Soulful Leadership on Wall Street?

Now in its third week, the Occupy Wall Street movement gains momentum by the day. Last week, over 700 airline pilots marched with the protestors, Marines and soldiers joined in over the weekend, and thousands of union workers joined the protestors on Wall Street yesterday. Meanwhile, sister movements are cropping up across the country.

Occupy Wall Street Protest

Thousands take to the streets in New York City

While the group has been criticized for its lack of focus and “vague demands,” its message has proven to be galvanizing. People who have lost jobs and homes, while bankers have taken bonuses after taxpayer bailouts, understand the message instantly. Workers who have lost their health care, unemployed college graduates saddled with crippling loans, and parents who can barely keep a roof over their children’s heads, are all ready to express their anger toward CEOs who lay off thousands of workers and then receive bonuses as their reward.

While it is not yet clear what the participants will be able to accomplish, they deserve our attention. Remarkable for 1) its youthful base, 2) its ability to attract participants across the political spectrum, 3) the power of its message (“We are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%”), 4) its commitment to building consensus in its daily meetings, and 5) its use of non-violent tactics, this movement commands respect.

Protestors are tired of bankers and corporations getting off scot-free while ordinary people pay the price. Protestors object to many actions of Wall Street in the past few years, such as the one exposed 15 months ago in the Time article, “How Goldman Trashed a Town.” In this case, as in many others, no aspect of the transaction was illegal (although a strong case could be made that many aspects of the transaction were unethical), so financiers were not held accountable for their actions, and ordinary towns and citizens paid.

Likening themselves to the “Arab spring” protestors, Occupy Wall Street organizers believe in the power of consistent, sustained, nonviolent presence. And they just may be right. They may be able to accomplish, outside the political system, what no one inside the political system has been able to accomplish. They may be the ones who can call our nation back to its soul in the midst of Wall Street greed and manipulation.

They are worth watching.

14 Responses to “Soulful Leadership on Wall Street?”


  1. 1 Meck Groot October 6, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    I wonder, Margaret, why “watching” and not “joining”? Whose movement is this?

  2. 2 Marsha Kershaw October 6, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    It is about time we have American People who will stand up for our way of life that is slipping a way at a rapid speed. If I could find a group to join in my area….I WILL BE THERE. I can not advocate change if I am not going to help make that change…

  3. 3 executivesoulblog October 7, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Yes, Meck and Marsha, you are so right. I do think that we need to join in, and I neglected to say that. Thank you.

  4. 4 Rev. Sarah Hubbell October 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

    In the 1890s to 1910, there was a movement in the United States. particularly among poor farmers in the South, where the farmers realized that their crop prices were plummeting due to greed by people who had acquired too much of the market share and were manipulating the poor. For a very brief time, instead of trying to split the country apart and divide us by race and class, poor farmers and sharecroppers, white and black, united for change. Could this be the time to fulfill that dream of working together, no matter who we are, for meaningful change? We need the change and need to work for it.

  5. 5 executivesoulblog October 7, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Sarah, thank you for this historical example. It is an inspiration for today — we desperately need this kind of commitment to working together now.

  6. 6 Debra Cullen October 7, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Thank you all for showing the world there are true Americans still left in this country. Here’s to the people. We are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore. There are great people heading up this movement, We vote congress out. I’ll be there next week with some friends. One by one we can and will make a change. President Obama you have the people. You have been fighting for change and we are here to help. God bless America. Thank you for this great country we have the honor to be a part of.the march to put America back to work. Listen up wall street.

  7. 7 Mary Chenaille October 8, 2011 at 2:00 am

    I was at Occupy Tampa yesterday. We ate finding our voices.

  8. 8 executivesoulblog October 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Debra and Mary, thanks for pointing out that this is happening everywhere, and that the people are finding their voices. Onward!

  9. 9 Donna Moore October 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for this, Margaret! My kids are doing what they can in FL and OR. It does spread!

  10. 10 executivesoulblog October 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Glad your kids are working on this in FL and OR, too, Donna. It’s exciting to see it spreading!

  11. 11 Laura Vance October 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks for this, Margaret. You have eloquently and succinctly described the motivation behind this movement.

  12. 13 Monica Manning October 11, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for a thoughtful commentary, Margaret. You were one of the first sources of info I had about Occupy Wall Street. You were covering them when the main stream press wasn’t. I’m not surprised by your attention to them, but I am appreciative. Monica

  13. 14 executivesoulblog October 19, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Thank you, Monica. I’m glad that I could provide information for you when you weren’t receiving it elsewhere. Thanks for letting me know.


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