Being the Change

by Scott London

Jerome ThrelkeldGandhi famously said that “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Few people embody that idea as well as Jerome Threlkeld, a young activist and community leader from Flint, Michigan.

In a city reeling from the collapse of the American auto industry, Jerome is a champion of hope and possibility. He works with church groups, neighborhood associations, after school programs, youth groups and others to build trust, stimulate dialogue, and strengthen people’s capacity to participate and make their voices heard.

The struggle, he says, is to turn people’s anger and hopelessness into a strength — to help them draw on their deepest inner resources to work for a better tomorrow. He sees himself not as a thermometer, but as a thermostat.

“A thermometer reads the temperature in a room,” he tells me. “But a thermostat can change it. It can cool it down or heat it up. I see myself as a thermostat, someone whose purpose it is to change the atmosphere wherever I happen to be.”

Jerome understands that leaders, at their best, elevate and inspire. Their purpose is to create opportunities for their people to succeed, not only for themselves, but for their organizations and communities.