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Danny Glover points to team concept
as metaphor for community
(April 19, 1999)

hen it came to finding the right metaphor for community building actor-activist Danny Glover knew the perfect one to use at the University of Connecticut.

"Like you, I was a member of the 'faithful minority' who knew the Huskies would beat the other team. You know, the one from North Carolina," Glover told an audience of several hundred at Jorgensen Auditorium Wednesday night.

"An Evening with Danny Glover," part of the Husky Renaissance program for building community, featured the 51-year-old Glover in an element far different than the one most people are used to seeing him in. Instead of being paired with a sidekick like Mel Gibson, Glover faced the audience alone, armed only with a message of transcendence and hope.

Glover praised UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun for having the "humility and the grace to acknowledge the shoulders upon which this great team stands." Those shoulders, Glover said, belong to such players as Ray Allen, Donyell Marshall, Scotty Burrell and Cliff Robinson. Calhoun's comments were moving to Glover because they "acknowledge that this recent victory was part of a larger collective story."

Continuing the team metaphor, Glover said that a good coach understands how important it is for the individuals who make up a team feel "their unique individual contributions are valued and respected."

"Within the larger context ... each individual has to feel, in fact, has to know that they matter," Glover said. "Very often, it's this certainty that sustains them when there are no cameras and no autograph-seekers and the crowds have all gone home."

In the context of community, continued Glover, the sense that each individual matters is just as important. "Knowing that your voice matters; knowing that your vision matters; knowing with absolute certainty that your particular story is a unique contribution to the whole," Glover said. "That recognition is an important one because it means that the community that you are a part of is a caring one."

Glover is renowned for his performances in films such as "Places in the Heart," "The Color Purple," the "Lethal Weapon" series, and most recently, "Beloved." Glover's on-screen work has earned him two NAACP Image Awards, three Cable ACE Awards, and the Phoenix Award. He has been inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

Off-screen, Glover has gained a reputation as a powerful advocate for literacy, human rights and community development. As an activist, he has received awards for his work on a variety of social issues including the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He was recently named the first goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Development Programme. Glover said he is excited about the appointment because it allows him to be "an active participant in an emerging global dialogue about the environment ... ways to end hunger and homelessness ... global warming ... about emerging technology."

Glover urged the audience to address these important issues by embracing the complexities of human existence and engaging in dialogue with those different from themselves. "Our stories, our voices and our vision are the 'vertical strands' creating the pattern for a new, beautiful rug," he said. "We accept the challenge with confidence because, after all, we are members of the 'faithful minority' who, in spite of the odds, recently proved all the pundits and naysayers wrong," Glover said in closing. "Taking on a challenge is what we do best!"

Gary Frank