Guest CEO Blog Post: Undraye Howard on Nelson Mandela and Social Equity

Vice President of the Alliance Center on Leadership Undraye Howard has submitted this CEO Blog post in honor of the late Nelson Mandela.

This past week we have celebrated the life and times of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Though there are many lessons to be learned from his messages and the way he lived his life, he truly embodied the importance of advancing racial and social equity. As current human-serving sector leaders, we need to challenge ourselves around understanding the power of equity. It begins with us examining our beliefs, values, and even our fears around such issues related to race and social class.

Our organizations are continually striving to achieve racial and social equity as it is germane to achieving many of our organizational missions. But what about you—the professionals in the human-serving sector, which is collectively responsible for millions of lives through the missions of your organizations? What has been your journey around this issue?

We must continue to ask ourselves critical questions related to racial and social equity:

  • Do we really understand the underpinnings of problems related to inequality, poverty, and societal distress in this country?
  • Have I truly asked myself why I want to advance and promote equity?
  • Does my journey include a roadmap of what, where, and how I will work to achieve equity?
  • Does my journey on the equity continuum force me to think about the influence I have on those I lead?
  • If I have not even begun to think about a journey related to racial and social equity, where do I start?

It is clear that we must ask the right questions related to racial and social equity if we want to achieve our collective vision. As leaders in this long-term effort, we recognize that when everyone in our neighborhoods, communities, and organizations, including each of us, has an equal chance to reach his or her full potential, and is no longer dealt challenges or opportunities because of the color of his or her skin, we can truly say that life for people and humanity has advanced to a better place. Equity should be the cornerstone of life.

As we think about where our organizations are on the continuum of advancing equity, we must continually challenge ourselves to think about our own personal journey.

Perhaps Mandela said it best when he stated, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

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