I have written several articles about the importance of training the next generation of leaders in Ward 8. With all the economic development changes coming to our community, it is more important than ever that we do this. As the Olympics approaches, one sport in particular reminds of what it takes to mentor our young leaders – the 4×100 relay race.
In the relay race, each country takes its four fastest runners and places them in quarter distances around the track. When the gun sounds to begin the race, the first runner needs to run as fast as he or she can to the next runner and pass a cylinder tube called a baton. Once the baton is passed, the next runner can then proceed to the third runner and perform the same task of passing the baton. Then finally, the last runner is responsible for crossing the finish line.
Even though each country picks its four fasters runners, speed is not the most important factor in winning the race. Winning the race really depends on how effectively each runner can pass the baton off to the next runner. Each runner only has a split second to make this exchange. Missing the exchange or dropping the baton automatically disqualifies the team.
Ironically, even though the U.S. is known for having the fastest runners each Olympics, we have not always won the race. In fact, the last two Olympic games the U.S team has been disqualified by dropping the baton. Why is that? Some analysts have explained it in that athletes seldom dedicate the needed training as a team to practice for the event. Track athletes are trained to race against and beat each other for the four years in between each Olympics. The idea of working together to win a race really does not occur until after their individual race competitions are complete.
I look at each Ward in the District as its own relay team. How well have we done as a relay team? Not well in my estimation.
Often times I hear complaints in Ward 8 that our seniors are not willing to pass the baton when it comes to providing leadership positions for our young adults. In some cases this is true. Some of these long time leaders should ask themselves, “If I as a leader of an organization were to wake up one day and decide I know longer want to plan meetings, lead protest, etc, is there someone out there under the age of 40 who is ready, willing and able to step in my place. If not, you are not passing the baton.
And then to our Ward 8 young adults. Are you taking an active role in the development of your community? Or are you just waking up in the morning, going to work, coming home and closing the door till the next morning. Are you being a part of the process or are you just complaining about others are doing. If this is you, you are not reaching forward to receive the baton of leadership.
What I have learned over the years is that I alone can only do so much to improve the quality of life in my community. I can burn myself out quick. But with a team of people we can accomplish so much more.
What I love most about the 4×100 relay races is that if your team comes in first, second or third place, each runner on the team will get the same quality medal of gold, silver or bronze. Additionally, the each team member will be able to stand upon the podium together to receive their medal. However, it is only the gold medal winning team that will be able to stand upon the podium together to listen to their national anthem.
So which team will Ward 8 become – much of it is dependent upon how willing we are to mentor the next generation to step into leadership position. Are you prepared to pass the baton or are you trying to keep running into you are out of breath while the other teams pass you to the finish line?
Charles Wilson is a neighborhood activist in Historic Anacostia located in Ward 8. He is also the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Single Member District 8A04. Be sure to check out his blog, The ART of WARd8 at http://artofward8.blogspot.com/. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at CharlesWilsonDC.