Peter Drucker once said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they are immediately degenerated into hard work.” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this quote and I’ve only recently realized how right Drucker was. Hard work really is the only way to bring about change in society.
As an upper-middle class, heterosexual, white male, I am fortunate to have never personally experienced any sort of social injustice in my life. It was not until I took Doctor Othello Harris’ Social Justice Studies 165 course that I realized the vast amounts of injustices in our society, which have gone basically unaddressed. I really wanted to write this article about the multiple injustices which can even be seen on Miami University’s campus and ways we can help correct these, but then I remembered what Drucker had said. I now know that it is much more important to actually put the work in to the see the change you want, rather than to just recognize a problem. I’ve had a personal experience in which I inadvertently impacted people’s lives in a positive way, and I’m hoping that my experience will urge you to go out and make a difference.
I was a junior at Wilmington High School in Ohio when this amazing opportunity fell into my lap. I was in an economics class, which I was on the verge of failing, when one day, my teacher offered a large amount of extra credit to any students willing to enter a contest called the Martin Luther King Jr., Art, Essay and Multimedia contest, which was put on by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. I forget exactly what the theme of the contest was that year, but it had something to do with music that encourages overcoming adversity. For some context, music has always been a huge part of my life. And at the time, a good friend of mine, Logan, and I were creating multiple pieces of original music. Seeing as Logan was in the same economics class, we jumped at the chance to gain the extra credit.
Logan and I decided that we would write our own song about overcoming adversity, record it, and shot a music video for the contest. A few weeks before we learned about the contest, I wrote a song with the working title “All the Things Undone.” It was a very simple song with an elegant melody and a very catchy hook, but I wasn’t exactly attached to the song. We decided to take the same melody of my song and change the lyrics so that it fit the topic of the contest, and changing the title to “Stay Strong.” In all honesty, we spent no more than fifteen minutes writing the song. After the recording and the video were finished, we submitted the piece and collected our extra credit. We didn’t really think much about it until a month or so later when we received notice that our song had actually won the contest in its category. We were allowed to miss school to travel to the state’s Capitol Building where the governor gave a speech and we, along with the other winners, received awards for our artwork, essays and videos.
I’ll admit our intentions were not the best. We had honestly entered the contest for extra credit and spent little time on the project. But when we were receiving our awards I noticed that some people were so overwhelmed by our song and you could see the emotion on their faces when they listened. I remember one woman in particular who just loved the song, thanked us multiple times, and took a picture with us. After another similar moment with another person, I realized that despite our intentions, our work had inadvertently made an impact on people’s lives. It was after this incident that I began to take part in activist groups in my high school and eventually deciding to take multiple social justice courses at Miami.
Social change is not an easy thing to accomplish. It takes countless hours of hard work and could take years to accomplish. But it’s little things like our song that can have real impacts on how people think. At a wonderful university filled with bright, young, philanthropists, we can effectively bring about positive change in how our society functions. The Social Action Center (SAC) here on campus is a great group that works hard to bring about these sorts of changes by giving students ideas and resources in order to help them focus on social change. However, they have surprisingly small numbers, relative to the amount of students here. I am urging students to get involved with programs like these. They can create such a large impact and it’s important to take part in bringing about the change you want to see. The lesson to take from my experience is that although it takes a lot of hard work to make a big change, it is easy to positively impact the lives of individuals, which is ultimately where social change starts.