Make the Impossible Possible

April 28, 2011by

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. makes a profound statement about the urge for freedom that necessarily comes to any oppressed people:

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom; something without has reminded him that he can gain it. Consciously and unconsciously, he has been swept in by what the Germans call the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa, and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, he is moving with a sense of cosmic urgency toward the promised land of racial justice.

People under oppression are of course held there by multiple forces, external as well as internal. Often the internal motivation to overcome the powers of oppression comes from some change in external factors, a “something without” that awakens hope and confidence against the oppression. When the social conditions are altered or exposed, entire communities, even countries, can be changed.

One of the most profound stories of creating this kind of social change is that of Bill Strickland, whose vision for both parents and children lost in the fall of the industrial era has renewed hope for at least one entire community. Combined with the transformative power of education, Strickland’s “slideshow” has grown into a movement for resurrecting life from the death-grip of oppression.

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Strickland tells his story in more detailed narrative in Make the Impossible Possible, on the last page of which he offers this bit of world-changing wisdom:

The best way to live your life is with the assumption that your purpose on the planet is to strive, in some way appropriate to your means and your talents, to make a difference. To save, in essence, a little part of the world. An impossible notion? Perhaps. But an impossible notion is just an idea no one has had the guts to try.