How will you use power?

April 30, 2012 Leave a comment

 We often focus on the understanding of power as a process and as a social construct. As Beth Roy says, “power is not something you have; it’s something you do.” I was struck by a contrast as I listened to a brief story this morning about Lyndon B. Johnson.

Biographer Robert Caro described Johnson as having “no power” as Vice President because the Kennedy’s didn’t want him to have any. When President Kennedy was assassinated, he suddenly had all the power conferred by that office.

It’s tempting to see power on this level as somewhat objective, as a thing to be granted or wielded. But Johnson’s power as President was a socially constructed as his powerlessness as VP. (If you have doubts, consider how difficult it has been for our current President to get things done!)

Caro spoke admiringly of Johnson’s swift clarity about what to do with that newfound power–almost as if he had a list he’d been sitting on all the while. Johnson used his power as President to ensure, among other things, passage of the Civil Rights Act.

That got me wondering – what’s on my/our collective list of things we would do “if we had the power to do it?” And, how do we build that power, so we’re not waiting for power to be conferred from outside ourselves?


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