Susan G. Bluer is a member of Wexner Heritage, San Francisco ’06.  She practices employment discrimination law with her cousin and can be reached at

“The personal is political.”  This is one of the first expressions or mottos I recall from my early days as an activist.  Now, some twenty-five years later, this phrase still typifies my approach to activism and leadership. 

Too often, we think of leadership in relation to titles and organizations.  True, we can influence large numbers of people in a short period when we act collectively. 

But never underestimate the power of influencing change one person at a time.

In her book, “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions,”  Gloria Steinem cites many examples of individual acts of leadership, ranging from challenging some bit of woman-hating humor with the seriousness more often reserved for slurs based upon religion or race, to my personal favorite which combines our Jewish principles of Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam—giving 10% of our incomes to social justice. 

In my role as the Chair of the LGBT Alliance of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation, I take great pride in advancing the interests of a sizeable community that often seems invisible if one looks at the “gay community” or the “Jewish community” as distinct groups.  Simply being “out” as both a lesbian and a Jewish activist is an important form of political action.

For a fond reminder of the power of single acts of leadership, I like to watch Ruth Gordon in that 70’s classic movie, “Harold and Maude.”  Favorite apropos line:  when Harold asks Maude why the umbrella she used for pickets and rallies was resting on her mantel, and she explains that she does not need the umbrella for defense anymore; rather, “I embrace . . . still fighting for the big issues, but now in my small, individual way.”