By Mac Pomeroy
Just a few weeks ago, actor and human rights activist Martin Sheen visited Youngstown and gave a speech. Admittedly, while I genuinely am interested in the topic of human rights, I am also a huge “Grace and Frankie” fan. I absolutely had to go.
The latter heavily influenced my decision. That’s probably not a great thing to say, but it’s true. I was originally much more excited to see one of my favorite actors than I was to listen to a topic that I speak about a lot.
However, once he began speaking, that quickly changed. He went from being an actor I admired to suddenly shining as an extremely intelligent advocate with years of experience.
Sheen mentioned that it wasn’t always easy to be an advocate during his lecture. He explained that sometimes people would rather not listen and will tell you to be quiet.
That was something that I really related to. For the last few years of my life, I have done my best to be an advocate regarding people with disabilities. However, I have found that not everyone is willing to listen.
At one point, many of our common, everyday values, rights or ideas of the modern era were considered to be controversial or unimportant. This includes small things like pizza toppings to huge things like which people deserve which rights.
It’s not uncommon for those who are practicing advocacy to be told to stop. People get annoyed when you preach the same thing over and over again.
However, that doesn’t mean you should stop. For years, I have worked toward raising awareness for disabilities and accommodation rights. Admittedly, yes, a lot of people I am close to have heard my message thousands of times and are probably tired of it.
But every time I tell my story, it reaches at least one new set of ears. One more person learns something they didn’t think about before.
So, even if people are growing tired of what you have to say, if what you are talking about is not harmful and you genuinely believe in it, then keep working at it. Keep speaking.
Sheen was an incredible speaker. He was very clear, and his message was well thought out. His calm and honest manner made the audience pay attention to him and nothing else.
Every single word conveyed his message. Through standard lecturing and side stories, he discussed his journey with both advocating for human rights and gaining a successful acting career. He discussed how he is terrified of public speaking, but he knew he needed to be brave and go for it.
When it comes to being an advocate, that is the most important thing. Be brave. Be bold. Go outside of your usual comfort zone. Stay focused and determined on your goals.
Working toward equality takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of time and patience. However, it is far from impossible. You just need to stand up.
Work for what is right.