In the back of my mind today, I was thinking about Voices and Speaking Up. In doing so, someone came to mind, a woman who has always piqued my curiosity…Maggie Kuhn. I heard about Maggie when I first saw a quote of hers on a bumper sticker here in Berkeley where I live. This bumper sticker is seen often in Berkeley. The quote is:
“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind — even if your voice shakes.”
I find this quote so powerful for it gives one permission to speak, even when your speech isn’t perfect. Maggie teaches us that we don’t have to be speakers, we don’t have to be polished and perfected, and we don’t have to limit what we say to those who we know will agree.
What I hear in Maggie’s quote is facing it all head on. Standing in front of the very people you fear and speaking anyway forms a powerful image in my mind of no-holds-barred expression. I was particularly taken by her saying that we should speak in front of those we fear most. And then I read this quote by Maggie:
“When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say.”
In reading this, my expectations take a 180 degree turn. I pictured standing in front of those I feared and assumed they wouldn’t listen. But, what if the very person(s) we fear are those that might actually listen to what we have to say? What if we were to step right up to the microphone in front of those we fear and speak, and find out they actually listen to us? How would that change what we are willing to say? How might that change our view of the world and our place in it?
Maggie was an American activist, best known for founding the Gray Panthers movement in 1971 after being forced into retirement by the Presbyterian Church.
Think about what how powerful Maggie’s words are. Another wise woman, Sobonfu Some, stated that women are afraid to speak up and out because they fear they won’t be heard. How often I have heard this from clients. Well we certainly won’t be heard if we don’t speak at all. We all have something to say and to share. It doesn’t matter who we say it to, but we must speak it. Think of Maggie next time you have something to say and find yourself tongue-tied. Then, speak Up!
By the way, the Bumper Stickers are available at CafePress.