Why I became politically active at age 66.

by: Brooke Allen, Co-Founder of Leaders not Rulers

Now is the first time I have ever been active in politics. This is the story of how that happened.

Have you noticed that taxi drivers often have better insights than media pundits?

It all began on the evening of November 1, 2008. I was returning by taxi from Newark Airport. I said to my driver, “What do you think? In a few days we might elect our first ever black president.”

He said, “It won’t matter because the United States is no longer a community. No matter who is elected, he will only be President of the people who voted for him and the rest of you won’t accept him as your leader and will work to unseat him.”

He continued, “I am a Haitian, and I am a member of a Haitian community and we cannot survive in your country without a community. And, when we elect a leader, that leader leads all of us. You guys wouldn’t even recognize a leader if you saw one. You know you have a leader when you look back over the last year and you amaze yourself with all the things you’ve done for others in your community; things you didn’t know you had in you. You ask yourself how it happened, and then you realize it all started with the words or deeds of one person. That person is a leader.”

Then he drove in the nail. “But, you guys don’t want a leader. You want someone you can blame for things not being the way you want them to be. You want someone to pass rules that benefit you and you want someone to make other people do the things you want them to do. You want someone who doesn’t ask anything of you except to pay as little tax as you can get away with.”

He was right of course.

When was the last time you heard a President say: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Reflecting on my own behavior, I voted as if I were electing the CEO of a corporation who would implement plans and pass laws that were aligned with my interest. I was behaving like a “special interest group” of one. Continue reading “Why I became politically active at age 66.”

How Janusz Got Political Asylum in the U. S. A.

Listen to Janusz Gilewicz tell the story of how he came to the U. S. A. in his own voice.

Below is a lightly edited transcript of the story.

In Poland in the end of the 1970’s there was a Solidarity movement that led to democratic changes.  But, in 1981 the Russians decided to impose martial law in Poland. On the 13th of December, 1981, or borders were closed and the telephone lines cut off.

My friends and I in Poland formed a theatrical group and we wanted to rebel against the system and the whole concept of having an oppressor. We decided to stage a play based on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.At that time it was illegal to own the book, and for possession of a copy you could go to jail. But, we obtained a Xerox version of the book and we decided we were going to put something together and get it on the stage.

From L. to R. Tomasza Uniwersale (Director), Janusz and Kazimierz Kobialko (Mentor and Solidarity Leader)

The way we did it was that we decided to call the play 1984 and we didn’t mention the author. We called our theater the Closed Theater (Teatr Zamkniety in Polish). We had to go to the censorship bureau in order to get a certificate saying we had permission to put the play on the stage.

Invitation to 1984 at the “Closed Theater”

We were asked why the play is called 1984 and we said, “Because we are in the year 1984.” We were asked why it was called the Closed Theater and we said, “Because it is very esoteric; for a small group of people, not for the masses.” We obtained the two stamps we needed on the poster so that we could stage it. For some reason, the censorship office didn’t think in their wildest dream that we would dare to show 1984 by Orwell and perhaps that is why they thought it was a reasonable idea to let us do it.

We had one performance only and we had 200 people in the audience. The silence during some moments of the play were really really powerful. We were thinking we might not be able to finish the play because it was too radical and too crazy for the times we were in.

After the performance we encountered two or three gentlemen in grey suits who said, “Your theater is closed and you need to be interrogated and asked how the hell did you come up with the idea of staging Orwell in the first place.” We were taken individually to the police and asked if we were out of our minds. Continue reading “How Janusz Got Political Asylum in the U. S. A.”