President Harry S. Truman has been quoted as saying, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” This is very true. If you look at anyone of importance, who has a modicum of influence on the people around them, you can best be assured that reading was one thing that got them there. This week saw two reports of people who have had been an inspiration to me over the course of my life. It is no coincidence that these two would be in the headlines in the same week, because they are both leaders in their own rights, and their lives have crossed paths in one of the most monumental stories ever to go from a book to the epic small screen mini series Roots.
The passing of the poet, civil rights activist, and humanitarian Maya Angelou rocked the nation, if not the entire world. Levar Burton, more recently known for the role he played in Star Trek: The Next Generation, co-starred with Angelou in Roots. He made news this week for raising over a million dollars in a single day through KickStarter with the hopes of resurrecting Reading Rainbow for the “next generation” of readers.
These two have influenced people all around the world, and will continue to influence people because people can plainly look at them and know that what they accomplished is connected to the fact that reading was a habit they have in common. You can literally read the pages of their life by what they did and do.
When people look at you, can they tell that you’ve spent time reading something of value? Reading opens the doors to great conversations and debates. People love to know what you think and what interest you. When you’re a well read person, people read you as having something to contribute. They in essence become readers of you. Through this, people begin to determine whether you are worthy of their time because when you have become well read, you have a broader frame of reference to draw upon in order to communicate.
I love it when a conversation starts and I can readily draw upon my knowledge of something I’ve read in a paper, magazine, or book. It’s never because I feel like I know so much, but because I know that I can genuinely contribute to the dialogue. I don’t know who said ignorance is bliss. I’ve always felt better knowing I can speak intelligibly on a subject.
I have a great appreciation for both Maya Angelou and Levar Burton because they have each in their own right fostered my appreciation for reading and writing. As I look to my future, it is people like them that I want to point to my children as people they can look up to, because they led people to think greater, be better, respect themselves and others. I want people to read my children as a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. I want them to be readers capable of leading. Perhaps as you pick up your next book, or hear someone read poetry to you, you’ll be reminded of the people who fostered your love of reading, smile and thank them.
QUESTION: How do people read you?