President's Perspective - January 2021

breaking barriers brett parry cultural understanding encouraging jan 2021 learning mission president's perpective safe space teaching Jan 15, 2021

President’s Perspective
 by Brett Parry

 Hello everyone. I am pleased to be sending out my very first contribution as President of SIETAR USA. Welcome to a New Year, one that we hope brings you much needed respite and recovery in all the ways that the challenges of 2020 may have affected you and your family.

There are many things I had intended to say in this message, much of it to honor the great friends and colleagues I have met through my involvement with SIETAR USA, particularly my predecessor Sandy Fowler, as I in some way try to live up the standards of commitment and service that she and others have shown over many years of SIETAR USA leadership. Stories of what it means to me and how I would like to serve this wonderful organization with gratitude will come later perhaps.

However, with your indulgence, I feel we have much more urgent needs to meet following the events of this past week, particularly those of January 6th, 2021. It has been expressed in the official response that the board has crafted on behalf of the organization but let me state it here clearly as a matter of my own record. This was terrorism from within, incited, instigated, encouraged, and participated in by elected representatives that have disgraced the trust and honor that should come with the position they hold.

The fact that it happened in what was thought to be one of the most secure democracies in the world should bring pause to all mankind. We have seen this story before as humans. Divide and conquer is a tried-and-true pathway to despotic rule, and it turns out now the United States of America is equally prone to the maladies it brings. Convince people that they are victims, and you can use any threat; real or imagined to convince them to follow blindly into an abyss of hatred.

The mission of SIETAR, not just for the USA, is one of learning, encouraging, and teaching cultural understanding. These are lofty goals indeed and call on us to always look at the many sides of everything we encounter. I don’t know about you, but this is at times frustrating when I don’t seem to know when to stop over analyzing perspectives and move forward with decisions!

Eventually we are faced with responding to such events that break through the limits of reasonable discourse, and I strongly believe this was one of those cases. In the spirit of openness, I must say that we as an organization can fall into the same trap I have just described. Our response messaging becomes mired in platitudes and ambiguity. It is then that we do even more damage. And where is that damage inflicted? On the groups and individuals that have borne the brunt of the structural inequities that pervade organizations and societies all over the world to varying degrees. They are left unseen, unheard and their experiences diminished. It is no wonder that we struggle to attract the diversity we so desperately need, either within the ranks of our membership or amongst those that take on roles of additional service as stewards of SIETAR’s mission.

Some may take the strong words I have used here and feel the need to come to the rescue of SIETAR USA’s reputation, and I get that. Understand clearly however, I am in no way diminishing the profound and important impact that the organization has had in creating a space for learning and understanding. I have seen the wonderful sharing of ideas and knowledge and it has been a font of personal growth for me and many others. However, we need to get comfortable with discomfort if we are to truly face our own shortcomings, me first. For that, I now explicitly state that this responsibility rests firmly with me, and I will accept personally the failures we no doubt will experience as part of further growth going forward. At the same time, I invite you to join me in ascribing the much good that we can and will do together to my fellow board members, advisors, and professional affiliates. Most importantly to you, current and prospective members — this organization is nothing without you. It is your home, your people. It would be arrogant of me or anyone else to use the terms “we invite” or “we open the doors”. Your place with us is, along with your own uniqueness, simply assumed. Everyone should be celebrated and affirmed, most importantly seen, and heard.

So that is it for now. I openly invite you to share your own thoughts either directly with me, or through our various channels of engagement. We have a huge group of over 2,400 people on LinkedIn, as well as our Facebook page. Your voice is vital.