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Do you have a dream?

You might find this controversial, but Jeremy Corbyn’s recent election victory reminds me of Martin Luther King. Both had a clear vision of the change they want to see. Both were prepared to fight injustice and of course both became deeply unpopular with the establishment who said the policies they were promoting were dangerous. And in the case of Luther King, time proved those concerns to be largely unfounded.

Of course Luther King died at the age of 39 for his cause, assassinated in 1968. At the same age, exactly 20 years later, Corbyn was a back bench MP and it was Tony Benn then contesting to take his party leadership. Does that make Corbyn a later starter, or simply someone who watched and waited until his time had come?

As a social entrepreneur much of what Corbyn says resonates with my own outlook. On his homepage he says; ‘Our timeless task is to stand up against injustice, wherever we find it.’ In his post- election ‘thank-you post he goes on to say that he ‘entered the contest to ensure there was a real political alternative.’ He goes on to urge people to working with people ‘in whatever capacity, to argue for and bring about the change we need, not just in our party, but in our country and world.’ Doesn’t every social entrepreneur strive for positive, sustainable, social change?

Both men have made a big deal of small events because they illustrate their point simply to all around them. Luther King and a group of supporters were arrested when denied lunch in an Atlanta department store because they were black. The mayor had to negotiate a truce and charges were eventually dropped.

Corbyn also recognises the value of personally confronting hot topics. His former wife left him over his refusal to send one of their sons to a selective Grammar school. Like Luther King, he’s a man willing to sacrifice personal safety for matters of principle. In other words, both men walked their talk.

But enough of politics; in my day to day life I need to work alongside politicians of all persuasions. I do not take sides and never ever reveal who (if anyone) I choose to vote for. In my book, politics is personal and tolerance and understanding preferable to toeing any party line.

That said here’s a guy who recognises that, to paraphrase Lyndon B Johnson, he can achieve more from inside the tent than he can from standing outside it. I think it’s time now for more of us find our way into public service tents. I’ve long campaigned on mental health issues and was inspired by Corbyn’s success to apply to join my local Mental Health Trust Board. I think now more than ever before, I could achieve more inside that tent than I can by spraying it from the outside!

You see what I find most interesting as a social entrepreneur is that Corbyn has demonstrated that now, more than ever before, it really is possible to step forward, win support, be heard and prompt healthy debate on deep rooted, thorny issues such as the crisis facing the NHS.

The time has come for us all to grab the opportunity to become the change we want to see. Do you agree?

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Peter Foggo
Peter Foggo
8 years ago

Dear Robert,

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking along the very same lines. I’ve recently read biographies of King and Ghandi and while I wouldn’t place Corbyn on the same pedestals as them (dare I say yet?), I admire his commitment to social change, a more fairer society, equality for all and as an alternative to the right of centre politics I have endured all of my life. He is not a “career” politician like many in The House and while I do not agree with all of his policies I trust him as a person and MP. Not something I can honestly say about all of them.

Yours,

Peter.

Fernando Centeno, CED
Fernando Centeno, CED
8 years ago

My takeaway studying M.L. King & LBJ re: their ability to be effective is this: the Black Panthers & other agitators posed such threats to the establishment they allowed M.L. King & his S.N.C.C. (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) group to become the legitimate spokesmen for the civil rights cause, as M.L. King was actually a moderate. Therefore, for the “insider” to gain political leverage, you need troublesome outsiders to push all the buttons against the status quo; suddenly, M.L. King was someone you could work with.

In LBJ’s case, he was an good ‘ol boy racist growing up, but when he saw first-hand the gravity of Mexican American poverty as a school instructor in Cotulla, Texas (just southwest of San Antonio where I live), he evolved to become a civil rights zealot, picking up the mantle from J.F. Kennedy after his assassination in l963. To many, LBJ was a political genius, the best of the 20th century. He was as rough & tough as West Texas dirt, which means you need to be the real deal when you saddle up to ride a bronco.

This long struggle led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act & the Civil Rights Act, in climactic fashion, with the words “We Shall Overcome”.

For all that was accomplished, complacency set in, as many felt that the job was done, but a key feature of MLK’s & LBJ’s agenda was economic justice, which too few of us are articulate about to lead, rather than just talk about. In our community economic development field, we can learn a lot about the dynamics necessary to accomplish really great things.

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