Like many of you, I was horrified, inspired and amazed at different times throughout this tragic week.

Horrified:  Watching the horrific tales of desperately trapped people unfold during the Haitian earthquake was gut wrenching.

We’ve all seen tragic events unfold on TV over the years & we’re used to seeing graphic coverage.  But what was it about this specific disaster that gnawed at me so hard?

Was it watching the poorest country in the W. Hemisphere get hammered by a disaster (again) & then being reminded that the country has more or less been exploited/abused since it was founded?

I don’t know…

Amazed: Watching how new technology galvanized the aid effort was amazing.  Mobile donation campaigns, Twitter updates, Video uploads, remote people identification methodologies via crowdsourcing…wow.

The Extraordinaries, a crowdsourcing social venture, worked around the clock after the quake hit to adapt their tools to enable people to help identify missing persons.  2,000 volunteers have been sorting through thousands of photos taken by journalists, relief workers, missionaries & anyone else documenting the crisis on the ground.

Check out the site at…what an empowering tool!  Today, we can even donate our time to help people in a remote crisis (not just reach for our wallets).

Inspired: Watching so many good people go down to Haiti to help was inspirational.

Speaking of inspiration…it was also Martin Luther King day this week.  So, as I was going through a couple of his speeches online, I came across a great post from about King’s 1967 speech to the SCLC.  I liked it so much that I’ve copied it below for you (with a couple of modifications for brevity) to help reflect on Haiti & where we go from here.

By 1967, the triumph of the 1964 Civil Rights Act had had time to sink in, and the challenge of addressing poverty and injustice during a rapidly escalating war was leading to increasingly radical activism. The 1967 SCLC address was King’s chance to boldly affirm his positions on economic justice, nonviolence and power.

“Audacious Faith In The Future:” King begins his speech with an affirmation that true freedom can only begin on the inside, and that as long as people — in the case of this speech, the African-American population — remain slaves to the limits of their own self-conception, they can never be truly free. He wrote:

No Lincolnian Emancipation Proclamation or Johnsonian Civil Rights Bill can totally bring this kind of freedom….the Negro must boldly throw off the manacles of self-abnegation and say to himself and to the world, “I am somebody. I am a person. I am a man with dignity and honor. I have a rich and noble history. How painful and exploited that history has been. Yes, I was a slave through my foreparents and I am not ashamed of that. I’m ashamed of the people who were so sinful to make me a slave.”

This is the part of the speech that I believe brings up the most important questions we must ask ourselves as we ask about the state of our moral universe and where we go from here.

What does a child believe he or she can be?

What about n Iraq? In Haiti? On the south side of Chicago?

They are owed, at the very minimum, the plausibility of their own triumph.

My great fear today is that we are beginning to lose faith in the future. This economic crisis has destroyed ten years of economic progress in America, we’re told. A generation of Americans is expected to have a shorter lifespan than its predecessor, largely because of our addiction to cheap food and our broken health care system. And in most parts of the world, the story is worse.

If we let this be the story of our time, we will cede the optimism that even in our darkest hours has aimed our compass towards progress. This is why I spend so much time telling a different story — of an entrepreneurial spirit that believes and acts as though all people have agency; of a global generation that is coming into its own as a force for good in the world; of the people who are quietly building the infrastructure for a more just tomorrow.

Because what King knew was that, in the long run, the contradictions of this nation and indeed — of human nature — could not stand in the way of the boldness of our experiment in liberty, equality and creativity. He believed that when you give people the foundations to be successful, they usually are, and that when you give people the chance to be good — to themselves and to others — they usually will be.

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