As the 2012 election fills the news cycle with a mixture of information and noise, many people will tune in and some will opt out. Crucial issues will be debated and discussed. One of them will be clean air. How best to connect with the average voter?
I recently picked up a book by Peter Alduino called The Citizen Leader. Alduino’s biography describes him as having twenty years of experience in the field of leadership development, personal growth, and executive coaching. The book—which is a mixture of insights, guiding exercises, and work tools—embraces key points about “active leadership.” Alduino’s “core belief” is that we are “co-creators of the world we live in,” thereby contributing to the character of the society around us.
Alduino describes the process of constructing community as being “engaged, participating, and proactive.” The building blocks of this endeavor include principles, personal integrity, and engaging others to create a better social order.
I couldn’t help thinking about the set of environmental activists that I have been connected with for a year at Moms Clean Air Force. They are parents—predominately mothers. “Creating action, through shared values,” as Alduino says, has galvanized this demographic to support and build a safe planet for the next generation.
According to Alduino, personal responsibility can yield change and transformation by behaving and speaking in ways that are concrete. Knowing, caring, acting, and courage are all components that can be used to activate those not currently engaged—by “fueling the hearts of others.”
I saw examples of this concept exemplified by two recent instances. The first was through a group phone call that featured E.P.A. Administrator Lisa Jackson. She spoke of her efforts to protect the health of all Americans, as well as the challenges faced by her two sons with asthma. In addition, a mother openly shared with listeners the tragic death of her teenage daughter from asthma. This month, Chandra Baldwin-Woods wrote about the loss of her 16-year-old son to a fatal asthma attack, expressing her fear that the power of corporate polluters could trump the well-being of children.
Currently, there is a lot of antagonism toward those who are advocating to secure government regulations for clean air, specifically when it comes into conflict with perceived issues of economic security. Yet, as Alduino points out, “acting with conviction, especially in the face of obstacles, can make changes happen.” This has been evidenced by those who were brought up in the coal community, who have broken ranks to speak out against the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.
I contacted Alduino by phone to discuss his philosophy. Having written his book to demonstrate the importance of personal self-realization and how it leads to an understanding of who you are and who you want to be in the world, he fleshed out how individuals can envision themselves as spokespersons for a cause. He noted that mothers (and fathers) create the foundation of communities through the family structure—establishing mind, body, and spirit values. Alduino believes that for parents wondering what they can do, that there are “a ton of possibilities for taking initiatives.” He illustrated that for a mother who held health as a priority, he would ask, “To what degree are your actions about your children’s everyday health?”
We conversed about public leadership at the highest level, in the context of environmental concerns. Alduino stressed that goals are not about the pursuit of the prize before principles, or making exceptions to the rule. He said, “Obama, to his credit, has been a clarion for alternate energy thinking.” However, Alduino admitted that he was “gut-punched” and “livid when the Obama administration walked back on air standards.” He characterized it as a “capitulation.” Pointing to the larger framework he asked, “When do you draw the line and say no?”
The second part of The Citizen Leader serves as a roadmap for acting on causes. Alduino prompts readers to “think for themselves” to determine the role that want to play. In relationship to the environmental space, he qualified it as, “Do I want to be part of a society that condones dirty air?”
Most importantly, Aludino believes that each human being can make a difference—and that’s where he is placing his faith. The vision of a person extending themselves on behalf of a community, without concern for personal gain, is intrinsic to his point of view. His refrains are, “What do you care about? Why do you care about it? Marry your head to your heart. A person’s values are their signature.”
Using courage as a verb, Alduino spoke about making choices not because they are convenient, but because they are “non-negotiable.” His model to me was, “I courage to fight for clean air.”
The Citizen Leader is an individual who applies their character and conviction to the common good. Quoting Margaret Mead, Alduino said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.