(#59 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
There are many faces in the struggle for equality here in Texas. But perhaps few are as visible and have fought as hard as Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas.
I worked for Chuck for a few months after I retired from my corporate job in July 2014. I had been focusing on community organizing here in Dallas, believing that a fulfilling vocation would present itself to me. And sure enough, a shot with EQTX materialized. And although I ended up not being what the organization needed at the time to advance its communications strategy, the lessons I learned from Chuck certainly were what I needed to inspire my work.
Chuck showed me what an organizational leader does and how they behave. He immerses himself in the causes he has committed his life to. Working with lean staff resources and juggling administrative tasks, Chuck somehow stayed focused on the work that needed to be done here in Texas–strategizing, thinking ahead, planning counter-strategies, and motivating people to join the cause.
He showed me how important it was to always be ready to speak at the drop of a hat on the things an organization advocates and to be prepared at a moment’s notice to go where you are needed. I never saw him unprepared or at a loss for words. And he exhibited a gracefulness and accessibility that was inspiring. I never saw him lose his cool or treat anyone–not even someone giving him a hard time or someone arguing a point of view completely opposite his–in a condescending manner or flippantly.
And you can’t fake that. You can’t do those things without believing in what you do.
Upon my departure, he provided me a wealth of inspiration, telling me, among other things, he could understand why I was the board chair of Hope for Peace & Justice and that whatever I did, I was still needed in the movement. So–add encourager to his list. Chuck’s example and his confidence in me are in great measure what convinced me to stretch beyond work in the communications field, informing the work I do today within this community and leading me to commit my life’s vocation to the greater movement for the benefit of all.
I am grateful for the good fortune to cross the paths of many leaders across our country, particularly here in Texas–not the least of which is Chuck Smith. Thank you Chuck for your strong leadership, how you continue to change the landscape of equality here in Texas, and how you have inspired me forward.