Discouraged or encouraged — “This thing’s got to be done”

“What does it matter if I’ve been discouraged or encouraged over the years?” she said, brusquely. “This thing’s got to be done. It’s not a question of how I feel from moment to moment.”

discouraged or encouraged, Marjory Stoneman Douglas pressed on
By Friends of the Everglades – Friends of the Everglades, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The “she” in that quote is none other than Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Sadly, if her name rings a bell it’s likely not because of her career as a journalist or her work to save the Everglades. It’s because a mentally ill teenager used the high school named after her in Parkland, Florida, as a shooting range this week. (I’m sorry; I just can’t bring myself to link to an article about it. The shooter has gotten enough ink.)

Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune actually met and interviewed Stoneman Douglas, and in this article she takes us on a great Story Safari™ to paint a portrait of a formidable lady. Stoneman Douglas died in 1998 (age 108), but she still has a lot to teach us. Schmich writes:

One Florida environmentalist described her to me as “that tiny, slim, perfectly dressed, utterly ferocious grande dame who can make a redneck shake in his boots.”

“When Marjory bites you,” he added, “you bleed.”

May we all develop into such effective advocates.

Don’t be discouraged. Be inspired.

As a writer, I appreciate her story-driven approach to advocacy, summed up in this quote from then-Florida governor Bob Graham:

“She deals in very tangible action, whether environmental, scientific or political,” he said, “but she also understands that there has to be a sense of magic, that people have to be inspired to what is bigger than themselves, longer than their lifetime.”

People need “a sense of magic” to inspire them to action. It’s never just about facts and figures—whether you’re trying to change a state’s environmental policy or a company’s human resources policy. Change requires inspiration. Inspiration requires story.

Schmich positions Stoneman Douglas as an icon for our time:

Arguing for better gun laws — say, making it way harder to get a semiautomatic rifle — may feel like a futile exercise, but when it does, just say to yourself: Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

“Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics,” she’s quoted as once saying, “but never give up.'”

This thing’s got to be done.

Yes it does. Go do it.


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Also published on Medium.