Writers.  In it a teacher transforms a class of impoverished students who come from rival gangs.  A turning point in the story is when the students justify the norm of dying for their gangs.  The teacher tells them that when they die, they will rot in their graves and no one will remember them because all they did was live a life of anger and hate.  Her point was that such behavior is so common it is not worth remembering.  Later she introduces a method that allows the students to tell the stories of their personal struggles. It was a way for them to gain a voice and leave a meaningful legacy. Doing so transformed the class and the students.

During the discussion, one of the older students became quite animated.  She shared a personal story.  When she was a girl, her father was the head of a Quaker group in Little Rock, Arkansas.  After the integration of Little Rock High School, many laws were being passed to protect segregation.  The Quakers voiced a contrary position and her father was told to be silent or he would lose his job.  He told them that he could not be silent.

She told this story with great feeling.  I asked the class why the story was so important to this woman.  They made some thoughtful comments.  I suggested that when he exercised his courage, her father was probably giving little thought to his daughter; yet he was doing something that was uncommon and worth remembering. He was leaving his daughter a legacy (an inheritance, gift, remnant, or reminder) that had now become a core element in her own identity. When we leave our conventional patterns and live by principle, we change the world. When we do we leave a legacy.

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