November 25, 2019 – As I was pursuing my MBA years ago, I found myself reflecting on my relationship with power. Surrounded by peers and immersed in an environment focused on growing one’s network, it seemed everyone around me was devoting all their energy to building their business empires. I definitely did not relate. While I clearly understood the need to develop effective relationships, the notion of empire-building solely for the sake of accumulating more – reach, authority, money — never resonated with me.
I openly said as much during a class discussion, when a thoughtful instructor challenged my thinking. My professor Tanya Menon encouraged me to reconsider my characterization of power as self-serving. Her exact words were: “power is neither good nor bad. Power reveals.” This changed my perspective. I realized, one could build a network and their power while staying true to their values — committing to do good with their influence.
Until that moment in class, I had narrowly considered – and rejected – an elitist perspective, where everybody works to “get theirs” at the expense of those who may get in the way. With that push from Professor Menon, I embraced the truth that we always have choices, and we may choose to leverage our power and influence to benefit causes greater than ourselves.
It has been more than a decade since I was in Professor Menon’s class — but I’ve kept that lesson close in my work at NAUDL. Here, I have the privilege of seeing how “power reveals” on a regular basis. Since I became Executive Director this past July, I have met with dozens of former high school and college debaters who go out of their way to make connections and contributions for the benefit of our current students. I see busy teachers who choose to use their time and knowledge to coach their debaters and others in the network. I see our alumni take the time to give back to their local leagues and share their experiences with the next generation of debaters.
These contributions of time, money and expertise help urban debate leagues around the country to maximize the benefits students get from their debate experience.
In this season of gratitude, I extend a very warm THANK YOU to our alumni, coaches, volunteers and friends of urban debate, who use their power and influence for perhaps the worthiest of causes – preparing the next generation to lead and succeed.
As you consider ways to invest your time and treasure this holiday season, please consider sharing and giving the Gift of Debate!