In early February, Jen DeSena and I traveled to Washington DC to attend CADCA's 28th Annual National Leadership Forum. This 4-day conference brings together over 3,000 participants representing coalitions from all regions of the country, for opportunities to learn the latest strategies to fight substance abuse from nationally-known prevention experts, federal administrators, and policymakers.
One of the keynote speakers, Khiree Smith, attorney and global human rights advocate, had powerful words to share about the challenges in a community to prevent substance abuse. Khiree suggested that we live in a world that is often anti-community. We focus on the wrong things: I instead of we. Competition instead of connection. I win instead of win-win. With our youth, we try to control rather than coach, ignore rather than listen, force rather than mold. If we are truly going to make a difference in this national epidemic, we need to change this mindset and come together through love in action.
Love in action
means considering how we build a strong community that emphasizes empathy, compassion and altruism. It means exploring what we need to learn, say and do in order to play our part and be a catalyst for change. It means embracing courage to face the naysayers who believe nothing will change, with a conviction that things must change. It means making decisions that are right for everyone involved, even when they may not be the most convenient for ourselves.
As Khiree said, we must recognize that the road to utopia is not utopian. It's about accepting that to travel in the direction we need to go, it won't always be holding hands, kumbaya and fuzzy feelings. There are things we are going to have to fight. Sometimes the fight is going to be within your heart. Sometimes the fight is going to be in Capitol Hill or in the boardroom. But there will be struggle, so in order to build a community capable of fighting substance abuse, it's important we recognize it and take it on.
Love in action
relates to CASA's mission of Prevention Through Connection. We are all pieces of a puzzle: parents, students, teachers, coaches, neighbors, churches, and schools, and this year we need to take on love in action in big ways. In September, CASA wraps up our 10th and final year as a Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant recipient, ending significant funding of CASA's programming in the community.
We are now looking for partners, catalysts and decision makers who are committed to continuing the process of creating a community that inspires and supports our children and youth to live full, healthy, abundant lives. CASA is here to work with you, but we can't do it alone. As Khiree (and Mahatma Gandhi) remind us, we all need to be the change we want to see in this world.