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by Jullien Gordon
Think Globally Act Locally Conference 2005

If I’m going to change the world, I need a world of change in me.

Good morning my brothers and sisters. Before I begin, I want to give thanks to our Creator, the reason we are all fortunate enough to be here today. Secondly, I want to acknowledge the spirits of all those who came before us who courageously walked the narrow path of righteousness. And last but not least, I would like to thank Michael Cox, Jessica Wood, and the organizers and volunteers of this marvelous conference and all of those in attendance.

It feels good to be back at UCLA…

When I began thinking about this speech, I asked myself, what can I share with young activists that will benefit them for the rest of their lives? And I was reminded of a powerful passage from Mark Albion’s book, Making A Life, Making A Living. He begins one chapter with the following short story about how people distinguish night from day.

The traveler asks, How can you tell when night ends and day begins?

The first man responds: “When I can distinguish the olive tress from the fig trees, then I know that night is over and day has begun.”

The second man answers: “When I can see the forms of the animals across the Serengeti, I know that the darkness is leaving and the light of day arriving.”

Finally, a man renowned for his wisdom replies: “When we see a black woman and a white woman and call them both ‘sister’, when we see a poor man and a rich man and call the both ‘brother’, then the darkness of night has lifted and the light of day has come.”

This passage resonates with me deeply because during my second year at UCLA, I went through a nationalistic phase where it was all about Black power. I read any book about African history that I could get my hands on including the Bible. And then one day, as I’m walking up Kerchoff steps, I see this White guy reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Though I grew up in the Bay Area, which is perhaps the most diverse place in America, racially, economically, and politically, this threw me off guard. I couldn’t help but wander why Malcolm X would interest this young middle-class White male. As we began talking, he went on to share with me that in addition to the personal transformative growth of Malcolm, he was extremely interested in Malcolm’s efforts towards the end of his life.

For many people, the story of Malcolm X ends with the Nation of Islam. Little do people know that within a month after visiting the Middle East and Africa and changing his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X established the Organization of Afro-American Unity. His plan was to internationalize the Black struggle by taking Black people’s complaints against the United States before the United Nations. He sought support from several African countries, as well as Black and White progressive organizations in the United States. As with other leaders in history who tried to establish cross-cultural unity, we all know how the story incoincidentally ends.

We cannot deny that race is a social construction designed to divide, degrade, and disenfranchise people all over the world. It is no coincidence that throughout most racially diverse societies, people of color tend to reside in the abysmal doldrums of poverty and squalor. Many of the global problems that we are here to address today are rooted in racism and colonization, globalization, and indoctrination are merely the bad fruits. As the gardeners and caretakers of beautiful Mother Earth, we have the responsibility to uproot these institutional, historical, and mental weeds of thought and planting new ones. But before we engage, we must first acknowledge our privilege and then secondly, we must deny it. If we don’t acknowledge it, we can never deny it. To deny privilege means to tear down the very structure that gave you the privilege in the first place. This requires a process of self-development that not only enhances one’s idea of self and their efficacy, but also results in the individual’s understanding of their interconnectedness with all life and the immeasurable value of everything living. We must recognize that every life is worth just as much as our own and therefore, learn to see the infinite potential in every human being from the underweight 2-year old infected with AIDS to your most empowered peer. This relational evolution will change our language as social activist from “I’m helping them” to “I’m helping us”. We will stop saying “they” and begin using the word “we”. And our divisive labels such as “educated”, “American”, “White”, “Black”, “rich”, “poor”, “democrat”, “republican”, “liberal”, “conservative”, “Christian”, “Muslim” will all disintegrate. Only then can we form a world community based on true brotherhood and sisterhood.

Now that I am at business school, I am in perhaps the most diverse setting on the face of the Earth. At Stanford, there are over 50 countries represented in a class of 375. During my undergrad, I missed out on the opportunity to study abroad, but now I am using my graduate school experience to expand my worldview by adamantly seeking to understand my classmates and their experiences growing up in different parts of the world. One cannot begin to think globally until they have exposed themselves to global experiences. This global understanding is important to be aware of how this machine operates and where you fit in. Social change will only come about when we begin to challenge and question the societal roles designed for us since birth. This institution called UCLA is designed to manufacture minds, a middle-class, and middle-managers, but how will you prove them wrong and go against the grain.

With that, I want to transition and walk you through a 11-question holistic test of your head, heart, and spirit. There are two choices for every question; yes or no. I ask that you be honest with yourselves. This is a measurement of you for you. If you have a piece of paper, please join me as we begin.

