What is leadership to me?

By Jordan Pluim

    • Being a leader to me means knowing who you are.
    • You start with being a leader of your own self and teaching people what you know.
    • And if you see someone who is not doing the right thing you step up to the plate and stop it. You help others in a respectful and kind way without hurting them or their feelings.
    • Leaders can make mistakes, it is ok. You learn from your mistakes! Sometimes it can be hard to be a leader, because sometimes you do not want to do all of the work and want to rest.
    • You have to learn how to be a leader and ask people and learn from other people about how to be a leader. You don’t want to follow someone else’s steps, you should be your own leader!
    • Leaders don’t just get to do whatever they want. They have to be respectful and supportive and listen to other people all of the time.
    • How have I learned to be a leader? By listening to myself, my thoughts and hopes and dreams and also by listening to everyone else.
    • Leaders have to ask lots of questions. Leaders don’t just lead, they learn all of the time from other people and learn how to support them in ways that they see fit.

Song of Myself

By Ian Cardamone

I celebrate myself, and sing myself.

O early morning mist,

Billowing over the mountaintops

Take me back to the small coastal town.

When life was nothing more than imagination

When creativity ran wild and dreams leapt off dunes yelling “geronimo!”

O young surf-boarder, skateboarder, trampoline jumper,

Revitalize in me a free spirit.

O racing cars,

Rushing near the bay to unknown destinations

Take me back to the small apartment near the highway

Where my heart beat faster than the zooming machines.

Grab my hand and let me know that everything will be alright.

O becoming sketcher, filmmaker, worrier,

Remind me how to live passionately.

O bright lights,

Blinding me from what is right in front of me

Take me forward to a vibrant future

Where I am free from all restrictions and belong.

Allow me three breaths

As deep as the dark blue ocean

As calming as the embrace of a loved one.

As fulfilling as the creation of art,

O actor, dancer, music maker,

Become a man and sing of me.


A junior in High School, Ian recounts pivotal  moments throughout his life in the poem*. It reminds him to stay true to himself, even in the face of personal hardships and change. He encourages others to use art as a tool of self reflection as well because Ian has found it to be a useful way of “knowing oneself outside the distress of oppression”. His  participation with Be Present began in 2006 when he was 3 and continues to this day.







*Inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name.


I am a Wealthy, White, Jewish Man, So Why Do I Have This Compulsion to Lead?

Over my life a characteristic feature has been that I remain in groups where I have a position of leadership and that I do not remain in groups in which I am a follower. It’s about control, of course, and it’s a characteristic I have been aware of since college, but only recently have I gotten insight into what drives me to behave this way.

In my career as an academic physician, researcher, and administrator, I was often in collaboration with others, but that collaboration included both explicit and unspoken hierarchies of power (for example, seniority of authorship or academic position). For the past decade as a member of Be Present’s Board I have worked in a very different collaborative model, one in which decisions are made collectively and by consensus and where deciding to just “go along” with the group is not part of the true process. It is still a struggle for me to be fully present in collaboration unless I am also present with my awareness that in such settings I have strong emotional reactions that can drive me to controlling or manipulative behavior. If those emotions are suppressed or not acknowledged, anger will accumulate and emerge forcefully and unexpectedly at some future time and often in another context.

So, what is new about a wealthy, white, Jewish man, accustomed to positions of power, acting to push his ideas and thinking on others or feeling entitled to act out his anger on others? It fits so many stereotypes and expectations, and when I can look at myself from outside my emotional distress, then I can see the assumptions of superiority and privilege within me that fuel such stereotypes and that I wish I were rid of. However, emotional distress often will grip me before any lightbulb turns on to reveal that I am about to act out my distress. Why is that distress so quick to come and so strong in its influence? Read more