Lorenzo spent his whole life in foster care. “My parents did not abandon me, but they sought to give me something they could not afford.” During his time in school, he started cleaning classrooms and toilets for small pay. He always took a dutiful approach to tasks given that his childhood was filled with learning experiences and growth.
“I’m a provider and custodian of the country – I am prepared to clean it, fix it and prepare it for the next day.”
I’m a learner in the process of building the country. Every child must be able to say they live in the best country on earth. That is our job as custodians to ensure that.
Everything starts with sound. When we are born, the sound indicates life and is celebrated. Sound is an indication that there is vitality and life. Society has muted voices and sounds, insisting on quietness. “They ask you to show up but not to speak.” On a journey Lorenzo took with an older woman in a small town, he shares her thoughts, where she said, “Politicians want our votes, but they don’t want our voices”. She understood participation with voice and participation without. This journey was but one of the journeys Lorenzo has taken as part of his goals to drive across the country and engage in conversation with everyday people. “People are startled but they have never declined.” Lorenzo had no pen or paper but just focused on conversation and acknowledging people’s humanity – listening.
He has visited 43 towns and spoken to 150 people, one on one. He asked them about their dreams, aspirations, and disappointments. “When we hear no sound, we have to assume death has replaced it. The more our society expands, the more muted we become, the more lifeless and less vital we become.”
Lorenzo spoke of the importance of public conversations, one on one, in the community. “We need to talk about the constitution, what it means and its failures. There is so much we can fix if we allow people to speak. We don’t have patience.” The conversations we have about rebuilding and creating a better society need to be organic, authentic and owned by people. “Every picture I post, people are allowed to share it; the conversation is not mine.”
“Silence is a choice you make. The conversation is a right you exercise. Silence and conversations are collaborators in building the country. They are like light and dark.” These are co-values in building the societies we want to live in. Lorenzo has created a platform for people to have a conversation with the constitution, which in his opinion is currently misplaced and not used enough. “We don’t even know the preamble to the constitution- which is short and valuable. In the preamble, there are 6 words that stand out to Lorenzo: respect, inclusivity, safety, equity, justice and prosperity. A big part of each of these words or values is respect- seeing the humanity in each other and acknowledging that. We have become classists and don’t see who we deem to be lower class than us.
“We never see the bill of rights poster anywhere. It’s not in a taxi rank or public space. We have chosen not to actualize these documents.”
The session concluded with a realisation that we are struggling to make sense of the time we are in. “We have to build alternative narratives that defy this downward pull that currently drives everything we do in this country.”