Byron's Babbles

Who Tells Your Stories?

Grandma’s first Last Supper painting!

I sat down to wait a few minutes for my son to get home for a visit yesterday afternoon and flipped on the American Pickers. As usual, Mike Wolfe made a comment that resonated with me. I learn a lot of history watching that show and would love to go on a pick with him sometime. After picking a father-daughter team’s collection, Wolfe said he was inspired to tell his daughter the stories now, so she did not have to wait till later in life, or worse yet, not hear them at all. It is so important that we tell our stories to the younger generation. On the show, this was related to the stories behind things they had in the house or things that had been collected, but could relate to lots of things. I’m reminded of times when our family is together and someone will tell a story and we will say things like, “wow I did not know that,” or “that’s where that came from.” I’m sure you can think of stories like that.

For example, a couple of years ago, while visiting with family at a brunch the morning after a family wedding, we got to talking about the Last Supper painting on my uncle’s dining room wall. Family members did not know that back in the ‘70s my late grandmother had painted one for herself and then decided to paint one for all of her four children. I can remember looking up at that painting as we ate meals at my grandmother’s house. I always loved grandma’s and when she passed away my mom, uncles and aunt gave me grandma’s because I was the only grandchild that was out on my own at the time and had loved it so much. I always check out the paintings when visiting because all five are just a little different. And, my Uncle Earl’s which was the last one she painted is the best of all. It is evident that she was improving as a painter. But I still love the first that I have hanging in my dining room (featured picture of this post). Incidentally, I also have the second, which is the one she painted for my mom (she was the oldest). This is a story I want all my cousins and everyone related to my mom’s side of the family to hear and know. Those Last Supper paintings tell a story, but it is my responsibility as the family member that knows all the intimate details to tell the story.

The cool part about bringing up the Last Supper paintings at family gatherings is the fact that grandma signed and dated them all. So that always makes for a lengthy discussion of what was going on in the world, who was born at that time, et cetera, et cetera. The stories get told. The younger generations hear and learn. I’m reminded of the final song from Hamilton, which I still have not seen in person and want to so badly. The song is Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story. This is the finale song and is actually done by multiple characters. The song has a lot going on in it. Eliza Hamilton has the biggest part as she lived for 50 years after Hamilton’s death. Eliza wants to preserve his legacy and has lots of time, contrasted with Alexander running out of time. Eliza raised money for the Washington Monument, told the stories of American Revolutionary War veterans, and founded the first private orphanage, Graham Windham, in New York City.

If you think about it, the Hamilton broadway play has served an important part in telling the stories. So many more people know history that would be lost without the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda. He told the stories! How about you? Are you telling the stories? If not, who tells your stories?


In The Zoom Where It All Happens

Posted in Citizen Leader, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Hamilton, Leadership, Leading Collectively, NASBE by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 20, 2020

We kicked off our National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Annual Conference week today with our New Member Orientation. This is usually a two day institute that we converted to a half day virtual event. It was awesome with lots of great new state board of education members in attendance. I continue to be amazed at the great learning and relationship building that can happen #learningtogetherapart virtually. As I do many times with events like this, I will attempt to do a blog reflection each day on my learning. As we were getting started today, NASBE’s CEO, Robert Hull, made a play on words from the musical Hamilton and said, “In the Zoom where it all happens.” Of course this was in reference to Aaron Burr’s desire to be in the room “where it all happens.” If we want agency we must be in the room.

This really got me thinking how our ability to expand the number of people we can have have in the [Zoom] room. It is one of the silver linings from what we have learned and our adjustments caused by the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. On Day 222 of the Pandemic we know ways to connect virtual and still have deep conversations and the ability to form relationships. This really gives us even a better way to Lead Collectively, which was one of the topics of our New Member Orientation. We must remember that our voice matters.


Also, when we add our voice to the collective, there is power in our collective voice.


We still have a voice when we become part of a group, organization, or board, but it can become even more influential as part of the collective.


By leading collectively we can make a policy ecosystem that is best for all.


As citizen leaders we take stock of the world around us and help to shape the world for those we care about. A citizen leader is an active participant in her world – not a passive observer. We take on the role of citizen leader because we care deeply about the people and places that stand to benefit by our actions. To be an effective citizen leader we must determine who we are and what we stand for.