So please go home, and never come back, take your hatred and take your bigotry. There is no place. And if I could give you a piece of advice. Use your time and energy to help people. Come with me to a homeless shelter. Come with me to help a veteran find a job or a place to live. That’s what we need help on to bring people together.
I have been to Charlottesville, Virginia and can attest to the fact that it is a vibrant and inspiring campus town. The University of Virginia is one of our very best public universities. Few places are as peaceful, so you can imagine my surprise when a news alert said something about marches and violence in Charlottesville. I actually ignored it, because based on what I knew about Charlottesville it couldn’t be anything too significant, and besides I have grown numb to the ever-increasing news alerts of 2017.
When I found the time to catch up on the news I was shocked. Having been a small child in the 1960s I can still remember watching riots on television. Having parents who went to college in the south during the fifties, I was familiar with stories of white supremacists as well as the KKK, but this was 2017, and here I was struggling with the reality that nearly 60 years later the human capacity for hate remains unchanged.
On this sadly grim and torturous 12th day of August the darkness gave way to light when Governor Terry McAuliffe spoke to the white nationalist. He had some very tough words for them, and for good reason given at least 3 people lost their lives because of the violence, but what captured my attention most was something the news media has largely failed to report.
Mr. McAuliffe humanized the white nationalists to whom he was speaking. He offered them a piece of advice saying, “Use your time and energy to help people,” making us realize that as horrific as the actions of these folks might be they too held a capacity for change. I am not certain the governor realized his words were a balm to the listener, because instead of hating the hater back he said, “Come with me…” placing a degree of personal outreach in his message.
What came next captured my attention and emotion as I heard the completion of three powerful even transformative sentences, “Come with me to a homeless shelter. Come with me to help a veteran find a job or a place to live. That’s what we need help on to bring people together.”
Mr. McAuliffe was seeking to overcome evil with good. He was offering these deeply misguided individuals a chance to change their destiny by embracing the purpose of doing good, instead of being consumed by the evil of racism rooted in destructive bitterness and hate.
On this tragic day in Charlottesville I couldn’t help but salute the governor not because he espouses a certain political position, but because he advocated doing good as the means by which we overcome hate. It reminded me of words spoken by that wonderful character of fiction Albus Dumbledore, whose philosophy has touched young and old through the insightful pen of J.K. Rowling:
Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light.
Albus Dumbledore, The Prisoner of Azkaban
On August 12, 2017 Governor Terry McAuliffe turned on the light in the darkest of times, setting an example for the rest of us about how to respond when evil turns good people bad.
Unfortunately, Charlottesville is not unique. We are living in dark and difficult times. There is palpable unrest among the economically forgotten, politically disenfranchised, and globally oppressed peoples.
We all need to become people who turn on the light. We turn on the light by personally doing good, and encouraging others to do the same. So let’s take a lesson on leadership and influence from Charlottesville, and the next time we read, hear about, or face the darkness of evil make a decision to do good and turn on the light.
This is the only way to change the world.