Speaking Truth

Speaking Truth: Watershed Moments in Global Leadership

Speaking Truth is available to educators at no cost.

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A Middle and High School Curriculum for Teachers

A 2012 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that a third of all adults under 30 have no religious affiliation. As young people are bombarded by 24/7 media and the siren song of materialism, and as social disengagement is on the rise, what is filling this gap? What is providing the compass and courage that the world needs in its future leaders?

Many young people are still searching, with open hearts and minds, for grounding and inspiration. They want to make a positive difference in their world, and they are capable of viewing the world in a new and different way from generations past. Using examples from the past and present, Speaking Truth seeks to help young people fill that gap, find grounding and courage that crosses traditional boundaries, and step into their roles as future leaders for peace.

Speaking Truth: Watershed Moments in Global Leadership

Many lessons have been taught about the historical facts surrounding the lives of great leaders. But one question often remains unanswered: How did they do it? As real people facing discouragement, frustration, and even physical danger, what has allowed them to continue standing up for what they believe in? The answer lies in their deep spirituality and the knowledge that they are part of something beyond themselves. Speaking Truth aims to help young people connect to that knowledge of a larger whole and a greater good so that they, too, can be equipped to take a stand and make a difference.

Speaking Truth has the following goals:
Highlight models of courageous leadership for peace and justice
Celebrate the diversity of these various role models
Develop and deepen understanding of how faith and spirituality can inform social and political action for peace
Teach concrete skills for young leaders who wish to promote peace

Speaking Truth is a complete package for teachers including:
Lesson plans addressing standards from the Common Core
Audio-visual components
Resource lists for further research and reading
Online teachers’ discussion forum for exchanging ideas and experiences

Each module focuses on the life and work of one great agent of change, delving into that person’s influences, motivations, choices, and the role of faith in their lives. The first module features civil rights leader, and now U.S. Congressman, John Lewis. Additional modules will center on diverse leaders, both contemporary and historical, from various countries and faith traditions around the world.

Through this curriculum, FFC aims to hold up examples and teach about the ways in which young people have and continue to stand up against injustice, work for peace, and speak truth. The open hearts and minds of youth recognize that truth has no boundaries, and Speaking Truth provides a way to nurture young people in their quest to build a better world.

The Speaking Truth curriculum is now available, at no cost.

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Base Module: Speaking Truth

The Base Module provides an introduction and curriculum overview, and a set of common lessons designed to be used alongside each of the individual modules. Speaking Truth: Watershed Moments in Global Leadership, is a curriculum that provides students and teachers with the opportunity to explore what motivates a person to act on his/her beliefs, when that action is fraught with challenges. Each Speaking Truth module explores the influences, motivations, choices and moral foundations of global change agents as inspirations for activism. Over 1300 proposals were submitted to the National Council for the Social Studies for the 2014 annual conference. Speaking Truth was selected as a workshop option for participants.

Speaking Truth: The Impact of World Religions on Leadership for Social Change

A Curriculum for Middle and High School Teachers that seeks to teach world religions in a dynamic way – by linking it to current global change. It does this by focusing on leaders who have been influenced by various world faiths.The FFC curriculum modules follow a standard format – focusing on three factors common to such 
visionary leaders for change in our world. The role models that initially inspired each of these visionary leaders to see the need for special social changes; The “watershed moments” in the lives of these visionary leaders that eventually triggered their efforts to seek social change; The “faith perspective” of these visionary leaders that gave them the strength to persist seeking transformative social change against all odds.

Transformational Leadership Model: Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was a transformational leader who inspired millions. Gandhi was born into the merchant caste in India in 1869. He was a very shy child and found it difficult to speak to his teachers and classmates. Following Indian tradition, Gandhi had an arranged marriage when he was 13 years old. At age 18, Gandhi was labeled an outcast by local elders when he left to study law in England.When he was 24, Gandhi began his legal practice in South Africa. Gandhi witnessed prejudice against Indians and Africans while working in South Africa. In 1900, while fighting with the British inthe Boer War, Gandhi began to see the futility of using violence to affect social change.

Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and became a leader of the Indian National Congress, which advocated independence from the British. In the 1920s, Gandhi began fighting colonial rule by creating a movement of non-violent non-cooperation with the British. Gandhi included Indians of all faiths in his non-violent protests. “I have not been able to see any difference between the Sermon on the Mount and Bhagavad Gita… It’s the ‘Law of Love’ – the law of abandon as I would call it – in a scientific manner.”



Module 1: The Honorable John Lewis, United States House of Representatives

Module 1 focuses on the example of Congressman John Lewis, who began fighting for equality as a young man during the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and continues the struggle today.

This module is accompanied by a 20-minute documentary film that follows four young people as they participate in a pilgrimage to historic civil rights sites in Alabama with Congressman Lewis. We see the relationships that these students build across different faiths and backgrounds, and how their leadership skills for peace are broadened and deepened through the experience.

