One thing is certain. People today have more power to drive greater change and help more people than ever before.
Despite the enormous problems of our time and what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming throb of dangers, difficulties and tragedies, we enjoy the benefits of unparalleled progress. This progress has been driven by the creativity and daring of people with ever more powerful tools.
Just in the past one hundred years, real per capita income has tripled. The cost of food has come down 10 times. The cost of transportation has come down 100 times and the cost of communication has come down 1,000 times.
Our lifespan has nearly doubled, and while there remain grave inequities in health care, child mortality rates have dropped dramatically, even in the developing world.
Globalization, technology, longer lives and the rising tide of democracy are all forces contributing to what Tom Friedman calls “super-empowered Individuals.” These are people with far greater ability to take personal actions that influence change on a broad – even global – basis.
Think of Tahrir Square and the Egyptians organizing their peaceful mass marches through Facebook. They brought down a dictatorship and did something that was deemed inconceivable just a few years ago.
Individuals – whether they see themselves as super-empowered or not – are embracing the full range of their capacities to drive the changes they desire. They’re using their voices to take sides on important issues, to vote, to protest and to share ideas. Now more than ever, ordinary citizens have amplified voices. Today, with creativity and technology, individuals can influence and activate millions of people.
We stand at a very interesting point in history. On one hand, we live in a new era of super-empowered people capable of creating more impact than ever before. Yet, on the other hand, we have a society that needs these people to come together and deliver so much more than we have ever delivered.
So, once again, big changes in society have created an equally big need for innovation to harness the spirit of citizenship. The arc towards justice does not bend automatically, but depends on the imagination and actions of individuals.
We stand today upon the ripples of actions of millions of people over the course of history. Their efforts have created a world in which we have more individuals who are living with more freedom, more education, with access to greater knowledge, in more democratic societies, within a more peaceful world than ever.
What will these super-empowered global citizens do with their power? What will you do? The answer to these questions will define our world and our future.
This blog was adapted from a speech Michelle Nunn gave entitled “Putting People at the Center of Change.”