Taking a Stand: A Time for a New Profiles of Courage

August 1, 2002

In this issue:

Newsbriefs: John to Address the Commonwealth Club + Opps! Sydney Conference Cancelled
August Editorial: Taking a Stand: A Time for a New Profiles of Courage
Newsbriefs: World Future Society Publishes John’s Op-Ed Piece + John Featured in Magazine Article About New Leadership
Next Month’s Editorial: Are We There Yet? Enduring Humanity’s Adolescence While Waiting to Grow Up



John to Address the Commonwealth Club

John has been scheduled to speak at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco – the oldest and largest public affairs forum in the nation – on the one-year anniversary of the U.S. terrorist attacks on September 11. The title of his talk is “What Have We Learned Since 9-11?” The public is invited.

Opps! Sydney Conference Cancelled

The Sydney, Australia conference mentioned in last month’s newsletter has been cancelled by the organizers so John will not be going there in October as announced last month. He will still be speaking at two conferences in the Gold Coast region of Australia – the Inspiring Business Leadership Forum (Nov. 29 – Dec. 1) and the Spirituality Leadership and Management (SLaM) conference, Dec. 6-9.


In my latest book – Getting to the Better Future – I quote my friend Lynne Twist on the subject of taking a stand. She says, “Taking a stand is a way of living and being that draws on a place within yourself that is at the very heart of who you are. When you take a stand, you find your place in the universe, and you have the capacity to move the world.”

Lynne also talks about living “the committed life” and lives her own life from that place of commitment. She has definitely taken a stand with her life, inspiring anyone who is fortunate to know her.

I was recently reminded of stand-taking when I learned of the Israeli soldiers who refused to occupy the Palestinian territories. Numbering nearly 500 officers and enlisted personnel (as of this writing), they have posted their position on a website (English version). It reads:

We, reserve combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who were raised upon the principles of Zionism, sacrifice and giving to the people of Israel and to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission, light or heavy, in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it.

We, combat officers and soldiers who have served the State of Israel for long weeks every year, in spite of the dear cost to our personal lives, have been on reserve duty all over the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people.

We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides.

We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Territories, destroy all the values we had absorbed while growing up in this country.

We, who understand now that the price of Occupation is the loss of IDF’s human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society.

We, who know that the Territories are not Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated in the end.

We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.

We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.

We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel’s defense.

The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them.

Taking this stance on an issue so essentially human takes great courage and these soldiers are inspiring millions to take courageous action in so many sorely-needed matters around the planet.

Other examples of committed stands include John Robbins, heir to the Baskin Robbins fortune who turned his back on his inheritance because he refused to continue choosing a world of pollution and extinctions and chose to “actively engage with the living world.” Julia Butterfly Hill took a stand by sitting in a tree for 738 days, 180 feet high in the canopy of an ancient redwood tree, to help make the world aware of the plight of ancient forests.

Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. took stands for what they believed. Cindi Lamb, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (“MADD”) is an example of what one person can do when they take a stand for something they really believe in.

Stand-taking requires courage. Siddha Yoga practitioner Paul Mlotok, formerly the top-ranked oil industry analyst on Wall Street, writes in his forthcoming book A Yogi on Wall Street that “courage can be as important as the choice” in his chapter on ‘The Path of Action.’ Taking a stand requires a kind of “spiritual bravery” that comes from one’s soul – not a war-hero type of bravado. As Mlotok writes, the courage in taking the stand can sometimes be just as big a factor in one’s life as the stand itself.

Mlotok quotes Krishna: “A warrior who has acquired great merit, and who has such an opportunity for battle, is like a person who has found a wish-fulfilling gem in his path.” He goes on to elaborate, writing “facing difficult choices is not just something to be endured, but rather a blessing for which we should be thankful. It is a chance to ‘do battle’ – to develop our spiritual skills and understanding.”

So stand-taking has a spiritual benefit – a “blessing” for one’s soul. Can we then surmise that passing up the opportunity to take our stands – to “do battle” – and thus compromising our values has the exact opposite effect? Does compromise of this kind result in diminishment of some part of ourselves beyond merely missing out on receiving the blessing? Try it on, and see how it feels. Anyone who’s ever done this knows – if they are honest with themselves – that there is a price we pay whenever we pass up these opportunities to find a “wish-fulfilling gem” and take our stand.

Entrepreneurs and business leaders who commit themselves to their visions are experienced stand-takers, and their courage in holding to their visions and not allowing them to be hijacked is as important to their soul as it is to the vision to which they’ve committed themselves. They know how to maintain their vision and their resonance so that they are undeterred no matter that distractions come their way – much like “doing battle.”

The world is in great need for stand-takers right now, particularly in our organizations. Most importantly they are needed in those large, publicly-traded corporations. Many, many people inside these companies know what needs doing. Enron, WorldCom, Andersen and the others presented many opportunities for individuals to say something, to take stands when they saw something of questionable integrity going past their desk. But they remained silent, choosing not to be whistleblowers and “going along.”

Conspiracies of silence are just as complicit in these situations making our headlines these days.
We don’t need more answers to our problems. We have plenty of answers. What we lack is enough people willing to take courageous stands – to act on what they already know – what many people try to pretend that they don’t know but, down deep, they do.

Over forty years ago, President John Kennedy wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book entitled Profiles in Courage, highlighting the quality of political courage and national leadership that he valued in that era. Now it is time for new profiles of courage – people and groups who can take leadership responsibility and inspire right action based on personal commitments to truth, life and evolving consciousness.


Next Month: Are We There Yet? Enduring Humanity’s Adolescence While Waiting to Grow Up



World Future Society Publishes John’s Op-Ed Piece

In mid-July, the World Future Society published John’s op-ed piece – “Capitalism in Crisis: An Eagle’s View”. John proposes that the headline-making events of the past several months (the terrorists attacks as well as the corporate scandals) are signs that the global system is trying to correct itself.

John Featured in Magazine Article About New Leadership

The August issue of Science of Mind magazine features an article by Barbara Stahura entitled “New Perspective on Leadership.” Stahura interviewed John for this piece and he is extensively quoted. Others featured in the article include Margaret Wheatley, Bill Veltrop, and Corrine McLaughlin.

About John Renesch

Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco business futurist, commentator and consultant/executive coach. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. For a list of all the services John offers, go to Services.

Posted in

John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

Mini Keynote Archives