Hope lives on college campuses

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Coach Joe Ehrmann delivers his keynote address at the Campus Training & Technical Assistance Institute in Las Vegas.

Yesterday was the final day of CALCASA’s Campus Training & Technical Assistance Institute in Las Vegas. Present were about 500 attendees from college campuses and community agencies — these folks are ready and eager to do what it takes to end sexual violence.

Joe Ehrmann, from Coach for America, delivered one of the plenary sessions. He opened his speech by acknowledging that he was looking at an audience that represented hope. My first thought: Hope can’t be measured. It’s a word thrown around to mask inaction. Don’t get me wrong, his speech was inspiring. I felt motivated to become part of the solution to end destructive and damaging myths and stereotypes that are perpetuated by culture. But I was still struggling with the word hope. I felt as if that word made it easier to say, “Well, nice try,” when goals aren’t realized.

However, yesterday afternoon, I had my reality put in check. I was conducting an interview with Dr. Dorothy Edwards & Jennifer Sayre about their Green Dot training and, again, the word hope came up. Dr. Edwards said that the one thing she wants people to walk away with from the training is hope. Maybe I rolled my eyes, and she sensed that I needed to hear what she said next:

“We can be holding the solution in our hand, but if we don’t believe it, we will not inspire people to take it on. Those of us that are leading this work have to peel back those layers of fatigue and tired. We’ve seen victim after victim, and it’s hard to even imagine a different world. And we’ve got to step in and hold in our mind’s eye a vision — a crystallized vision — of this can happen. These numbers can come down, and it can happen as a direct result of my work. If we can hold on to that, if we can truly believe that, folks will follow us. People don’t act if they don’t believe what they’re doing will make a difference. So we’ve got to paint this picture that what you do will make a difference. We can bring the numbers down. My favorite reference is the notion that when Martin Luther King was standing up there at the great mall in Washington, D.C., he didn’t say, ‘I’ve got a great body of research.’ He said, ‘I have a dream.’ When he talked about that dream, he inspired a nation. We have to do the same thing.”

Wow, amazing. This completely changed my outlook. How can we begin to make change if we can’t even fill ourselves with a sense of hope to see a better future? Dr. Edwards’ words set me up for the endnote speaker Tony Porter who talked about how men need to understand the responsibility they have to challenge many of the norms that define manhood. I think that without my interview with Dr. Edwards, I might have walked away with a sense of false hope. But I do hope — with everything inside me — that the type of manhood Porter talked about becomes the norm. As Porter says in the above video: “We can really redefine the aspects of manhood that will then create a culture where humanity is the issue, where women are treated equal to men. And that in itself, violence will look different than it does today.”

Hope, hope, hope!

Jessica Renee Napier joined CALCASA in 2009 as its Online Media Producer. She creates multimedia material, such as audio and video podcasts, for the organization. She also oversees editorial content and other aspects of CALCASA’s Web site. Jessica previously worked in Web production for KPBS Public Broadcasting and as an Online Editor for a publishing company.

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