We will start with our head because it is the primary source of our fear. Fear is a chain reaction in the brain that starts with a stressful stimulus and ends with the release of chemicals that affect the body. Fear is perhaps our greatest enemy when it comes to being “revolutionary” or charting new paths of life. I’ve identified five facades of fear that social activist face when making decisions; they include finances, funding, family, friends, and failure. The first five questions will be based on these.

Question 1:
Does your financial wellbeing after graduation worry you more than the wellbeing of those less fortunate than you?

I hope that many of you answered no. As college students, you have learned how to live off of less. With rising student fees, financial aid just doesn’t cut it nowadays. Statistics show that 70% of college students work. The problem we have is that after we graduate, we try to create a false perception that our degree has value by foolishly increasing our standard of living. All of sudden we have car notes, mortgages, bills, etc. Most people call these things luxuries, but I call them bondage because by increasing your monthly needs, you give up your freedom.

Question 2:
Do you think that the more money you have, the more you can personally impact the world?

Many of us deceive ourselves and say that we are going to work first and then do what we love. We put our ideas on hold because we don’t have the money. In reality, many of us haven’t even taking the time to do the cost analysis for how much it would take to execute our ideas. Things that are sustainable, grow at a sustainable rate. Don’t be overwhelmed by the end vision, instead be excited by what you can do to manifest that vision today. If we only invested in ourselves as much as we invested in clothes and electronics, we would be in a position to launch our ideas right this very moment.

I’ll share a quick secret with you, but you have to promise not to tell anyone. Do you want to know how I’m currently financing and how you can finance your dreams at the lowest cost possible? I’m maximizing my students loans! Where else in the world are you going to get a lower interest rate? Growing an idea is like growing a plant. In the same way that the seed must go deep into the ground before it sprouts, oftentimes, we will have go in debt to bring our dreams to life. Deficit spending is common for almost every business in existence.

Question 3:
Are you afraid of what you family might say if you choose to walk the road less traveled?

For many of us, our parents already had our career paths laid out for us. Either they wanted us to be exactly what they were or they wanted us to be what they never had the opportunity to be. The hardest thing to do is to tell your parents that you’re not majoring in what they thought you were anymore. At the same time, it’s the most liberating. Though your parents may be paying for your education, they cannot live your life for you, therefore, you must do what makes you happy. For them, your education is a financial investment and they want a financial return, which is often measured by your income 5-10 years out of college. As someone who went through this process, all I can suggest is that you follow your heart, but also have some logic for your decision-making.

Question 4:
Are you afraid of what your friends might say about you if you end up earning less money than them?

The path that many of us are preparing to take is oftentimes not as financially rewarding as the corporate path. Therefore, coming out of college, your friends who have a different agenda will likely earn more than you, question you, and joke about you. In reality, what they are projecting on you is merely a sign of their own insecurities and unhappiness with their own choices. They may even subconsciously wish failure upon you. Why? Because for you to succeed while also positively impacting the world, exposes the fact that there is a path more fruitful than the one they chose that only yields financial rewards.

Question 5:
Are you afraid of failing? Are your afraid that your social venture, non-profit organization, micro-finance program, free-clinic, or school won’t succeed?

For all of the social entrepreneurs in the audience, you always hear that 90% of businesses fail and this is probably true; but the real reason that 90% of businesses fail is because 90% of businesses don’t even try. You can only succeed if you try. We cannot allow fear to be our reason for sitting and sleeping on ideas that have the potential to change the world. Potential is worthless if energy is not applied. For one person to hold onto an idea that could positively impact the world out of fear is selfish. For some reason, when it comes to taking risk for good, we always want to play it safe when in fact, in the same way that a bank robber takes a risk for a negative cause, those of us committed to social good must take just as great of risk for the greater good of the world.

UCLA is a microcosm of the world. You have government call USAC, a workforce, low-come housing in the triples, middle-class housing in the suites, sports, and traffic on Bruin Walk, etc. It is your risk-free lab where you can test your plan here and now. If you want to be a politician, get involved in student government. If you want to start a non-profit, start a student-initiated community service organization. If you want to start a socially responsible business, do it now. A friend of mine showed me an article about Resonance Life Clothing, which was started by 3 UCLA undergrads and promotes social awareness through clothing. We have to wash away the idea that we must to wait until we’re a certain age or need a certain degree before we do this or that. Begin creating your future here. Begin developing strong relationships now. Begin honing your craft today.

Next we will cover the heart because it is the source of our intent and love.

Question 6:
Am I striving to make that which makes me happiest available to everyone who wants it?

