Gaining Inspiration in Civic Leadership

Civic leadership is vital for ensuring society progresses toward equality for all. Change is never easy, and working in civic leadership can be thankless at times. However, the achievements of the four important civic leaders mentioned below should serve as inspiration for anyone looking to pursue a career in this field.

Martin Luther King Jr.: Human Rights Pioneer

Martin Luther King Jr.: Human Rights Pioneer
Image via Flickr by U.S. Embassy New Delhi

Martin Luther King Jr. is regarded as one of America’s most significant civic leaders. His charisma and passion helped him inspire common people and influence presidents.

He followed his father into the ministry before becoming involved in civil rights. His first act as a civic leader was driving the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, after Rosa Parks’ arrest for failing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger.

For more than a decade, until his assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. led a nonviolent movement that promoted political, social, and economic justice for all Americans. During this time, he was arrested, his house was bombed, and he received death threats. However, he refused to give in to the pressure and tirelessly campaigned for his beliefs. His “I Have a Dream” speech remains one of the most famous speeches of all time.

Sister Providencia Tolan: Driving Community Change

While you may not immediately recognize the name, Sister Providencia Tolan is an excellent example of how one person can start a revolution.

In 1952, this nun and sociology teacher set about affecting change. Sister Providencia was greatly concerned by how poverty-stricken Native Americans who lived in the slums of Hill 57 were treated, particularly when compared to the wealthier residents of Great Falls, Montana. She walked the city streets, collecting food and clothing for those in need. Sister Providencia also established classes to educate Native American children and worked with government officials to improve living conditions for the Native American people.

Sister Providencia began trying to solve a local problem, but her desire to help Native Americans took her advocacy all the way to Congress.

Paul Farmer: Bringing Health Care to Communities in Need

American physician Paul Farmer’s belief that location should be no barrier to quality health care made him one of medicine’s most respected civic leaders.

In 1987, he co-founded non-profit organization Partners in Health (PIH) in the Central Plateau of Haiti. The PIH hospital in Haiti continues to provide free treatment to patients, including offering medications to treat the local epidemics of AIDS and tuberculosis. From humble roots, PIH became a global health organization and a model for how health care could be delivered to communities in need. In addition to the Haitian hospital, Farmer oversees similar operations in Lesotho, Rwanda, Malawi, Russia, and Peru.

Paul Farmer’s civic leadership efforts in the health care field led Tracy Kidder to call him “the man who would cure the world” in her 2003 book “Mountains Beyond Mountains.”

Kristi Noem: Rising Civic Star

Kristi Noem represents a new era of civic leaders. A former rodeo queen, Noem ran her family’s ranch and a restaurant before being elected to the state legislature in 2006 and the U.S. Congress in 2011. She juggled her responsibilities to Congress with an online educational program and duties as a mother of three, proving that women really can accomplish their hopes and dreams. She continues to serve as the U.S. representative for South Dakota’s at-large congressional district.

During her life as a civic leader, she’s fought hard to put an end to human trafficking and sexual slavery, to reduce government spending, and conserve natural resources. Newsmax magazine named her one of the 25 most influential women in the GOP, and Time magazine named her one of its 40 Under 40, recognizing her achievements as a civic leader.

The examples set by these historical and contemporary people should serve as inspiration for the next generation of civic leaders. With these examples and graduate-degree programs in social justice, today’s students can feel empowered to continue this legacy of being champions for civic leadership.

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