After listening to the Freakonomics podcast of October 26th, I was inspired. I was ready to talk about the idea of incremental growth that was front-and-center in that podcast. The hosts Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner and their guests had healthy discussion about how change happens – gradually as opposed to exponentially. Often, we get carried away believing in immediate change. It’s human nature to get swept up in that narrative. Think about your New Year’s resolutions. Do you remember any of them? Have you worked at achieving those goals throughout the entire year?
When Head Coach Dwane Casey was first hired by the Toronto Raptors, he embraced the mantra “pound the rock” – a phrase directly relating to this concept. Casey wanted to instil in his young, inexperienced team that it takes work each and every day to get to where they wanted to be as a team. To further solidify his message, Coach even went as far as bringing a massive rock into the locker room. Success wasn’t due to one instant but the result of many progressive moments.
“Pounding the rock” wasn’t a new concept created by Dwane Casey. Coach adopted the saying from journalist Jacob Riis. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Riis wrote about the poor and disenfranchised workers in New York. He knew that for change to come, he had to continuously fight for his values.
When Barack Obama was elected the President of the United States in 2008, it was an historic moment. I vividly remember sitting in my leadership class the next morning discussing the achievement with my teacher and classmates. The USA chose an African American to the highest office in their country. He was deserving, compassionate, and a great orator. It was a step in the right direction for a nation’s leadership and race relations. President Obama championed fair pay, universal healthcare, gun control reform, and LGBT rights. “Yes we can” was a rallying cry to build a foundation upon.
All the progressive steps taken over the last eight years make the results of the American Presidential election on November 9th, 2016 more difficult for me to comprehend. The United States elected Donald Trump to be their next President. He campaigned on a platform of hateful and reckless rhetoric. He lied tirelessly in debates and interviews. He has zero experience in public office. None of these facts mattered to ~50% of Americans. This is really scary. I’m not even American.
When people feel disenfranchised and unhappy, they seek change. If desperate enough, people will believe when someone promises to make their situation better. Barack Obama campaigned on a foundation of hope. Perhaps this elevated expectations for his tenure in the Oval Office. While able to accomplish a lot, the American people expected more. Maybe they sought immediate change as opposed to the incremental progress being made over the last eight years.
While ultimately disheartening, the results of the Presidential election were a reality check. Colin Kaepernick tried to bring police brutality to the forefront with his national anthem protest. Despite the work he has done to support his protest, he didn’t even vote in the election. This is disappointing and undermines his message. There is a lot of work still needed to be done by everyone. It broke my heart seeing heinous acts of hate on the first day of President-elect Donald Trump. As human beings, we have to tirelessly defend our values. We can’t participate in the normalization of President-elect Trump’s sexist, homophobic, and racist language.
Whittling away at seemingly insurmountable odds is nothing new. It got President Obama elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Just a few days before the election, the Chicago Cubs came back from down 3-1 in the World Series against the Cleveland [Baseball Team]. I see it in my friends who have graduated and seek the opportunity to start their careers in a difficult job climate. It’s evident when reading the retirement essay of Ray Allen, my favourite sharpshooter from childhood, whose hard work lead to the greatest shot in NBA Finals history. My dear friend chips away, when writing lyrics and playing music each day to get over a difficult break-up. The person who goes to the gym once a week, then twice, then thrice is pushing his or her limits little by little. “Pounding the rock” is identifiable in the person who grinds to work every day, looking to provide for his or her family and seeking opportunities for growth throughout the uncertainty of their situation.
In the end, the fate of a nation doesn’t rely on one person. While the President is the nation’s face and symbolic presence, it takes the collective work of communities, governments, and activists to enact change. By looking to preserve our core values, evolve, and contribute to our communities, we can continue “pounding the rock” for progress, the betterment of our lives, and protecting the ones to follow our own. Love always trumps hate.