Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Where's the Good News?

By Eran Wade
Most of what I’ve written about in my experiences in Colombia have been serious and/or contemplative writings. I’d like to emphasize the hope, joy, and laughter the people have in the middle of the conflict/struggle for peace. I guess this is a fitting entry considering that today is my birthday! The leaders of our group gave me a cake, broke open the wine, sang, and had a little party for me this morning.

It’s not just my birthday celebration where I notice the smiles. It was also evident when we visited the displaced families. One of the men said they wanted “seguir adelante,” which means, “to continue forward.” He said they didn’t want handouts, they wanted a new future. My partner—who is the main translator on this trip—took their words to mean the people have hope for the future even though their life as been upset by the conflict in their country.

Another positive story happened the other day when we went to visit a small group of displaced people. About 20 people showed up and there were youth on up to grandmothers. One of the ladies wanted me to take a picture with her 3 year old son. For her, it meant so much that I would do that, because I was honoring and valuing her family. It reminds me of a talk given by John Boyle, a pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, "The Power to Bless." I hope it doesn't come across as a case of myself feeling like a superior person (i.e. white man from the U.S. spends time with poor child in Colombia), because their love and happiness blessed me just as much. The lady told her son to give me a, "besso," a kiss. The whole experience meant so much to me. What really makes me emotional is that I found out later that the boy has Down syndrome. I could tell something was different, but I didn't know exactly what it was. The people have so much love for others even though their life is so difficult. This hope to continue forward is so inspiring.

And finally, one huge example of joy and laughter are the festivities surrounding Carnaval in Barranquilla. Even though the country faces many political and military challenges, there are parties, parades, and gatherings all over this costal city. Everyone takes a break to celebrate life and each other.

As I blog about serious issues in Colombia related to human rights, I hope the story of the people’s optimism can shine through as well.


Anonymous Kat said...

I don't know the specifics of how you post your blog, Eran...but I hope you get to see the comments as I'd like to wish you a happy belated birthday :) Stay safe.

10:20 PM  

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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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