Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Image result for founding fathersOur founding fathers understood the need for an engaged society, where government hears the needs and wants of its citizens. As such, our Constitution affords protections for speech and peaceful assembly, shielding Americans from government retaliation in the form of criminal prosecution. While press is also protected, many media members are far too cozy with government, necessitating that people speak directly to decision makers.

Freedom of speech protections apply only to government retaliation. One cannot face punitive actions as a result of speech. Keep in mind, protections do not prohibit counter speech, from government or others. Additionally, protections do not prevent nongovernmental employers from terminating employment. In many cases, people have lost careers or financial assets exercising their free speech in a manner their employers or business partners deemed inappropriate.

Socially active individuals have many challenges in our society. Given the growing political hysteria and hypersensitivity, individuals must work extra hard to maximize potential for success. Careful consideration in audience selection, message creation, and delivery can positively impact outcome.

Being able to speak directly to decision makers is key. Choosing the right channels to get that conversation can be difficult. For instance, conservative activist tend to focus on pressuring policymakers in constituent base or in front of public office. On the other hand, far left choose more aggressive tactics, seeking to create chaos to extort engagement. One must decide if ends justify means approach is helpful. Typically, it is not.

The problem with many movement is with message creation. Either the message is not clear or is improperly structured. Problems in crafting message create barriers for engagement, providing opportunities for distorting by opposition or media. Ideally, the message would be unifying, considering both sides of the argument and potential pushback. Simply spouting emotional rhetoric is ineffective, as it creates “us vs them” scenarios that are failing predicaments.

Finally, speakers must ensure delivery does not distract from their message. Do all possible to not ground the debate before it can happen. For instance, some NFL players protest social inequities by kneeling during the national anthem, which is largely viewed as unpatriotic. In comparison, other athletes sought to foster opportunities for both sides to speak constructively together. Regardless of intent, actions that elicit strong negative emotions in audience can damage cause.

Whether in business, politics, or social activism, the messenger bears the burden to craft the right message, find the right audience, and execute the right delivery. The audience or the public has no responsibility to perceive the message as intended. Be considerate of potential barriers and misconceptions, with plans to address them when appropriate. Failure in planning leads to failure in execution, which creates a lost opportunity.

There are no guarantees that social activism comes without a cost. Once a person voices their opinion, the control shifts to the general public and media that covers it. Reactions can lead to employers seeking to create separation from the speech. Although speech is protected from criminal prosecution, there could be financial or social challenges to consider.

Our society needs people to remain politically engaged and willing to voice concerns. Despite the challenges, the people that achieve desired results are the ones that persevere regardless of personal cost. When in doubt, review the soundness of plan, determining if there is a more unifying message or delivery. If the cause is worthwhile, demonstrate the resolve to see it through.