A familiar Wexner leadership lesson teaches us the value of “standing on the balcony.” As we approach MLK weekend, I am reminded of how, just a few short months after graduating from the Wexner Heritage Program, I found myself standing on a balcony with a very different view. This time, it was a real balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, on the very spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life came to a tragic end. I was there filming my Wexner-inspired documentary, Road To Eden. My camera was pointed at Rev. Dr. Billy Kyles, a Civil Rights leader who was by Dr. King’s side at the moment the shots rang out. He was telling us the story of King’s last hour on Earth.
Standing on that spot was a powerful reminder that the story of the Jewish journey from Egypt to Eden plays on a loop throughout the shadows and light of human history. Indeed, the night before Dr. King’s assassination, he invoked that journey in his “Mountaintop” speech, assuring his people that some day they too would reach the Promised Land. I believe, like Dr. King, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” At the same time, we suffer repeated and painful reminders that MLK’s dream and the Jewish dream of turning this world into a place of equality and justice for all humankind is far from complete.
Rev. Kyles punctuated his story with a note of hope: “You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream.” The Jewish people have always known the power of dreams. We also know that dreams only translate into positive change when talented, passionate people roll up their sleeves, take risks and get to work. I am grateful beyond imagination to the Wexner Heritage Program for teaching me to dream big and, more importantly, for giving me the tools to help make it happen, step by step, until that day when the dream finally becomes reality.
Doug Passon, a Wexner Heritage alum (Phoenix 09), is a documentarian, writer, attorney, educator, musician and leader in the Jewish community. His first documentary, Letter of Thanks, was an official selection and award-winner at several national film festivals. His latest documentary, Road to Eden, was inspired by his time in the Wexner Heritage Program, and has played across the world in film festivals, congregations, camps and other gatherings. In his capacity as President of D Major Films, he produces documentary films focused on fostering social change. He also teaches and consults nationwide on the topic of using visual storytelling to persuade, particularly in the legal/litigation setting. Road To Eden is available now on DVD and digital download (www.roadtoedenfilm.com). Click here to view a clip from the movie. Doug can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.