A REFLECTION: Our Extraordinary Times, and Who We Are

ENGAGE - that’s the theme of this year’s extraordinary series of virtual events beginning tomorrow morning and running through next Tuesday.

Frankly,  as we begin the meeting, I have been struggling with how we might all engage each other on the issues that have been challenging our country over the last few days – racial injustice, civil unrest, equality for all.   

I have been touched by the many statements our member companies have issued in support of and commitment to those who are faced with injustice, prejudice, bias, and even death merely because of the color of their skin.  I was particularly struck by the thoughtful and candid words of President George W. Bush and wanted to share them with you. 
America’s greatest challenge has long been to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity. The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union. The answers to American problems are found by living up to American ideals — to the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by God with certain rights.

President George W. Bush
June 2, 2020 
Similarly, President Barack Obama has also spoken about the need for reform, while decrying the violence that has marred the protests urging that reform.
So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.

President Barack Obama
May 29, 2020
I know that my role as DSA president is not to lecture you or anyone on racial inequality or social justice.  Even President Bush said that “this is not the time to lecture.”  And I am more than aware that we need to respect our role as a business association, acknowledge the limits of our ability to affect change in a much wider world, and recognize that among us there is a wide spectrum of political and social beliefs. 

But I think both President Bush and President Obama have given us important guidance on how to address these issues -  identify and speak to these issues, and then model the behavior we want to see.
There is little doubt that the lives of many people in our community have been touched by the injustices they have witnessed and experienced, as well as the awful violence that has now touched many of our communities. 

Many of us have understandably had our confidence in a fair, equitable, and law-abiding society shaken to the core by the apparent disregard of our social contract with each other.
So it seems important that we engage by at the least acknowledging this awful strife, this breach of trust which so many of us feel. How then to engage on such a matter of great importance and sensitivity as social justice, racial equality, and civil strife?
We know that direct sellers have a vision.  It is a vision of equal opportunity for all and personal relationships based on trust and respect. It is a  vision of community empowered by entrepreneurship and freedom, of family and values, of service and fairness.  

I know our vision is unburdened from false notions of racial superiority and prejudice, and the vicious belief that one person’s life is less valuable than another’s.  This is and must be an unending core value about which we cannot compromise.  As President Bush said, “This will require a consistent, courageous, and creative effort.”
I have always believed that direct sellers are at the core of our communities.    It seems only fitting then that we follow President Bush’s admonition and engage our community on these issues of fairness and equity, that we consider our own institutional biases, learn tools to dismantle old ways and trust our field to lead by example in renewal and innovation, not just economically but socially as well.

Like you, I have borne witness to the promise and reality of this direct selling vision that extends to every individual, regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, country of origin, gender, religious belief, or educational background.  

Let us have that vision stand as a bulwark against the forces that would tear this nation apart, against the forces that would deprive anyone his or her life, liberty, or happiness merely because they are of a different race, class,  or political belief.  

Let our vision stand as the model that President Obama spoke of, a monument to the ability of anyone to live their lives and achieve their goals, whether they be an immigrant from a barrio in Mexico City, a struggling artist in a Detroit housing project, a small business owner in Louisville, a soccer mom in a Connecticut suburb, or an out of work African American security guard in Minneapolis.

Let us work to have that vision serve as a statement of hope, an example of what this country can be and so often is.

Warm Regards,

Joseph N. Mariano