Resources for Leaders

Son to Mother

How can we use the lessons from past leaders to guide and inform our contemporary life?

Well, Mother, I’ll tell you; life has been easier because of you. But, although that is so, it  still hasn’t always been a crystal stair!

Because of you, I am able to see the torn-up boards and the tacks in the broken stairs and understand how to use them as inspirations not obstacles.

It was your love of education, your resilience, and your determination that have been  the bright light shining on the staircase of life. That spotlight has steered me safely away  from the tacks and torn-up boards.

This light shines brightest on the tacks of inequity, bias, and discrimination that you  knew so well as a child and young woman raised in troubled times. You never let the  hard times you faced dim your enthusiasm, optimism, and thirst for learning.

You always lifted up hope in the unseen and reminded me to “keep the faith.” You always knew that the future would be brighter for me, and education would be my  North Star.

Yes, Mother, you were right. The power of education continues to liberate me. It has  allowed me to confront injustices and disrupt dehumanizing practices that threaten the  learning potential of poor and marginalized students.

Because of regular inoculations with the cultural vaccine that you dosed me with, I have  been able to stand tall and use my voice to speak truth to power.

Your vaccine consisted of powerful poetry readings and recitations from the writings of  Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and others. Each dose  injected was specifically intended to build and strengthen my self-esteem and identity  immune system. And yes, Mother, it worked!

So, Mother, because of you, I won’t turn back. I won’t give up the fight even when it  gets hard. And if I falter or carry doubts, that’s when I will lean on your words of wisdom  that have carried me over all of these years. I will continue to inspire others as you have  inspired me to keep climbing the crystal staircase of opportunity until they reach the  top.

Sincerely and with eternal love,

Your son

Mother to Son

By Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.