Bryan Stevenson’s Four Tips to Change the World

On the evening of September 14th Williams College students, faculty, and community members alike filled the seats of Chapin Hall to hear the highly anticipated speaker of the night, Bryan Stevenson. Bryan Stevenson is the author of Just Mercy, the Williams Reads book provided to all incoming first year students. Stevenson’s work as a social justice lawyer is shown in Just Mercy as he deals with cases regarding the death penalty and unfair rulings for cases that involve mentally ill or abused parties.

Soon after the crowd began to get situated in their seats, Stevenson took to the podium. Almost immediately, he began speaking about his education, family, and his work. He quickly moved on to more serious topics including some of the cases he has worked on and what he learned from his various clients. The overall theme of Stevenson’s talk was that there is a lot of work that needs to be done and it is up to us to change the world for the better. Throughout his talk, Stevenson touched on four points he believed are steps we must take if we want to see progress.

 

1. Get Close to Those Suffering

By breaking out of what Stevenson calls “protected spaces” and truly branching out to help other communities, it allows people to connect to one another. This idea of getting closer to impoverished or underdeveloped communities serves as a way to create empathy and incite change.

   

2. Change the Narratives

We should not live in fear or anger because that is exactly what prevents people from   creating positive change. Fear to be outspoken about matters that are truly concerning hinders progress, and may prevent people from speaking up about subjects they feel strongly about. However, it is those moments of fear that should be overcome because there are probably many other people who feel the same way. It takes one person, one voice to make a difference and create positive change for the future.

 

3. Stay Hopeful

Now this piece of advice may seem simple, but it is just as important as all the rest. “Hope is the thing that makes you stand up when everybody says sit down”, says Stevenson. Having hope gives you the drive and motivation to make positive change. Without hope, there are no expectations and it becomes very easy to give up before even taking on a challenge. Staying hopeful can serve as a constant reminder that change is just around the corner if you are looking and working for it.

 

4. Deal With Uncomfortable Things

For his last point, Stevenson touched on this idea of brokenness and how being broken makes you human. By accepting that not everything is going to be perfect all the time, it eliminates unrealistic expectations and makes room for critical analysis and action. While sometimes it may be difficult to act out of fear of retribution or alienation by peers, being uncomfortable is the only way to have difficult conversations often regarding issues of race, class, and gender. Ignorance may be bliss at times, but it does not solve anything. While it may be easier to go about your typical routine than it is to talking about race relations, that does not mean the conversation is not important.

 

While Bryan Stevenson’s four points are not the only steps that need to be followed to change the world for the better, they are definitely a good jumping off point to a more progressive and just future. As racism, injustice, and inequality continue to exist in the world today it is imperative that we keep these steps in mind and truly work to generate change.