Future Leadership poem by Marjolijn van Heemstra

At TEDxRotterdam 2011 Dutch poet Marjolijn van Heemstra surprised and moved the audience with her so called ‘poem slash speech’, a new form she tried out especially for TEDxRotterdam.

Read, listen and watch her impressive talk at the same time, and get moved yourself (again).

We’ve been talking about future leaders this whole morning
maybe it’s time to face it now;
leaders have been dissappointing for thousands of years
From Julius to Jesus, Churchill, Obama, Che,
they’ve had their moments but
didn’t it always end
in pity, shame, dissatisfaction?
Didn’t they always betray or prematurely die on us?

See, the problem with leaders; they’re on their own
with often lousy sense of direction
they get lost
It took Moses (a very famous leader) forty years to move his crowd
through a tiny desert!
Bush confused the sanddunes of Afghanistan and Iraq
Mother Theresa lost her faith ended
a wandering soul

They’re too caught up in little leader lives
blindly raising fists
at injustice and camera’s
pretending readiness to fight
to help and hurt
they drift away on ego’s extacy
not realising their every step
is directed from behind their backs
it’s the murmuring masses
pushing their leaders to the top
a heavy weight

Those who try to lead the people can only do so by following the mob.
Oscar Wilde wrote that.
The same man who said when you’re lying in the gutter you can always look up at the stars.

In this time of countries functioning without governments,
politicians without power,
revolutions without leaders;
it’s stars we need.
Not the few dancing on our screens.
To determine where you are
you need a milkyway
the infinite galaxy we need,
all the signs from east to west,
the shimmering dots in between.

Here we sit, full of freedom, looking up
and aching,
not for another lying leader,
but for an illuminating crowd

A crowd like a bloodstream
flowing warm
guiding us like cells
through one body
passed limbs and lungs.
A crowd like a tight human shield
against the dangers of
hate and wind,
against the lonely nights
no prophet or president protected us from.

The future question will not be who leads
but who will follow me?

Who will be my crowd?
Stand guard, listen, track my likes
reply my life, be antidote to silent sunday afternoons
the dark space seperating you and me
Who will connect this frightened skin
to the breathing livestream?
Undo the stranger
in me?

Remember, once, we all moved the same direction
like birds flying south, using speed, altitude
and the quiet sound of our hearts, thumping as one.
Before the gods came and books with lies of race, blood
tribes and chosen ones

We have our own book now.
No prophets and devils,
apples or snakes.
No paradise lost.
No story; just us.
Every page a face,
acting, reacting
on the simple facts of live

The future leaders will be the followers
Testifying of our rightfull place
under the stars
no matter how we expand
our profiles will be hands
reaching hands

This is all we have
each other and the need to share
Stranger by stranger becoming comrades
Untill the only stranger left will be earth itself
who doesn’t know how to accept a friend request

When this final stranger shrugs its skin
when we breath the last trees
waves lick our toes
wind makes our buildings bow
when food melts in the fields
icebears climb our shores

when the final bomb
when hunger
when storm

We will clutch to to the web
like anxious spiders.
We will share our last pictures of light.
Twitter hope like birds before sunrise
and know we’re not alone;
we are the breathing
centre of human space and time
starsigns made of flesh
lighting our own ways
we will not go gentle into that good night
We will share and share and share
the live

Forget about leaders, to survive
it’s followers you need