The Speaking Truth film was made by Melissa Mergner, a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and one of FFC’s first Youth Leadership Grant awardees, who was awarded a fellowship for the project.



Module 2: Music for Social Justice

Music has often been able to achieve social change. In this module, we will explore four activists whose music transformed the society around them. Through music, Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim created human engagement between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East.

Hamada Ben Amor inspired the overthrow of a major dictator in his country, Tunisia, with powerful lyrics about corruption. Joan Baez and Pete Seeger protested what they viewed as unjust government policies in the United States with their songs. Each was in-spired in part, and in their own way, by their faith backgrounds: Islam, Judaism, Quakerism, and spiritualism.


Module 3: Malala Yousafzai, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, and the Girls Education

Malala Yousafzai was born in the Swat Valley of Pakistan and lived in the city of Mingora until she was 15 years old, when her life dramatically changed. Malala wrote of the beauty of the valley and of her people: “…the high snow-topped mountains, green waving felds and fresh blue rivers – and my heart smiles when it looks at the people of Swat.”

The Swat Valley is known for its unique place in Pakistan’s history – as it was once separate from the country – and because it was a destination for tourists. In 1997, the Taliban came to Swat with their interpretation of Shariat Ya Shahadat, Sharia law or Martyrdom. With them, they brought not just sweeping changes for the lives of the Malala and her community, but also years of violence.



Module 4: Ruth W. Messinger,  Former President, American Jewish World Service

Ruth W. Messinger is the former president and executive director of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development organization providing support to more than 200 grassroots social change projects in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

“Our mission statement says that we have a dual mission. The first part is the eradication of poverty, disease, and hunger, and the second is to educate the Jewish community about global social responsibility. Too often Jews are, or seem to be, focused on the Jewish community, and not on others in need…There were many Jewish organizations doing humanitarian or poverty work, but that was mostly within Jewish communities. There weren’t that many that had expanded the circle of obligation to the rest of the world.”



Module 5: Mario Gonzalez, Legal Warrior for Native American Rights

Mario Gonzalez has served as counsel to the Oglala Sioux Tribe and has worked tirelessly on Indian legal issues for decades. He has been instrumental in advocating for the Oglala Sioux (Lakota)people and their claim to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

In 1995, Mario Gonzalez was named the first recipient of the Distinguished Aboriginal Lawyer Achievement Award, given by the Native Law Centre of Canada, University of Saskatchewan at Saskatoon. This is an international award given to leading attorneys around the world that support aboriginal rights. A centerpiece of his life has been his fight to protect and reclaim the Black Hills – the sacred heart of the life of the Sioux (Lakota) nation. That story is preserved in a book entitled The Politics of Hallowed Ground.



Module 6: Thich Nhat Hanh – Teacher, writer and peace activist

The teacher, writer and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh was born in 1926 in Thura Thien, Central Vietnam. Thich Nhat Hanh, entered the Zen monastery of Tu Hieu in Vietnam at the age of sixteen. He became a Buddhist monk in 1949 while attending the Baó Quoc Buddhist Institute.

Soon after his ordination he decided to leave his monastery in order to support those touched by the Background Vietnam Conflict. “The essence of nonviolence is love. Out of love and the willingness to act selflessly, strategies, tactics, and techniques for a nonviolent struggle arise naturally… Nonviolent action, born of the awareness of suffering and nurtured by love, is the most effective way to confront adversity.”



Module 7: Muhammad Yunus

Dr. Muhammad Yunus was born in Chittagong, Bangladesh, in 1940. Yunus is an advocate for social entrepreneurship, a business approach to find solutions to social, cultural, or environmental problems. Throughout his life, he has been a part of programs seeking to diminish poverty in Bangladesh, especially through microlending.

Yunus established the Grameen Bank, which focuses on giving small, daily loans to rural business women. The goal of microlending is to provide low-interest loans that relieve the poor from the cycle of debt. Grameen started with various branches in Bangladesh. For each of Grameen’s branches, the bank manager would inform the community about Grameen and the idea of microlending through “projection meetings.” The project was so successful that, in 1985, Yunus spread the concept internationally, after successfully pitching his idea to Hillary and Bill Clinton.



Module 8: Faith & Environmental Justice – Berta Cáceres, Chico Mendes, Wangari Maathai

This module explores how organizations and individuals can contribute to environmental justice. The first part will explain the lives of three activists who faced danger to stand up for their communities and local environments. The second part explores organizations and government led projects that aim to level the environmental playing field between developed and developing countries.

The third part will Background explore the nature of the planet. Finally, the module will conclude with a discussion of the explored themes and will provide suggestions for a final class project. The effort to make nature’s beauty and resources equally available to all is embodied in the concept of environmental justice.


Additional modules will be posted here as they become available.

Learn more about Speaking Truth: Watershed Moments in Global Leadership

The Speaking Truth curriculum is now available, at no cost.

Download Now