Can you help?

Author: Kerry Temple ’74

There are troublemakers among us. They step out of line, go against the grain. They challenge the status quo, do not accept the way things are. They are dissidents, discontents, even malcontents. They do not sit at the back of the bus. They can be instigators, agitators, innovators. Rebels, radicals, revolutionaries, martyrs. They challenge the “group think.” They are a pain in the butt. They make us think. They sit in. They protest and demonstrate and perform outrageous acts for their cause, to get attention, to shake things up. They stare down a tank in the village square. They stand on the lawn of the president’s ranch until they get an explanation. They do not ask why it would be a crazy thing to do—they get in the car and go.

They are often naive and idealistic, headstrong, full of hope, and occasionally heroic. They speak their minds. They defy authority. They elicit our anger and resentment; they earn our praise and admiration. They see things others don’t. They do not want pat answers. They lay down their possessions to follow Him. They rattle the Establishment. They talk back to The Man. They may not obey the rules, but they live by the Greatest Commandment of them all. They do not care what people think, but they seek to rally popular opinion. Some attract a following; some join forces with others. Some take on Big Business, Big Government, Big Oil; others try to work from within in order to bring change about. They see value in the company of others, the power of the people, the marshaling of forces. They find solace in community as they bring comfort to the afflicted, with a message meant to afflict the comfortable.

Some fly solo. Some devote themselves to clubs and organizations, corporations, agencies, government, The System. They sign up, sign on, enlist. It’s a group effort; so maybe they start their own. They understand the way the world works. They know where the power is, how to gain and wield influence. They know when to play the game and when to bend the rules. They learn the art of compromise and how the end sometimes justifies the means. They realize that rope is made of a million slender strands but is infinitely stronger when woven all together. They know some obstacles are just too big for one person. They know they are but one piece in a global mosaic. They know that each of us has an obligation to the person next door . . . and that in today’s tiny and incredibly interconnected world “next door” means neighbors who live continents away.

From front to back, this issue tells stories by and about people like this. People, perhaps, who looked over the wall, who chose not to conform, who were cut from the herd by life or fate or decision. They are here not because they are the select few but because they remind us of what we are and what we can be. They are people who are changing the world—to varying degrees, in circles of widening influence, in different arenas, for different reasons. They remind us that indifference is a choice and that we can all do more, and that talk and words and plans and dreams are not enough.