Dawn Smith

maisol media, LLC - Copywriter
Atlanta, GA

    This Post Is Not About Earth Day, But It Is…Sort Of

    April 22, 2009

    World BandageThe envelope arrived in my dorm room mailbox on an ordinary winter afternoon. I was a sophomore, and still clutching to the not-so-unique dream of becoming the next writer who changes the world. The president of the University of Georgia, a sprawling university of scholars, journalists and activists, invited me to dine with civil rights icon and Congressman, John Lewis, after a scheduled speech at the school.

    Unbridled enthusiasm danced in my mind for a grand total of seven minutes before I recalled the only thing comparable to dining with a Congressman, dinners with the deacons at my old church. Would he be like that—watchful eyes peering at me, explaining what my generation was doing wrong, poking his salad fork at me with instructions of what I should and should not do?

    I cannot be sure, but I think I had a few nervous skin breakouts as the date of the lunch approached. When it finally came, I lingered outside a restaurant way too pricey for my college budget and listened to the sounds of my churning stomach. I visualized the table settings, gave myself a pep talk, checked my breath and entered to meet my fate.

    After introductions over a reassuringly familiar southern lunch and iced tea, I waited for the friendly eyes to morph into laser beams. I waited for him to tell me what the youth was doing wrong. I waited for him to give me a history lesson. After all, I loved history. What was one more class going to hurt? I waited for him to tell me what I should be doing with my life. Instead, I partook in one of the best conversations of my life.

    What are your dreams, Dawn?

    Let me tell you some stories about...

    How do you feel about…?

    I left feeling as if I could do anything.

    By removing modals that are a turnoff such as “you should,” and employing two-way dialogue and storytelling, Congressman Lewis had me rushing to my guidance counselor's office prepared to give up my writing dreams to pursue a law degree. Writing won out. My belief that I could cause a change did not fade. And it did not depend on the powerful words of the 2008 election because years ago, a brilliant activist (and my mother) told me I had the power to change the world.

    Something magically happens when you approach people you want to adopt your cause without sanctimony. Novel tricks such as a real conversation, removing modals from your lexicon, and using Story can work wonders to draw in people. When you get good at it, you can empower people to do anything. If you are really good, your audience will do anything for you and your cause.

    Did you catch the hidden message, activists?

    Read Dawn's other blog entries >

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