According to, earning $30,000 puts you in the top 7.22% richest people in the world. That would mean that there are 5.6 billion people poor than you. As an American and especially a graduate of UCLA, if you answered yes, you are saying that you are willing to giving up almost all of your material luxuries including your car, designer clothes, and eating habits for the betterment of the world.

If you answer NO, this implies that if there were 100 pieces of fruit in the world and 100 people, and as an American you already have two, you wouldn’t be willing to give that piece of fruit to whoever needs it. Gandhi once said “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” The challenging part is that we were born into a culture of greed without even knowing and therefore, we must reject it if we are truly more concerned about the welfare of all of humanity than just ourselves.

Question 7:
Am I striving to prevent others from having to endure the negative experience that I have had, heard about, or witnessed?

This question suggests that what used to be a weakness or a stigma for you can become one of your greatest strengths. I heard a story about a doctor who practiced anesthesia, but became an alcoholic after a tough divorce. Their licensed was revoked, but after going through 5 years of recovery, this individual got their license back and instead studied to become an addictionologist. They wanted to help prevent others from walking down the path they once took. Lance Armstrong and his fight against cancer is another great example of this in that he is leveraging his celebrity status as a cyclist to raise awareness and funding for cancer victims like himself all over the world.

If you answer no, that implies that you are comfortable with allowing other to be hurt by the things that hurt you. You aren’t willing to pick up the banana peel that made you slip so that no one else slips on it. Some people get gratification by knowing that others are making the same mistakes they made. It makes us feel more secure, but this is a mindset that we must challenge and change.

Now we will move on to our final and most important section, the spirit. The spirit is the purest you. It is who you were and what you believed the second before you entered the world as a child. It is who you would be if you unlearned everything that you’ve been taught.

Question 8:
Do you know what you stand for?

This is the point where you won’t compromise. It is your unique mission or purpose. Do you know what you stand for and what exactly you want? What are you fighting for? How will you know when you’ve achieved it? How are you measuring your progress?

It is important that we learn how to define things for ourselves and stop ignorantly accepting Webster’s definitions. How do you define success, happiness, freedom, love, education, democracy, God? Until we start to do that for ourselves, we will be subject to other people’s interpretations. What democracy means to the US is different than what it means in Venezuela. What education means to you may be different than what it means chancellor, your professors, or even your classmates. Create you own dictionary and allow it evolve as you grow.

Question 9:
Do you know who you stand for?

The only true answer to this question is all of humanity. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Question 10:
Do you know why you stand for it?

Can you articulate your logic? Can you explain how what you stand for is going to improve the world for us all? Determining this logic should be the primary focus of your education here at UCLA. Your studies should be dedicated to diagnosing societal problems in the world and generating solutions to solve them. It’s funny how we study all of these old theories that didn’t even work. It is great to learn from our mistakes, but the ultimate goal should be for you, the student, to develop a new theory that applies to today. There is a gap between education and application and this is evident in the number of books in the stacks of Powell Library that have not been opened since being published. Our education should be geared toward addressing the problems of today, drawing on the best of those that came before us.

Question 11:
Do you know who keeps you standing?

As stated earlier, sometime our friends and family won’t even be there to support on this journey. For years, I wrestled with my mother and father. People we love get unconsciously plugged into the matrix. They buy into the American dream of job security, nuclear families, a home with white picket-fence, and a mid-sized luxury sedan. In the end, your true source is your spiritual source; your giver of life; your energy supply. If you haven’t explored this relationship deeply, I challenge you to do so. It should be one of your top priorities, if not your first.

Take this time to total up your scores. Raise your hand if you scored above a 9? 7? 5? 3? 1? Raise your hand if you found this extremely discouraging? Don’t be. This is a process. There are people out there with 0s or let alone that don’t even care. Do you want to know what my score would have been three years ago? No…I’m embarrassed! Honestly, I would have probably scored between a 2 and 3. Right now, I think I’m at around 6 or 7.

I don’t want this to be like the SAT, so don’t take this test as truth. This is my personal measurement that I use to evaluate myself. If you have suggestions, I would love to hear them. I feel like someone who is able to sincerely answer no to all of the head questions about fear and yes to questions about the heart and the spirit has the right to call themselves a social activist. The rest of us are SAINTS, which is my acronym for social activist in never-ending training. When you examine the lives of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Jesus of Nazareth, Malcolm X, and Che, despite all being killed for their revolutionary thought, they all began to peak in their thirties.

At 37, Gandhi launched his campaign for nonviolent resistance to protest discrimination against Indians by the British government. Where was he at our age? In law school in England!

At 31, Che Guevara was pointed head of the Department of Industry of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform and to the National Bank of Cuba as President. Where was he at our age? In medical school in Buenos Aires!

