Talk given by Hannah Butcher: “We follow our conscience in speaking and acting with integrity.” From the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations on March 14, 2017.
Hannah Butcher began playing the harp at age 9 and currently teaches 11 students in her harp and piano studio. From Carnegie Hall to the halls of hospitals and assisted living centers, Hannah loves to uplift others through music.This focus inspired her to form the Perry High School Music Therapy Club, which promotes Perry High musicians to collaborate and share their talents with the community. The club has grown to be one of the most popular clubs on campus. Hannah has also been touched by the many stories of suffering refugee children and families. She became an assisted site coordinator for Lifting Hands International and helped collect, sort and package 2,500 items for shipment to a refugee camp. Hannah has been involved with the Model UN in high school and is looking forward to promoting education and opportunity for women and girls around the world.
I love this Big Ocean tenet which states, “We follow our conscience in speaking and acting with integrity.” I can speak and act with integrity because I have within me an internal compass that guides my actions. As women, we have a unique perspective to offer because of this innate gift, and our challenge is to give every woman the equal opportunity and ability to live by this compass so that we can positively influence our family, our communities, and even the world. I strive to live by the principles and values I have chosen.
In my personal experience, I was in a situation where I shared my opinion that was not the popular belief. I was in a classroom setting. Our teacher engaged the class in a discussion on feminism, gender inequality, and a few other morally charged topics. Much of what was being said did not align with my personal thoughts and ideas. It was difficult for me to voice my opinions without being directly attacked by the teacher and fellow classmates for what I believed in.
Following your conscience means speaking with integrity for your values based on your moral compass even when they seem unpopular. A lot of power can come from one individual voice who follows her moral conscience.
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful” Malala Yousafzai, a young woman from Pakistan knew it was vital for girls to receive an education, no matter the discrimination or push against the idea. Beginning at age 11, she followed her intuition and her value of education to speak out with integrity for what she knew was right. We can learn by her example to speak with strength and conviction.
Sometimes, we have the illusion that we must speak and stand with integrity on matters at a global scale for it to mean anything. The reality is, we can start where we are today. A woman who speaks with integrity within her own home and community is critical and valuable. In fact, the world is in desperate need of women across the globe to stand up in their communities and act on their moral compasses. We need women to lift where they stand, speaking and acting with integrity in their own spheres of influence. Your words and actions do matter. When we stand up in our communities, we inspire others to do the same.
As individuals in our communities, we must recognize that there are differing opinions and values other than our own. With this in mind, we need to avoid verbal and written brutality and negative attacks toward those with differing viewpoints. Instead, we need to encourage positive discussion of different values while respecting another’s right to have her own opinion.
Power comes not from demanding or forcing others to listen as we speak. Rather, power comes from civil discourse and positive discussion which will promote mutual understanding and ultimately lead to greater positive influence within the family and in the community.
Returning to my classroom experience, It was difficult to express my differing views in a negatively charged environment. Nevertheless, I respectfully stated my unpopular opinion and tried to steer toward a more open and positive discussion. We have had many class discussions since then. Over time, the classroom has evolved into a place where people can exchange ideas and principles without verbal bullying. Though we still have vastly different opinions, each person has the opportunity to speak freely based on his or her own conscience.
Ultimately, the greatest freedom that we can have, is our freedom of conscience. As we progress to a more mutually inclusive environment, we will reach a greater understanding. As we speak and act on our moral compasses, we will make a positive, powerful impact within our homes, communities, and the world.