“When I grow up, I want to be…a troublemaker!” Of course, most parents don’t want to hear their child utter these words, but I want to ask you to consider a different perspective.
Every fall, new members are inducted into the National Honor Society (NHS) at The Walker School. During the induction ceremony, everyone in attendance is told that Walker’s NHS chapter is named for Jennie Tate Anderson, for whom the nearby Marietta Civic Center is named. As the speaker describes “Miss Jennie” and her accomplishments, the audience learns the four words that best describe her: “Trailblazer, Pioneer, Maverick and Troublemaker.” Most parents would enjoy watching a son or daughter blaze a new trail or be considered a pioneer in his or her field, but a maverick or troublemaker?
Think of all the people in history who were labeled “troublemakers” before they were given credit for changing the world for the better. It’s a “Who’s Who” list of epic proportions: Rosa Parks, Gandhi, George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, and Martin Luther King, just to name a few. Each of these people dreamed of a better road to freedom and each was willing to persevere against great obstacles in order to see a dream come true.
From my perspective, many so-called “troublemakers” get that reputation because they ask penetrating questions about why something is the way it is. And when the response to that question is “That’s the way it has always been,” the “troublemaker” is inspired to start a movement to end segregation or apartheid, or work tirelessly so that women have the right to vote or access to an education. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, once famously praised the world’s troublemakers, noting that “they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
At Walker, we encourage our students to ask hard questions, be engaged, and look for ways to make a difference. In essence, we want Walker students and graduates to be “difference makers.” When I asked her granddaughter, Interim Middle School Division Head Katherine Harrison, why “Miss Jennie” was referred to as a “troublemaker,” she said it was because she was always speaking up for those who would not or could not speak for themselves. To me, that sounds more like a “difference maker” than a “troublemaker.” In the spirit of Jennie Tate Anderson, let’s continue to raise up a new generation of “difference makers.”