John Hope Bryant





In the 21st century, the definition of freedom was tied to what was going on in the wider world. And what was going on in the wider free world involved a handful of defining movements towards emerging democracies around the world — from leaders like Nelson Mandela in places like South Africa, to leaders like Mahatma Gandhi in places like India, to leaders like Michael Collins in places like Ireland.

And then of course here we have been blessed with leaders such as Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. and his strategy lieutenant (Ambassador) Andrew Young, leading a homegrown civil rights movement right here in the United States. And far from a 'black solution,' the civil rights movement, which I have always referred to as the third major paradigm shift for a nation after our freedom from Britain and our civil war, was to quote Ambassador Andrew Young, "always about redeeming the soul of America."

In each of these places throughout the 20th century, the "issue" was race, the color line and social strife, and the cure was most always democracy. And the instrument to secure that democracy for all was in large part the right to vote for all, once democracy was solidly in place.

The right to vote ultimately triggered real changes in public leadership, which triggered changes in important laws and the public policy that in turn governed fundamental issues of fairness, and fair play. I think it is fair to say today, looking back on the 20th century, that democracy indeed won this fight.

While democracy continues to fight the good fight for space and place in our lives in important parts of the world — not yet free to vote, dream and to create on their own — for most of the world the issues we face today are different.

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