You can’t change the world. Hunger, war, disease—these have always plagued humanity and always will. That’s just the way it is. Even when things change, it’s not because of people like you. History is made by great men. Who are you to think you can make a difference?
Who are you? Let’s assume you believe in yourself enough to ignore what you just read. The five people that anchor this course believed in themselves and each transformed the world. You can click on any image below to learn how, but if you want a brief overview of six big lessons from the history of social change, scroll down and keep reading.
You’ve heard their names already: Andrew Carnegie, Rachel Carson, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Albert Einstein. They are all famous people. But don’t let that fool you into forgetting the first big lesson you might take from this course:
1) Famous people weren’t born famous (most of the time). Except royalty, most of the heroes of the past became heroes over time. That means we can too. We can’t all become famous. But if it’s fame you’re after, you’re in the wrong place. The vast majority of history’s change-makers remain anonymous. Which takes us to another potential lesson:
2) Heroes are everywhere. The five key figures in our course were inspired and empowered by countless others. Think about the workers in Carnegie’s steel plants, the indentured laborers who marched with Gandhi in South Africa, or the thousands of black women who were arrested in civil rights protests before and after Rosa Parks kept her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. They are all heroes, even those whose names we will never know.
3) Heroes aren’t perfect. Sometimes, the key figures in this course used their imperfections to their advantage. But often their weaknesses remained simply weaknesses. We don’t need to ignore their imperfections in order to learn from Carnegie, Gandhi, Einstein, Parks, and Carson. On the contrary, we need to know them as flawed human beings if we are to learn how to overcome our own imperfections.
4) Love the world you want to change. Social innovators grapple with massive forces like industrialization, imperialism, world war, recession, and urbanization. But the most effective leaders stay grounded in the everyday struggles of the people they want to help. That doesn’t mean they restrict their vision. The greatest cliché of social change, “think global, act local” turns out, like many cliches, to be true…which takes us to another big point.
5) Revolutions don’t need passports. Two of the figures in this course were born American citizens. Two others spent most of their lives in the United States. It’s not that history only happens in America. It’s just that American history is what we happen to know best. All of the innovators in this course were global in outlook and influence. The world has become increasingly interconnected. To succeed in the 21st century, future social innovators must be able to think and act across multiple borders.
6) There are many ways to create change. Carnegie was a businessman. Gandhi was a lawyer and a political leader. Einstein was a scientist. Parks was an activist. Carson was a writer and a scientist. How will you change the world? Try to connect your greatest passion to the world’s great need. That’s not always easy. Hopefully the lives of our heroes might inspire you as much as they inspire us.
7) Your turn. Click on any image and start learning your own lessons.