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August 18, 2003

Miles Horton on improvisation

I came across a quote today by Myles Horton, the great founder of the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, which trained Rosa Parks and so many other heroes of the labor and civil rights movements. Horton said that he had learned from decades of nonviolent struggle against injustice that "the way to do something was to start doing it and learn from it."

I recognize the limitations to this approach. It's good to have a "strategic plan" with goals and methods all arranged in proper order. Yet often in civic work, improvisation is both a necessity and an inspiration. As long as you keep your mind open, listen to others, and try to learn from everything you do, it's sometimes wise to start working even before you know exactly what you are doing.

I write this as I continue to read articles about local geography and its effects on nutrition—all because I want to obtain a grant that can support our local work with kids. I don't know where that work will take us, but it seems important to sustain a nascent institution by grasping the opportunities that come along. (I don't mean to compare myself and my colleagues to Miles Horton, because we're not struggling against injustice as he did. But we do have a similarly cavalier attitude toward planning.)

Posted by peterlevine at August 18, 2003 12:15 PM

Comments

I was thinking this morning; Miles Horton was (is) one of my heroes. He was one of my shapers, along with E D Nixon, and Neal Cassidy. An odd assortment? Perhaps, but then, life is not always easily catalogued.

Posted by: Phil Haney at April 29, 2004 01:35 PM

Miles Horton was the son of my grandmothers sister. I have followed his actions over the years and he is a true hero for the American people and the world started his movement for equality and justice for all He taught Dr King the fundmentals of peacefull resistance and is an amercian that has no equal .

Posted by: loyd Alexander at January 20, 2005 11:57 AM

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