Embracing Tomorrow
Published in

Embracing Tomorrow

Empowering Change

Washington DC City Councilor Robert White Jr. [Source: Petworth News]

When Robert White entered politics, it was a pivotal moment in the history of the United States. A few years shy of 30 years old at the time of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, White found the event profoundly meaningful, as he both admired and saw a lot of himself in Obama. Yet, Obama was at least a decade too late — probably more — for White to look up to him in any real sense as a role model. To be sure, the President was an inspiration, as he did cause White to further believe that politics could enact positive change when pushed and that even “good folks,” gentle-hearted individuals, who sought to make a point without attacking others, could enact that change.

In a lot of ways Obama was a bit of an anomaly to White. He wasn’t the norm to which White was accustomed in terms of race as much as character when he looked at government. While he was certainly someone to be admired, Obama’s success alone was not enough to convince White that there was a path into politics that he himself could follow. His work in Congresswoman Norton’s office, for a time, felt like it was the high point. He was happy with his decision to work in the office; helping his community directly and supporting Congresswoman Norton in her endeavors to support D.C. felt like the right line of work for him.

Yet, to an extent, he felt incomplete. The reason was that he wasn’t meeting his own potential and a big part of that was because he hadn’t fully understood it. He had never had someone to truly look up to or a mentor to help shepherd him in the right direction, causing much of what he learned about himself and his future to be learned on his own.

When White finally made his way to public office, he did so with a conscious eye toward those who, like himself growing up, needed a mentor to usher them into the right direction. In my interview with him, White told me about some of the people he mentors, such as youth in D.C. that email him for career advice, help with connecting with people, and sometimes simply just questions about life. If he’s honest with himself, he likely takes on more than he can chew in terms of mentees, but more often than not he cannot bring himself to say no to helping someone who needs the kind of role model he wished he had had in his life growing up.

Ask anyone who has ever had a mentor themselves whether that relationship mattered to them and 9.9 times out of 10 they are going to answer affirmatively. Forbes alone has dozens of articles and opinion pieces on the incalculable impact of mentors on their mentees. The articles range from discussing the importance of mentorship, to how to be a great mentor, to how to get the most out of your mentorship relationship as a mentee. The sheer extent of the discussion on mentorship speaks to the degree to which it is a vital tool to fully developing as an individual and reaching one’s full potential.

In a 2008 study — aptly named “Does Mentoring Matter? A Multidisciplinary Meta-Analysis Comparing Mentored and Non-Mentored Individuals” — Lillian Eby, Tammy Allen, Sarah Evans, Thomas Ng, and David DuBois come to the conclusion “that mentoring is significantly correlated in a favorable direction with a wide range of protégé outcomes” and specifically “that mentoring was significantly related to favorable behavioral, attitudinal, health-related, interpersonal, motivational, and career outcomes.” It does not take a scientist to learn that mentorship is exceptionally valuable in one’s development, due to the abundance of anecdotal evidence, but it is nonetheless essential to understand the degree to which the positive effects of mentorship permeate every aspect of one’s life.

Although it is unlikely that Robert White views his work in as a mentor to young people in this way, it is a vital source for understanding the degree to which he is making an impact. White answers perhaps a dozen emails alone in a week, if not a day, from mentees seeking his advice. And he makes the effort because he does not plan to stay in office until retirement; his plan is to make as much meaningful change as he can and then make way for another new generation of leaders to take up the challenge. White’s purpose is not to single-handedly solve the problems of his community; he knows that’s unrealistic. Rather, he hopes he can help shape the lives of individuals who will one day work to make D.C. better themselves.

I hope you enjoyed this post which touches on some of the topics in my book, Embracing Tomorrow: Finding Hope in a New Generation of Leaders. If you want to connect, you can reach me here via email dde7@georgetown.edu or connect with me on social: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. Also, you can also find my book on Amazon — here is the link to buy it: https://amzn.to/2Owveg6

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A synthesis of questions and discussions that I had while going through the process of writing my book: Embracing Tomorrow

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