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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Importance of Vision

Araminta Harriet Ross was born a slave in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1820 or 1821. The exact date is not known. Throughout her childhood, she was known as Harriet. As a child, Harriet was a small girl, but she grew to be strong physically and strong willed. She was often hired out to other slave masters to do housework as well as work in the fields, and while a slave she suffered many beatings at their hands.

As a young girl, Harriet was greatly angered about the treatment of slaves, and she often wondered if anyone could help them gain their freedom. The Bible story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt had special meaning to Harriet. The people of Israel had been slaves like her people. Harriet began to form a great vision of a country, the United States, free of slavery.

Once Harriet was terribly injured trying to help another slave when she blocked a doorway to stop an angry overseer from hurting him. The overseer took an iron weight and threw it at Harriet striking her in the head. As a result, she was near death for some time.

For the rest of her life, Harriet suffered severe headaches, seizures, and powerful visionary and dream activity. A devout Christian, she ascribed the visions and vivid dreams to premonitions from God that served to instruct her in life. She often spoke of "consulting with God," and trusted that He would keep her safe. Thomas Garrett, the famous abolitionist and leader in the Underground Railroad, once said of her: "I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul."

In 1844, Harriet married John Tubman, who was a free man. She and John lived close to the Brodas plantation in John's cabin. Harriet frequently talked about freedom but John was content with the conditions he had. He thought escaping was too risky when they already had a nice living.

In time, Harriet became unhappy in marriage, and she grew impatient with her husband. Harriet could not abandon her dream of freedom. "[T]here was one of two things I had a right to," she explained later, "liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other."

One night in the summer of 1849, without telling anyone, Harriet decided to escape from the plantation with her brothers Ben and Henry. But once they had left, Tubman's brothers had second thoughts. The two men went back, forcing her to return with them. Soon afterward, Tubman escaped again, this time without her brothers.

Harriet found help and shelter in the home of a Quaker woman who had connections with the Underground Railroad. Much of her escape involved traveling at night. The North Star was her guide that gave her hope and pointed her in the direction of freedom. Finally, Tubman crossed the state line of Pennsylvania and gained her freedom.

In overwhelming joy she said, "I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came like gold through the trees and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven."

When Harriet arrived in Philadelphia, she began to work to earn enough money to help get her family to freedom in the North. Soon, Tubman joined William Still, an abolitionist who was instrumental in organizing connections and financing of the Underground Railroad. She soon became a conductor for the railroad.

Between 1850 and 1860, Harriet saved money to make 19 trips to the South to free about 300 slaves. Slowly, one group at a time, she brought relatives out of the state, and eventually guided many other slaves to freedom. Traveling by night, Tubman (or "Moses", as she was called) "never lost a passenger."

After years of eluding slave hunters, white slave owners posted a huge reward for her capture. With the help of her allies and well planned routes, Tubman was never captured and the reward was never collected.

When the Southern-dominated Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, requiring law officials in free states to aid efforts to recapture slaves, Harriet helped guide fugitives farther north into Canada, where slavery was prohibited.

When the Civil War broke out in1861, Tubman served with the Union army as a nurse, a scout, and a spy. In 1863, she became the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war when she guided a group of black soldiers under Colonel James Montgomery on the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 750 slaves in South Carolina.

After the war, Harriet Tubman returned to her home in Auburn, New York. She continued to help the sick, poor, and homeless blacks and support their efforts for black voting rights. The United States Government eventually gave Harriet a $20 a month pension for her service in the Civil War. She used the money to support these causes. Near the end of her life, she lived in a home for elderly African-Americans which she had helped found years earlier.

Harriet Tubman died on March 10, 1913. Harriet was buried with full military honors in Fort Hill Cemetary at Auburn, New York. She will always be remembered for her courage, bravery, kindness, and love. Her vision of freedom has served as inspiration for millions.

Having a Vision

Harriet Tubman could attribute her personal vision to her faith in God, her experiences with injustice, and her strong will. She was not content to let that vision remain a dream unfulfilled or a promise unattained. Despite suffering significant personal loss, Harriet secured her own freedom. But, much more than that, she dedicated her life to actively helping others share her attainment. In truth, her vision became the free lives of those she touched. 

Many of us lack a personal vision. Visions serve to motivate, give direction, instill meaning, and keep us focused on issues of significant importance.Very often, we find it very difficult to have a sense of attachment in a dark, meaningless environment. A vision can help us see a brighter future, even in dark times, and attempt to secure that future with realistic aspirations.

A collective vision can help us come together as a group to strive for the common good. References to collective identities make people feel that they belong to an organization that makes a difference. Visions that emphasize collective identity use terms such as we, our, together, united, partner, participation, organizational culture, community, team, and teamwork to impart purpose, values, and impacts.

As we align a vision with our collective values and our culture, a vivid picture starts to emerge. Most images may be described in words called vision statements. An example of such a vision statement was President John F. Kennedy's announcement that America would put a man on the moon by 1969. It seemed very unlikely at the time, but it motivated private industry and government agencies alike to marshal their resources, lay out a plan, then coordinate and cooperate to make it happen. In fact, although President Kennedy did not live to see it, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

If we imagine we have been abducted by aliens and taken to another universe – and now they are returning us after five years of absence, we might imagine what we would like to see on earth in terms of change and accomplishment. Most of us can envision a better, more harmonious existence. A vision statement is often built from such positive dreams.

The average vision statement is about 35 words, or two to three sentences. This length seems to be about right for effectively communicating the vision statement to others. It is long enough to clearly describe the vision but not so long as to be difficult to remember.

Here is an example of such a vision statement.

Within five years, citizens of Scioto County, Ohio, will work as a harmonious community by using our education, skills, and resources to reduce drastically the distribution rate of prescription drugs. Together, we will improve the conditions of those negatively affected by the current epidemic.
I feel we, in Scioto County, must share this collective vision to assure victory in a war against prescription drug abuse. With the help of God, I am confident that we will seize the opportunity and set our collective sights upon the common good. 

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