This letter began—before I scrapped it and derided myself for not first doing my due-diligence—as a meditation on a quote attributed to Gandhi that I saw on a bumper sticker: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” As with most quotes on bumper stickers and coffee mugs, this one turned out to be misrepresented. Brian Morton writing for a New York Times article in 2011 (“Falser Words Were Never Spoken”) put in the research and informed readers, “The closest verifiable remark…is this: ‘If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.'” I prefer this to the bumper sticker version. I like it because, as Morton pointed out, the short and sweet version “suggests that [a person’s] responsibilities begin and end with [his or her] own behavior.”
Mr. Rodriguez, my middle school band teacher, most certainly did not subscribe to his tween musicians’ responsibilities ending and beginning with themselves. We were a band, a group comprised of individuals working together. Most clearly I remember his insisting how we place our instruments when at rest during class and evening practice so that we appeared unified during competition and in concert; for me, a clarinetist, that meant diagonally across my lap. Shortly after the semester began, he stopped reminding us and relied on section leaders to lead by example. By midterms, we all knew what to do. It didn’t mean much to me then, but in every competition, the judges commented on this part of our performance. They appreciated our attention to detail.
Although my childhood band has little to do with the articles in this month’s issue, the idea of leading by example does. Our stories focus on change and transformation—living it, leading it. April seems an appropriate time for such a theme. There is much promise this time of year. I’m feeling so inspired by this month’s stories, although I’m willing to concede that it may also have a bit to do with Punxsutawney Phil predicting an early spring and his being right.