Last week, I was out of the country attending the annual World Congress for the International Federation of Reprographic Rights Organizations (IFRRO) in Athens, Greece. While there, I learned of two terrible things happening in the United States – 1) the murder of two African-Americans in Louisville, KY as an apparent hate crime, and 2) a spate of mail bombs sent to members of the media and prominent politicians, including two former presidents. Then after arriving back in the U.S., I awoke to the terrible news Saturday of the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
These three events caused me to pause, pray, and reflect on the state of the nation. I believe we are beset now with a climate being driven by politicians who have sought to attain and maintain power by sowing seeds of fear, division, and even hate among us. Those seeds may have been planted long ago and lain dormant, but an abundance of rain (the use of inflamed, demonizing political rhetoric) has brought forth a bitter harvest that is reflected in the madness of the past week’s events.
In thinking about what comes next, I was drawn to an inspiring op-ed written by Chester “Sully” Sullenberger, the former US Airways pilot who saved so many lives with his courage and skill when he landed his plane safely on the surface of the Hudson River after his engines were shut down by a massive bird strike. It was published on Monday October 29th in The Washington Post.
In the op-ed, Sullenberger speaks of the responsibilities of leadership and the need to act firmly and calmly in times of crisis for the greater good so as to reinforce the bonds of commonality that bind us all. He says, “To navigate complex challenges, all leaders must take responsibility and have a moral compass grounded in competence, integrity and concern for the greater good.”
Recognizing that our current politics has us far removed from that state, he notes that as a society we are in mortal danger of losing our commonality – what the military might term “unit cohesion.” To reclaim our common humanity, and to uphold the responsibilities of leadership he suggests we vote for politicians in next week’s midterm election who will affirm those leadership qualities, and put those traits into place, affirming them above party affiliations and blind political loyalties.
I also think it applies to the way we conduct business at ASMP. We need to lead and act with a spirit of open-hearted hospitality and generosity, respecting all who seek help from us, and turning no one away who wants to get information about becoming a professional photographer, regardless of their current skills or past life experience. I believe passionately in the language of photography as a means to better understand the world beyond the boundaries of our own individual lives. I believe our best work can inspire, educate, and illuminate, causing those who view our work to better understand the larger world and make the best use of their own life experiences. Let’s recommit to doing work in that spirit and use the ability to “write with light” (photography) to bring light to a broken, hurting world in need of that kind of illumination.