At 34, Martin Luther King Jr. launched the Birmingham bus boycott, led a 125,000 people Freedom Walk, and gave his I Have a Dream speech. Where was he at our age? In graduate school at Boston University.

During his 30s, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was speaking all over the world on behalf of the Nation of Islam and the African diaspora. Where was he at our age? In jail for selling drugs, breaking and entering, and larceny.

During is 30s, Jesus of Nazareth speaks out against the Roman Empire sparking a spiritual and social revolution among the poor. Where was he at our age? Probably studying in Egypt and doing some carpentry on the side.

That brings me to my theory of involution. Human evolution is a function of time, driven by outside forces such as age and circumstances. To be evolved means that you are letting the world and external forces determine who you become. Evolution is passive and reactionary. Evolution is natural but involution is a choice. Involution is a function of self-knowledge, driven by internal forces such as our capacity to love unconditionally, serve unselfishly, make decisions and problem-solve collectively, and discipline ourselves. Involution is the movement of the mind. Through service to others, you become involved. Being involved is progressive and proactive. We can pretend like we care, but we can’t pretend to be there.

Che once said, “Voluntary service is the created school of consciousness”. Service is unconditional love in practice. There are no income, age, ethnic, or academic requirements to love or to serve. Service is the breeding ground for purpose finders because it shows one that even without qualifications or money, their life can have a positive impact on many lives. In service, one gets to exercise their creativity, develop their compassion, and display their capabilities without fear of failure, judgment, or loss. With fear set aside, the individual can do what they want, how they want, for who they want, however long they want. The cost of service is nothing more than time, love, and energy.

You’re your very own John Wooden said that “Ability is a poor man's wealth”. Service has no start-up cost. From the stories that I’ve heard, a lot of successful entrepreneurs naturally began their companies by serving. Usually the story goes like this. The individual offers their time for free because they see an opportunity to help someone. That someone loves what they do so much that they tell someone else. That someone else calls the individual and then a business is born. If you want to identify your passion, identify a place to serve. If you can manage to positively impact lives without a dime, how many lives will you be able to impact with a budget?

Volunteering is a necessary step toward becoming a social activist, however, the difference between a social activist and a volunteer is that a social activist commits their life to service; a volunteer only helps when it is convenient. Social change is not convenient. There is a big difference been doing good and living it. As American students, we have to ultimately break down the walls of our Pacific and Atlantic isolation, but first, we must break down the walls of our campus isolation by connecting with the local underserved communities. Only then can we begin to see the world from the standpoint of the least well-off.

Franz Fanon said “Every generation must find it’s own destiny and fulfill it or betray it.” The time is ripe. Technology and globalization have shrunk the world and increased our interdependence on one another. This puts us a unique position in the annals of world history. We are who we’ve been waiting for but what are we willing to sacrifice? The solution is already within us, therefore, we shouldn’t start out there (point out of window), we need to start in here (point to heart). I challenge each of you to examine your souls in search of your unique purpose in this world struggle.

The words that I’ve shared with you today have been lessons and learning that have come from my own personal search for my purpose. Over the past 3 months, I’ve been developing, the world’s premiere online community for personal growth and social change. I hope that you’ll join our community and its quest to liberate the world by unlocking the full potential of every human being by visiting us at I will be discussing the purpose finding process more in the Social Change from Within workshop later on today.

Next you will hears the story of a young sister, Karina Garcia who embodies everything I have said so listen carefully to her story.

Thank you.


  1. Dr. Mark Says:
  2. Julien - I'm appreciative of your quoting my story, from my Making a Life, Making a Living book. I originally heard the story from a black, Jewish South African friend.

    I loved your 11 questions. I have 10 "Lifelines" I use, and I found much overlap, but also some additions of your I liked very much. Keep up the great work. Blessings, Mark Albion...and remember
    "If you are coming to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you are coming because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." -- Australian Aboriginal Woman

    UCLA has a wonderful Net Impact chapter as well, by the way.

  3. Selome Araya Says:
  4. so amazed at the brilliance of your mind!!!!!!!!

    you really have the power to help re-focus the way communities think and move.

    your questions always make me delve deeper than the surface and cause me to really look at myself in the mirror, without a mask or shield. just straight up authenticity peering back. how else can we seek to heal and change if we haven't done so within first?



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Jullien's Purpose Statement

My purpose is to help as many people as possible reach their full potential by helping them making a living doing what they love and in the process of doing so achieve my own. I want to do this through writing, speaking, and creating offline and online spaces that facilitate conversations around purpose.

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