Why Not You?
Here it is in a short sweet nutshell: We need you. We need your voice, your unique story, your passion to make our streets safer, healthier and more economically vibrant. And we need you to tell this story of yours in as compelling a way as possible to change hearts and minds because frankly what we’re doing now on a large scale, in the big picture, isn’t working.
Consider this your permission slip to step up.
In 2015 the United States saw the highest increase in traffic deaths in half a century. On Sept 1, 2016 Next City shares the U.S. Department of Transportation reports in 2015 32,092 people were killed on U.S. roads (a jump of 7.2%). Earlier the it had been reported also that an estimated 4.4 million were injured enough to seek medical attention. The situation is so bad the DOT has released a call to action asking non profits, tech companies and private citizens to help interpret the data and use it to prevent more deaths.
In June of this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that obesity in women and teens has yet again increased. We're simply eating too much and not moving enough. But shaming, blaming and offering data isn't working.
We've privileged the car to the point of it jeopardizing our health and well being. The car is a wonderful tool, but a terrible master.
Clearly we have both a challenge and an opportunity here. People know the statistics. Data and statistics may make the news, but they don’t change behavior. Only stories do that.
But in order for stories to change behavior we have to have the courage to step up and allow our voice to be heard.
So let’s begin with the story of a change agent, who has written and stared in the story of a change agent. In 2008 a young writer/singer and Tony award winning playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda was invited to the White House for an evening of spoken word poetry. Instead he decided to perform the first song from a concept hip hop album he was working on about the life of the least known founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Miranda had become fascinated with Hamilton (the youngest of the founding fathers, and an immigrant) while reading his biography by Ron Chernow on vacation.
Miranda's mesmerizing performance (at left) brought a standing ovation from the President, First Lady and their audience. A ticket for the musical Hamilton was selling for upwards of $3,000 on Broadway this past summer. The musical has captured the imagination of people of all ages, races and backgrounds about what it truly means to be an American.
Hamilton is a hip hop musical starring actors and singers who, Miranda likes to say, reflect what the United States is today - a nation of diverse colors and hues – rather than our usual image of what our founding fathers and their crowd of freedom fighters looked like.
While Hamilton the musical will continue to play, Miranda himself has stepped down as the starring role to answer the call of Hollywood. The financial success of Hamilton, he's noted, is helping Hollywood executives be more open minded about just who people really want to see in a starring role. No, it's not just young or middle aged white guys.
Great storytellers have no best age, race, educational or economic background. Miranda himself is the son of a Puerto Rican immigrant, and like Hamilton, his first musical In the Heights, was created so that people like himself, people of color, could have more diverse roles to play on Broadway to showcase their talent and passion.
Great storytelling flourishes because someone decides to take the time and energy to make it so. Masterful story tellers accept that their own unique voice is worthy of being polished and honed an heard. Watch at left as the talented twenty something spoken word poet Sarah Kay dazzles on the TED stage in 2011 with her piece "If I should have a daughter."
Alas I'm not one of the lucky who've seen Hamilton yet live, but just the snippets I've watched on Youtube are addictive. I particularly love that the musical highlights the lives of three fascinating young women - the Schuyler sisters - who all played key roles in the forming of our new country. Watch below how their key number from the Hamilton "Look Around" closes the 2016 Tony awards and calls to the audience to get up and join them in celebrating "history is happening now in the greatest city in the world."
Our cover image of this Part II of our Storytelling Toolkit is of bike education professional, and Pedal Love Culture & Lifestyle Council project member Kellie Morris. Kellie is someone who has decided clearly and boldly “Why Not Me?”
We profiled Kellie in Part I of this toolkit (which you can download here for free), or you can read her full blog It's Time to Shine. It truly is a decision to make your voice matter. While Kellie said "yes" on the phone to star in the photo session at left, when she hung up the phone she panicked. The gremlins were chattering away in her head, she admitted to me later. She was sure no one would want to see her in professional images, and no one would want to hear more of her story. Happily to ignored the fear and decided to show up with courage and aplomb. She rocked the photo session and her images, and her story of becoming a certified bicycling instructor who specializes in teaching people to ride who've never ridden before - yes even middle aged and seniors - is one we've had success in sharing far and wide.
It truly is a decision to become a great storyteller and captivate rather than simply educate your audience. It doesn’t matter your age or your skill level. You can start right here, right now, at ground zero.
My goal with this Part II of our Storytelling Toolkit is that I will either spark you begin you to begin on the journey to becoming a masterful storyteller and presenter, or continue you along what is a very fascinating and rewarding path. I hope the stories and the storytellers we share here (including my own) will help you see that you have something to say of value, and that you really can transform you storytelling and presentation skills.
Still in doubt? Please watch this very short video by master storyteller Lisa Nichols. I'm learning to leap afraid, will you join me? Together as we transform our own storytelling and presentation skills we can transform our world.
Yours in growing more active, mindful mobility.
Melissa Balmer, Founder/Director PedalLove.org
Read Next: "Why Storytelling Matters"