You could say I began life as an activist. My mother was a warrior (literally) for women’s liberation, health equity (before they called it that), and whatever cause was relevant at the time. She was the oldest daughter from Sicilian matriarchs. She testified at the capitol, exposed injustices through her poetry and writing, stood on her crutches during protests, and even sued the State of Colorado.
My father was a peace-loving variation on Buddhism — the grandson of a Baptist minister and the only son of a steelworker sandwiched between three sisters. He practiced servant leadership. For many years he prayed for the enemy until his spiritual practice would recognize no separations and there were no more enemies, only oneness.
It was interesting living two extremes of leadership – one fiery, assertive and obvious; the other, soft, watery and serene. Both were impactful. My mother helped to earn many rights for people with disabilities; including requirements for handicapped accessibility in public restrooms. It’s important to be able to access bathroom facilities, even if you are in a wheelchair. She was the first handicapped Director of Adams County Social Services. In her later years she worked as a grant writer and was responsible for putting together both the funding and the partnerships that brought the first health care clinics to rural Colorado. My dad worked for affordable housing and historical preservation. He gave up his career, once having served as the Director for the Denver Housing Authority, to paint houses. “Jesus was a carpenter,” he would often say.
These two influences have shaped my own style of leadership. I have approached life with a prayer in one hand and a sword in the other. The lessons I have lived require me to combat injustice while learning to accept that darkness, is simply an absence of light. Through frequent meditation, I exercise a practice that helps me to accept things as they are. While daily, I work to educate and inspire – exposing the wrongs and empowering others to do right. It’s a battle with no end and no victory, still there are times when swords are appropriate. Mostly these days, I lead with a prayer. I find that the more that is in right in me, the more becomes right in the world.
For all of you who have joined or supported these efforts to honor our children and preserve public education – thank you. There is a need for leadership in our country and I hope more parents, teachers, students and citizens will step forward in the cause for justice and equity, for freedom and democracy. A wonderful team at Uniting4Kids is coming together and continuing. Please consider making a donation or volunteering your time by following the simple links below.
It is having a clarity of purpose, that offers the feeling of being most alive. When I think back on my twenty-five years of education advocacy and activism, I can’t imagine a better way to spend a life.
Thank you for your continued friendship and support.
…Stay tuned for my next incarnation
“Why did we try and change the world? …I guess it was something to do.”
Ralph Steadman, Artist
If you missed the webinar, “Lessons of a Bus-Bench Activist;” Angela Engel shares some of her 25-years’ experience in children’s advocacy and education leadership.