Adam B. Clausen
Professor Tony Gaskew, Ph.D.
October 11, 2012
Abstract: This paper reflects the personal views of the author resulting from the debriefing conducted by Professor Gaskew on October 4, 2012 and is based upon his, the author's, sixteen years worth of experience inside prisons. General historical references to famous leaders are included and intended merely to provide some basis for the effectiveness of leadership, both good and ill. The author's intention is to encourage his peers to become leaders and role models through the pursuit of higher education so that they may pass that acquired knowledge on to others similarly situated.
Every group has either a designated leader or certain members who clearly wield more influence than the other memers. Identifying those leaders and targeting a specific message to them improves the likelihood of the group's receptivity to that message. Leaders have the ability to move the masses toward either a positive or a negative action. The most horrific atrocities committed throughout history were perpetrated by people commanded by extremely charismatic leaders, Hitler being the most obvious example. He managed to move the minds of an entire nation and although their actions now seem incomprehensible in retrospect that merely proves how powerfully influential the perceived identity of any group can ultimately become.
Julius Caesar is a prime example of how positive leadership can influence a nation on such a scale as to having a lasting impact upon all of human history. Ancient Rome's prosperity and appreciation for the arts were born out of his leadership, and monuments celebrating the success of their glorious society have withstood the ravages of time and war. Caesar empowered other leaders within his nation to rise up and speak for the people they represented in the Roman Senate, a predecessor to our current democratic government here in the United States. He was greatly loved and admired by the masses and that ultimately lead to his assassination. The voice of one, or a select few, cannot be underestimated in its potential to move the minds of the masses.
Leadership is both a privilege and responsibility. When the minds of the masses are under the influence of a leader it is his or her moral responsibility to act with their best interests in mind, even when it does not serve his or hoer own personal interests or desires. The words and actions of any leader will be scrutinized by their opposition and emulated by their faithful following. Whenever an opportunity arises to further the education of any leader it should be seized upon because, through his or her intellectual advancement, the masses will also be elevated.
Leaders should all strive to become adept teachers. As Henry Adam famously stated, "A teacher effects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Unfortunately, some people are unable to remove their own sense of ego and insecurity to fail to assume their rightful role as either a leader of techer. Intelligence may be a powerful tool and education has the potential to be the great equalizer, but only when both are fully embraced. Men and women in prison are often reluctant to embrace and cultivate their intelligence because they will inevitably be ridiculed by their peers. In prison whenever a person of color is able to articulate their thoughts in an intelligent manner without the use of curses or slang, they are accused of sounding too "white." The full derogatory remark is usually something to the effect of, "You sound like you're white!" As a result, black and brown men frequently hide their intelligence from their peers and white men tend to adjust their normal speech to better assimilate to their environment. Accordingly, accepting the role of either a teacher or a leader inside prison is often a greater responsibility than most men and women are capable of handling.
A common characteristic among men in prison is their prior ability to provide for everyone who was around them on the outside. No matter if their crime involved a seemingly small amount of drugs, a violent act, or a wide reaching case of fraud, these men were the ones that family members, friends and associates frequently turned to in times of distress. These men were in a position to be of assistance to nearly all those around them and thus they enjoyed that sense of power and influence. Once inside prison that influence on the outside quickly began to dissipate and they realized that everyone around them had become so conditioned to their support that they were no longer able to fend for themselves, let alone anyone else. It is an exceptionally frustrating experience that often leads to feelings of depression and isolation. These men have the potential to become effective leaders and teachers on the inside if they are provided with the right tools and guidance. The characteristics which made them effective leaders within their circles of influence on the outside are the same that can now be used to promote a greater common good.
Criminals enjoy a certain type of lifestyle that can be more difficult to avoid than any type of drug or alcohol. When people choose to live outside the law there isa certain mystique that attracts not only the attention but the quiet admiration of even the most straight laced citizen. Their money and possessions may attract the initial attention but it's the blatant disregard and flaunting of the law that draws lasting admiration and affection. American history is full of outlaws who have been emulated and revered by the masses simply because they were non-conformists.
After prison many criminals find it difficult to stay out of the limelight and rejoin the masses after having experienced that sort of attention, despite the negative consequences they already endured. Clearly, there is a great hypocrisy present when our society glamorizes its criminals but then seeks to incarcerate them for the remainder of their lives when they recidivate. If inmates can be convinced that the same attention and admiration will be afforded to them when they choose to pursue a more positive and productive path within the confines of the law, it will not take long to begin moving the minds of many. As those minds are then moved the culture will itself begin to change and long held beliefs will slowly start to fade away. Intelligence an then, once again, come into vogue and education will be embraced as the great equalizer by all.
New York Times Magazine, "How To Move A Mind: Changing a strongly held belief has little to do with actual facts." August 19, 2012
The World Book Encyclopedia, 2004, "Hitler, Adolf" pages 264-268
The World Book Encyclopedia, 2004, "Caesar, Julius" pages 12-13