Last week, I was listening to the podcast, “Make Me Smart,” on NPR’s Marketplace. And I had a gobsmack moment: I learned that Coretta Scott King played an instrumental role in getting the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978 passed!!
If you are unfamiliar, this act is why, twice a year, the Federal Reserve Chair presents to Congress an update on the status of the economy and the Fed’s policies to help the economy grow. The act’s mandate is for the Fed to pursue “stable prices, maximum employment, and moderate long-term interest rates.”
Given Ms. Scott King’s commitment to amplify the economic dimensions of the civil right’s movement, her involvement with the passage of this act is a pretty big deal. Especially when you factor in the political and social climate of the U.S. at the time. Yet, it is a little known fact.
And, sadly, this isn’t unusual.
There isn’t a shortage of people out there whose contributions, sacrifices, and impact (culturally, politically, socially, economically) go unrecognized. Even when their work is often the catalyst that paves the way toward a brighter future for all of us.
It’s Women’s History Month on the heels of Black History Month. So, yes, I’m thinking of women like Ms. Scott King, who voluntarily made her contributions. It was part of her body of work – or what she likely felt called to do.
I’m also thinking of women like Ms. Henrietta Lacks. She’s the Black woman whose cells were taken from her body, without her consent, in the 1950s; cells that led to breakthrough cancer research and advances, several Nobel Peace Prizes, patents, and the founding of biotech firms worth billions today. However, her family hasn’t received any compensation. (Though I believe her family’s case is still pending in this regard.)
Who is an unsung s/hero in your eyes?
What about them leads you to view them in this way?
What courage, grace, strength, bravery, insight, vision, or skills do they exemplify?
In what ways do they provide you with hope and strength for you to do the work you do…the way you do it? How are they a beacon and anchor to and for you?
Are they a stranger or someone in your circle? Do they know how you feel about them? Have you ever taken the time to send a letter, card, email, or to shout them out on social media?
I was only twelve years old when the Humphrey-Hawkins Act was signed into law. But, I have to admit, knowing the goals of the law and looking at the financial and economic landscape of the 21st century, it makes me wonder if economic progress and justice for all is something this country truly wants…
Thankfully, we have folks like Ms. Scott King, who if they had similar concerns, they didn’t let that dim their vision or stop their efforts. It’s one of the reasons I am convinced that most s/heroes don’t do their work in search of accolades or with a short-term time horizon for positive results in mind.
For them, there is an inner-drive, motivation, and mission that trumps any external validation about them as individuals or the impact they are seeking to make through their work. This is probably a good thing since their work may not be appreciated for years to come. Or, even in their lifetime.
I am also convinced that this is precisely why you and I must take greater responsibility for making sure the work and voices of our s/heros are heard and appreciated.
While they may not proactively seek the praise, I can’t imagine they don’t like it when it is given.
Yes, your act of acknowledgement honors them. However, it also serves a greater benefit: it ensures that they and what they achieve doesn’t get “lost” in the telling or retelling of history.
As you take the time to honor the efforts, accomplishments, and contributions of your s/heroes, in what ways does it inspire you to do your best work?
And as they are watching you, noticing what you do and don’t do, seeing what and who you fight for and why, you are inspiring them. You are an example (and maybe even a) source of hope, courage, strength, and grace for them.
Now, your work may not make the headlines of any major news outlet; you might not get the social media blue verification checkmark; you might not win an industry award.
But, this doesn’t diminish the power of the impact you are making in the world and, particularly, in the eyes of the person for whom YOU ARE their s/hero.
So, keep doing your thing…and thank you for all that you do!