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Why I went to the Lincoln Memorial instead of the Supreme Court last week

Ellie Barhmasel
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May 11, 2022
Why I went to the Lincoln Memorial instead of the Supreme Court last week

We've got some thoughts this week about the importance of ditching ego in order to innovate in technology, business, and government. Or: Here's why our CEO, Ellie, went to the Lincoln Memorial instead of the Supreme Court last week, where she took this photo...

Last week I was in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings as part of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Emerging Leaders program. And so I happened to be there last Monday night when the news reported on the early leak of the Supreme Court opinion that rocked many Americans to their core. (ICYMI, should the leaked opinion be officially announced in its current state next month, it would reverse the long-standing precedent of Roe vs Wade and effectively make abortion illegal in about half of the country and drastically reduce a woman’s ability to access aa wide array of reproductive care. It would also set precedent to revisit countless other Supreme Court decisions protecting basic aspects of privacy and autonomy.)

That night, many took to the streets of the nation’s capital. Droves of citizens, including a number from my own program cohort, made their way down to the Supreme Court building to express the fear, anger, hurt, and confusion so many were feeling. 

In such a place at such a time, it might seem like the only logical reaction. But I was moved to take a different path that night. Instead I revisited a place that has always held a special place in my heart, a source of grounding and inspiration. I went to the Lincoln Memorial to meditate about the long road ahead. 

I went there to put myself in the shoes of the activists and lawmakers who came before, who fought a different, seemingly insurmountable battle. Our nation has a deep, complicated history which features no shortage of complicated figures. But we also have a nation of people who have struggled, experienced setbacks, and claimed victories that no one thought would be possible on the long road that is the fight for freedom and equality. 

The Lincoln Memorial forces one to appreciate the power of imagination and its necessary role as a precursor to innovation. Can you fathom what it must be like to live through the most inhumane experiences, yet having the strength to imagine a different reality - and fighting for it? 

Looking across the Reflecting Pool, I found myself in a position of gratitude, instead of despair. Gratitude for the Americans who’ve come before me, who have found the will to fight for the real promise of America. And my mind went to work imagining the future we need and the paths we might take to secure it. 

It dawned on me that the same forces that hamstring our democratic processes are the same forces that lead to the inequalities we experience in the startup world. And I’m left to conclude that we have an innovation crisis in our political and economic institutions. 

From my time in D.C. last week, we visited Congress, the White House, think tanks on both sides of the political aisle, and the Pentagon. One thing became clear. Many of our elected leaders, whose power shapes the institutions that dictate our freedoms, put their platform and egos over the best interest of this country’s end user - the everyday American. 

They can’t see our systems or society any other way than the mired, murky present. And they are unwilling to truly hear what the people are demanding - economic opportunity, education, climate action, bodily autonomy - a fighting chance to have a thriving future.

Meanwhile, the problems just keep mounting. We need leaders with the capacity to shape a better future, and with the resilience to innovate. That’s usually rooted in one’s ability to truly listen to people, synthesize what you’re hearing, and translate it into action. This is what startup leaders and community activists do every day. And we’ll keep leading, but it would be nice for our leaders and institutions to catch up and make it a little easier and a little more hopeful that the future can be better.  

 We need dreamers, thinkers, and doers in technology, business, and politics to start using our imaginations and putting society's progress first. Like Theodore Herzl said about the creation of Israel, “If you will it, it is no dream”. Like Gandhi and later Barack Obama said, if we “live the change” we want to see, then sooner or later change is what happens. 

Further Faster is an innovation and venture studio founded on the principle of living the change we want to see. We do this in big ways and small ways, in our personal lives and in our professional spheres. We aspire to create enduring change for people through the companies we build, the programs we design, and the community we curate. 

How do big things get done? How do seemingly irreversible circumstances change? You imagine how it could be better and you put your ego on the shelf. You start small. Build a community. Live the change. And change will come.

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One we’re doing our part is to address the funding gap for female founders by educating more people about the drivers of the problem and starting Ready to Raise, an 8-week program for women founders kicking off in June.