You don't have to risk your life to cast a ballot. Other people already did that for you. What's your excuse?
Three weeks ago, I pulled up the hood of my raincoat, opened my broken umbrella, and walked, tired after a long day's work, to the primary polls.
As many would grumble or worse, not go, I sang and smiled my way there. I stuck my "I Voted" sticker on my forehead. I danced through the house when I got home.
Believe me, sometimes I want to hesitate to participate in a system that had for so long excluded me and non-white people. But...
But as Obama states above in his commencement speech to a mostly black audience at Howard University, voting is one facet of the program of change.
A program of change that involves healing, conversation, reconfiguring ideology, and, as Obama says, "more than righteous anger."
More than righteous anger.
Although Obama was specifically referring to the Black Lives Matter movement when he says that change requires "a program and organizing," this sentiment can apply to all change, and is one that I've been waiting to hear from a public figure for years.
To clarify, of course I understand rage in the face of inequality. I suffer from it daily.
Of course I believe in the power of anger to steer passion and change.
Of course I believe people are justified to feel the way they feel.
I just agree with the President - this is not what the foundations of change should be built upon. This is not what you should find when you uncover a new world.
Righteous anger might win the battle, but it is not what changes minds. It only breeds more fear, more separation.
Think about the times you feel angry. What do you do? Sit and stew? Yell at someone? Maybe throw things? Cry, or distract yourself with TV or exercise to blow off steam?
Anger can be paralyzing. It causes stress and anxiety. It compromises the hypothalamus neurons (where your brain handles stress) and can cause impulsiveness or aggression or violence.
Meditation, on the other hand, reorganizes your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that controls ration and perspective. It allows you to be more mindful in your conversations with others. It shrinks your fear center. It allows you to approach a situation from a place of clarity and confidence.
It allows you to make the best voting choices.
It gives you space to write a blog post, article, or to a representative/public figure who can help facilitate change.
It allows you to remain hopeful about the future.
The list goes on.
Reactive anger can be a good starting point. But righteous anger is not what we can built a new world upon.
Any time I find myself wanting to react with anger, I try to channel Gandhi's words:
An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.
Let's open eyes instead. Let's rethink our righteous anger.