Politicians are not the answer. You are.

by Tai Anderson, July 21, 2016

Yesterday, I participated in The Global Oval summit at the Republican National Convention. Politicians, journalists, social entrepreneurs, and convention-goers alike gathered at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to talk about how the next administration will address issues of national security, energy access, global health, economic growth, ending extreme poverty, and investing in the opportunity for women and girls around the world. The event was co-hosted by the One Campaign, CARE, The Better World Campaign, and the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. (All of the hosting organizations are non-partisan. So, the event will take place again at the DNC in Philadelphia.)

Jake Harriman speaking on behalf of NURU

Jake Harriman speaking on behalf of NURU

As the day unfolded, I felt more and more unqualified to be on the stage. The speakers were amazing. PhDs, ex-generals, Senators, congressmen, and journalists talked about the incredible progress that has been made in the fight against extreme poverty, and how we can make sure, regardless of who wins the November election, the work continues in the next administration.  All of the speakers were armed with the latest data, and incredibly impressive credentials. One of my favorite speakers was Jake Harriman, a former Marine Platoon commander who founded NURU to help fight terrorism by changing the ecosystem in which terrorism is fostered, extreme poverty. Then, there was me, a musician, and a bass player at that. Pretty much the cardinal rule of rock and roll is that the bass player isn’t ever supposed to even speak.

As we took a lunch break, I decided to take a walk around the museum to calm my nerves. Being a musician, going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is an inspiring pilgrimage. It’s always amazing to see the legacy that rock music has had on culture over the last 75 years.  Even though my band was always lumped in with gospel music, that distinction was always lyrical. My musical inspirations are all Rock & Roll. I grew up listening to my dad’s Beatles albums, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, and the Byrds. I then developed my own Rock & Roll education with a healthy study of Led Zeppelin, Rush, The Police and my all-time favorite band U2.

Our summit was being held directly next to the Louder Than Words exhibit in the museum. It's full of the artifacts and stories of musicians that have helped shape politics with their music and platform. During the quick lap around the museum, I gained confidence that as a musician, a citizen, and someone who has worked directly with evangelicals my whole life, I was right where I needed to be, uniquely suited to speak to the RNC. I'm far from an expert, and I don’t have a position of power, but I had a perfect opportunity to speak truth to power. I took the stage with confidence and shared from my heart about the importance of finishing the fight to end extreme poverty.

What I’ve learned from over a decade of advocacy work is that politics is truly downstream of culture.  We look to politicians for leadership and inspiration. However, we are so often disappointed. Instead of authentic, inspiring servant-leadership, our political leaders demonstrate  partisanship and the status quo. Rather then casting a vision of a preferred future, our leaders divide us. Rather than inspiring personal responsibility and motivating us to all do our part, politicians chase popularity and play to our fears.

However, they do listen, and they do respond to our steady, consistent voices. I've witnessed it firsthand. They actually do work for us! You don't have to take to the streets to be an activist. That's not my style either. Your phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings and conversations in your community all have impact.

Trying to get my Bill Clinton thumb over fist for emphasis

Trying to get my Bill Clinton thumb over fist for emphasis

I left the RNC more committed than ever to using my voice to fight poverty. However, I also left with a palpable urgency that none of us can afford to wait for authentic leadership from our political candidates.

We must cast the vision of a preferred future to our neighbors and friends. We must be the voices of unity, common sense, and accountability. We must lead.

Whether in your local community, your workplace, your school, church or synagogue, we can no longer afford to wait on a political leader to bring us together. Instead, we must all take the first step by reaching out to our neighbors, reject the politics of “the other,” and do our parts to make the world a better place.  I want to do my part in my hometown, the musical community in Georgia, and with my team at Leadercast. I want to be a leader worth following that makes this world a better place. My game plan is not to build a tribe of followers who agree with me. Rather, I want to inspire and encourage you to be a leader worth following too, to leverage your platforms, relationships, and communities to make this world a better place.

I’m having trouble believing in our politicians, but I absolutely believe in you.