Hero of the Week Award: May 24, Eileen Peterson

24 May

RacismI need to say a huge thank you to friend, activist, and LGBT ally, Bruce Kestelman for nominating Eileen for HWA.  Honestly, Bruce needs to also be celebrated as HWA also for many of the same reasons we are celebrating Eileen.

Standing up for Social Justice seems like it would just be obvious and easy.  Working to ensure space for equity and equality and treating all humans with dignity and respect feels like it should be a no brainer.  Sadly, this is not the case.  I suspect all of us have too often witnessed very ugly behavior on different social media sites around human and civil rights issues.  I know I have seen my fair share of awful, nasty, ugly behavior on Facebook and on LinkedIn around the issues of racial equity and marriage equality.  Garbage that I will not bother to repeat here spews forth from the foaming mouths and frantic fingers of bigots everywhere.

Delightfully, within all of this muck there are gems I find that need to be celebrated.  People with tenacity, grace, and perseverance that gracefully — and at times with great wit — work hard to interrupt oppression.   Eileen Peterson is someone who does not shy away from social justice issues.  I admit that there have been times when comments get so ugly, I throw my hands up in despair and walk away from interrupting oppressive comments.  I recently read a thread on LinkedIn regarding marriage equality and I have to say that Eileen Peterson won my heart over.  She does not use accusatory or inflammatory language, but she does try to hold people accountable for their behavior and she asks great clarifying questions that help to expose they hypocrisy within people’s arguments.

Today I felt the need to celebrate the individual and collective voices that work with great respect and dignity to interrupt oppression.  Everyday people like Eileen, Bruce, Jennifer Carey, and the amazingly large list of friends I have had the honor and privilege to know in the past two years, need to be celebrated for their dedication to social justice and fierce determination to eradicate racism, homophobia, misogyny, and poverty. I applaud you all!

Honorable mention this week goes to the Peace Corps. Reversing a long-standing discriminatory practice, the Corps announced this week that it will allow same-sex couples to apply for joint service. Married heterosexual couples have been able to do so all along. The Peace Corps could have waited for DOMA to fall; instead, they took a proactive step and will usher in equality starting next month. Nicely done!

4 Responses to “Hero of the Week Award: May 24, Eileen Peterson”

  1. Central Oregon Coast NOW May 24, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

  2. Bruce Kestelman May 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks Michael.

    There is probably more than one person out there speaking up for social justice and being intolerant of intolerance. In fact, there are probably many. The reality of the day is that it is “wired and dangerous” (as my colleague titled his book on service).

    It is all too easy for someone to create the next viral YouTube video, or tweet or comment on Social Media like Facebook or LinkedIn. It is because of Eileen Peterson and all the “Eileen Petersons” out there that the scales of social justice stand any chance of being balanced on any given day.

    As you mentioned most of us don’t have the stomach or the ability to persevere. It is all about wearing away at the truth, at the facts. A little nick here, a cut there and eventually there is no truth, facts no longer matter.

    I agree with your assessment that what the Peace Corps did was a really cool thing and should be recognized as a HERO.

    Yet what Eileen does and all the Eileens do, the journey they’re on, the accountability they’ve taken on for themselves, well that’s pretty cool too, and it’s not a decision, it’s not an event, it is part of their day, their lives, it’s part of who they are. They are our HEROs.

    Thanks to you for recognizing them for what they do and reminding all of us that we need to find a little bit of Eileen in ourselves and step up and be intolerant of intolerance. We all need to.


    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

      Bruce, thank you for your lovely voice of social justice, and to all of the individual voices that comprise an amazing choir of voices demonstrating how powerful we can be at chipping away at hypocrisy, and all forms of hate and discrimination. Eileen and you help remind us of the Power of One.

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