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“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

—Widely attributed to Goethe, but also claimed to be a distortion of a passage by Haim Ginott

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We all have megaphones to one degree or another. As I’ve mentioned in various pieces, the Internet allowed for the reclamation of the voice. I’ve also mentioned that those who reclaim a voice after having been without one for a long time tend to yell.

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. If you decide that you want to amplify your voice, it’s relatively easy to do so. Social media, etc. allows us to – now more than ever – connect with a constituent group, enter into discourse, and then exponentially amplify our words.

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. This didn’t begin with social media, the Internet, or the 24-hour news cycle. The printing press allowed for the amplification and redistribution of voices.

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. I was fortunate enough to study for two years with Elie Weisel. Of the many things he taught me — all having to do with empathy (this from a holocaust survivor) — his most emphatic message was: “All we have are words.”

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. I have had the good fortune to write a few books (and have a few more coming), and to have stood in front of a thousand or so students over the past number of years. There isn’t a word I write or a word I say where I don’t try to consider the impact my words might have. This doesn’t mean I haven’t said/written things I’ve regretted/have been inappropriate. I have. I have also tried diligently to apologize on these occasions, and have encouraged discourse from those who might have been offended/confused by what I’ve said.

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. I have two young children. I have a very wise wife. She correctly reminds me that our kids soak up everything we parents say or do, and that our sphere of influence over the kids is massive. I lose my temper. I say things to my kids I regret. I also try not to do this, and reduce the amount of times this happens. I also sit them down, after such incidents, and speak to them about these incidents.

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. Can any of our words move people to actions? How can we even ask such a question?

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. Irrespective of how large or small your megaphone is — a parent, a blogger, a film star, a music star, or a teacher or a politician — you have an opportunity to influence the level of discourse.

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. Does this have any bearing on issues around freedom of speech/expression? No. It’s a choice.

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. You can attempt to raise the level of discourse with your words, or you can attempt to lower the level of discourse with your words. In either case, there are consequences.

We all have megaphones to one degree or another. How will you use yours?

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