Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ordinary Hero: Teen Emma Sullivan who stood up for her right to free speech

Image credit: Olivia Sullivan
Google "Emma Sullivan" and you'll get pages of articles on her story. She's the eighteen year old high school senior who sent an unflattering tweet about Kansas Governor Sam Brownback a couple of weeks ago.

According to Think Progress, Brownback's staff fired off a complaint to Sullivan's principal, who then ordered Sullivan to apologize to the governor. She refused.

The other day, in an email exchange, I asked Sullivan about her stand. My first question, how long did it take her to make such a potentially far-reaching decision? Here's what she said.
It took a couple of days, I at first was going to write it [the apology] because I didn't want to get in trouble, but with the support of others and my family, I realized that I didn't have to write it and that I shouldn't write things [that] are insincere.
Don't you love it? Imagine a world in which our politicians resisted the urge to make insincere apologies, or worse, lie about their activities and intentions. Where might we be today?

I also asked Sullivan her reasons for choosing not to write the apology and what consequences she feared. Again, in her own words:
I was hoping there would be no consequences because if the school would have punished me then the media would have made it an even bigger deal. I didn't want to write it because I don't feel like I did anything wrong and I strongly believe in my rights to tweet what I want. I also thought it would be a lose lose situation if I wrote the letter, the public would have scrutinized it, people would have told me I caved into the governor's pressure. When you agree to apologize because someone has asked you to, then you have lost the power of your words. 
Wisdom from the heart and mouth of one so young, I must repeat it.
When you agree to apologize because someone has asked you to,
then you have lost the power of your words.
It takes courage to stand your ground in the middle of a fray. So often we are told to "calm down," "back down," "let it go," "it's not that important." Emma Sullivan newly adult in age, still a teenager, understands the power of her words.

My last question to Emma was this: What advice would you give to others about censoring ourselves before writing what we see as the truth online? She wrote her response in a larger font and bold type.
If you want to say it then say it. Just stand by what you said, no matter what the wording is or what it is about. 

Ordinary Heroes Award
© L Kathryn Grace

Emma Sullivan, for speaking your truth and sticking to it when challenged, for holding our public officials accountable, for standing up for your Constitutional right to free speech, for caring enough to make a decision that potentially packed a lot of heat and being willing to take it, and for being unafraid to let your wisdom shine, you are my Ordinary Hero. I bow in gratitude and with hope for the future. With youth of your caliber coming up to replace us, we who have all too often felt we were tilting at windmills take heart.

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.


Jes said...

From a fellow Kansan, I agree that the Gov. Brownback and his office's actions towards her were BEYOND inappropriate. I'm proud of her for not only saying what a lot of us here are feeling (I still don't know who here actually voted for the man) but for also refusing to give in and write an apology. It may be because I just got reading The Hunger Games trilogy, but she seems like our own Mockingjay!

Pat T. said...

This is a wonderful lesson, Kate. Thanks for posting about Emma.

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