Berry urges leaders to have the courage, strategy to make change

Published 9:28 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

Dr. Mary Frances Berry told guests at the 19th Annual Leadership Conference on Friday to be courageous, persistent and to strategize to affect civic, economic and social change.

“Martin Luther King Jr. in his first big speech talked about the vote the whole time,” Berry said. “But he came to realize we needed to do more than just getting the vote. We needed nonviolent direct action – protest. Some times you have to disrupt to change the paradigm.”

Berry told stories of situations she has been in where protest, with persistence and strategy, paid off in the end.

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“My grandma used to tell me when I would complain to ;get up off your do-nothing stool and go do something about it,’” Berry said. “History teaches us to resist. I’ve been in movements where things worked.”

One such case was the Vietnam War, which Berry told the crowd she thought they had failed because the war continued on so long. But the protest changed the perception of the war afterwards.

Another case was in freeing South Africa fro Apartheid. Berry described putting political pressure on Congress to pass the Anti-Apartheid Act, facing jail time to help pressure the passing even after President Ronald Reagan vetoed the bill.

“I was there when Nelson Mandela was freed from jail because of that movement,” Berry said.

“My belief in protest is real. But it requires courage, conviction and – the main thing – strategy.”

What is most important is putting others above self, Berry said, being courageous and persistent and thoughtful.

“If you do that, someday perhaps we can achieve my dream which is liberty and justice for all,” Berry said.

The conference continues tomorrow at the Trojan Center with Peggy Wallace Kennedy giving the closing address at 11:30 a.m.