Boston is not Powerless

April 19, 2013

Everyone in Boston feels pretty powerless right now. We are stuck inside our homes. We can’t take the T. We can’t go to work. We can’t get a coffee. We don’t know if we are safe.

As the Boston manager of an organization that specializes in empowering the powerless, I have a few thoughts about our powerlessness today. Specifically, that we are NOT POWERLESS!

For one, power comes from joining together with others, and I have seen this week so clearly how swiftly and effectively we are able to come together.They may call Bostonians “unfriendly,” but I don’t see it. On Marathon Monday, Boston’s very own holiday, thousands of Bostonians across neighborhoods, across networks, and across campuses gathered together to cheer on our athletes at the finish line. When that incredible day of Bostonian fellowship was marred by horrific tragedy, Boston rallied, and we rallied as a community: we welcomed strangers into our homes, poured out donations, and swiftly came together to organize memorial services and even memorial runs and races. Our solidarity was planned to continue into today, with the organization of a “Wear Boston Day,” in which HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people across Boston committed to wearing Boston clothing and gear (this is now “Wear Boston Weekend,” although many people ARE wearing Boston clothing inside their homes!)

Secondly, residents of a community have power when their civil systems and local decision-makers are responsive to their needs. This week, our police department, our emergency response teams, our transit authority, our mayor, our Governor, and our local media proved themselves attentive, efficient, organized, and legitimately heroic. Our systems are by no means perfect, and far from systemically equitable, but we have a strong foundation. I am proud to be part of an organization that works to increase access and familiarity with these systems, and positions youth to one day become the next generation of civic heroes.

Finally, we are powerful because we have an American education system that is working very very hard to increasingly protect our society from the terrorism we experienced this week. While I am no expert on terrorism, I do know that terrorist violence is often linked to economic marginalization and a radical and selective interpretation of religious texts that overlooks their nuance. In contrast, American educators have more and more been focused on raising critical thinkers who have the skills to be economically successful in the 21st century world. Our education system, again, is far from perfect, but I am optimistic: every day, I meet fantastic educators and community organizations who are absolutely committed to raising students who can question, comprehend nuance, and succeed in a complex and collaborative world. And I see individual students who emerge from our education system with remarkable skills and self-efficacy, despite their marginalized backgrounds.  I am so honored to be part of this movement that I do believe will one day help our society become free of terrorists.

My fellow Bostonians: stay safe, call your loved ones, wear your Boston clothing, and remember: you are not powerless!

~Gillian Pressman, Greater Boston Program Manager

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