A guest on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS which aired for the full hour on Thursday of this week, was a public interest attorney who has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative — Bryan Stevenson was very clear in noting that in thinking about the issue of race in our nation, “we have to own up to the things we have done, and I think there’s freedom on the other side of that. We can’t be afraid to acknowledge those things.” It’s a question of being intellectually honest — from all perspectives, in order to better understand.
The hour-long program of the show can be seen on the Charlie Rose website and on Hulu. Stevenson’s award-winning, best-selling book “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” published last October, is now available in paperback.
Because he represents people on death row during the many years he has devoted to addressing injustice through legal action — including folks who were wrongly convicted — but also practicing with vigilance in the confrontation of what he describes as “trying to confront bias and discrimination in the administration of criminal justice.
In another appearance with Charlie Rose — who is also an attorney and producer and co-host of the CBS classic 60 Minutes, as well as the producer and host of the Charlie Rose Show on PBS — Stevenson makes one point emphatically. lamenting the reality that both fear and anger have allowed us to color our responses to this national crisis, and perhaps to have become so disaffected that we may no longer believe it would be possible to bring about the kind of sweeping changes in policy that are sorely needed for a more fulsome prosperity, for all Americans:
“Our system isn’t just being shaped in these ways that seem to be distorting around race, they’re also distorted by poverty.
We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.
Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes.”
In an article last Spring for Forbes magazine, “Public Speaking Payoff: The Presentation Worth $55,000 A Minute,” Carmine Gallo sums up readily, Bryan Stevenson’s capacity for the kind of persuasion that can generate action items:
“You cannot reach a person’s head without first touching their heart.”
One of the most effective concepts to have caught on in the past 25 years or so, has been the development of the TED Talks — short for Technology, Entertainment and Design — TED is a nonprofit which was organized originally in 1984 as a one-time conference, and later fine-tuned as a free service, accessible worldwide, which took advantage of the modern tools of information technology and communication and focused on what their slogan identifies as “Ideas worth spreading.”
These video presentations — which are done before an audience in-house, as well as viewers tuning in to a live stream — take the form of short but powerful presentations of 18 minutes or less on a very diverse array of topics, ranging from science and commerce, to very challenging global issues. They are available in more than 100 languages, and the entire activity is meant to draw from all the countries of the world, as well as to reach out to audiences in any or all of these countries.
Independently-run TEDx Conference events assure that ideas are shared in person. as a means of winnowing down through auditions in local communities around the world, where the audiences vote on the best, so that the final curator, Chris Anderson — whose UK media company Future. purchased the non-profit enterprise from the founders Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks. This low-key impresario can then take a look and have the final say, to determine how and when the presentations are ready for prime-time. He and others then work with individual presenters/ Those that have been selected then — with a little bit of extra coaching for timing and other aspects of the productions that have come to be known for their quality; and for their relevance to the here and now.
Their Mission statement is very straightforward:
“TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.
On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.
One of the most effective speakers of all time — and the competition has included world leaders through the years, whose names are very familiar — has been this aforementioned public-interest lawyer and activist, Bryan Stevelson, whose talk in March of 2012, “We Need to Talk About an Injustice,” garnered the longest standing ovation in TEDTalks history, and even though there is no product to be sold in any of the TEDTalks, and even though Stevenson had a prior commitment that took him away from the venue immediately after his presentation had been given, he was approached by numerous individuals who were so sparked by the general description of what his work entailed, that even in his absence he raised $1 million — just inadvertently (hence the title of the Forbes article, having divided that figure by the 23 minutes or so that his presentation entailed); and made use of those funds and funders who now had a ‘vested’ interest in the outcome.
The fact that Mr. Stevenson can point to the following statistics, helps to solidify support for the challenges his narrative describes:
“… This country is very different today than it was 40 years ago. In 1972, there were 300,000 people in jails and prisons. Today, there are 2.3 million.
The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
We have seven million people on probation and parole. … In poor communities, in communities of color there is this despair, there is this hopelessness, that is being shaped by these outcomes.
One out of three black men between the ages of 18 and 30 is in jail, in prison, on probation or parole.”
As President Obama noted in his recent address to the NAACP Conference in July:
“Since my first campaign, I’ve talked about how, in too many cases, our criminal justice system ends up being a pipeline from underfunded, inadequate schools to overcrowded jails.
What has changed, though, is that, in recent years the eyes of more Americans have been opened to this truth.
Partly because of cameras, partly because of tragedy, partly because the statistics cannot be ignored, we can’t close our eyes anymore.
And the good news — and this is truly good news — is that good people of all political persuasions are starting to think we need to do something about this.”