I just witnessed a refreshingly unusual news development in my community of Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. A spirited group of UVA faculty, staff, students and alumni strongly objected to the swift, forced resignation of President Teresa Sullivan a couple of weeks ago. They organized, spoke up in rallies, wrote passionate letters and emails, held emergency meetings, charged into social media, and basically searched for any and every way to say: “This will not stand!”
And then it didn’t. Initially the rector defended the Board’s actions. An interim president was quickly ushered into place. The backers of the dumping of the president waited for the firestorm to blow over. Only it didn’t. It just kept consuming the media and the community. Finally, the Board stared into the picture of reality and took the only action left: reverse course, admit defeat, reinstate President Sullivan. Cheers erupted on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s university. The people had spoken; the pendulum of power had shifted. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-26/university-of-virginia-reinstates-president-after-outcry-1-.html
Wow! This dramatic and spontaneous three-act play got me thinking: How often does this happen in our country? Regular people object to an unpopular decision and stunning move engineered and facilitated by those holding the seats of power. The seats of power crumble in the dust, the people seize the throne, and then hand it back to their chosen one.
I teach Autobiographical Writing at UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, as well as Writing Your Life Story at OLLI at UVA. In my role as life-writing teacher and in my work ghostwriting memoirs and autobiographies, I often advise life story writers of all ages and backgrounds to reflect on such high-charged events of the day and comb their memories for comparable moments. So if you have any interest in writing your life story, you can certainly use this as grist for the mill. Have you ever witnessed such a scenario as the reinstatement of University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan? Or, perhaps you once had occasion to wish for such an act to emerge when you felt the sting of something that made you want to scream: “This will not stand!”
Tell that story. What happened that made you angry? What about the act seemed especially contradictory to your values, your beliefs, and your sense of how things should be conducted, or how people should be treated? Who spoke up against it? Who was silent? Where did you fit? Did anything change as the result of the objections of those stirred to action? If not, how did that leave you feeling? Can you imagine today how it would have been if that unwanted move actually had been overturned?
Allow yourself to play with these emotionally infused stories. Let me know if you’ve got one you just have to share!
– Kevin Quirk, author of “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time To Write It!” has been assisting people all over the U.S. and beyond in writing the most important stories of their lives for 15 years.