(Ryan’s remarks at the “Lower East Side Community Hero Awards, May 2016)
The Lower East Side has long been a center of struggle. We have been a rallying place for the struggle for justice. And so we have a reputation as fighters. As social justice warriors. People think we are tough. And we are.
But right now, politics in America seems to be seduced by the image of the strong man. America seems enthralled by ‘winners’. So I’d like to suggest, in the time honored way of the LES being contrary, that instead, we honor losers.
If a loser is someone who is more interested in the well-being of many than their own advancement, then I honor the loser.
If a loser is someone who empathizes with those in distress and acts on that empathy, then I honor the loser.
If a loser is someone who values relationships over profits and justice over money, then I honor losers.
If a loser is someone who can’t sit silent while difference is demonized, I honor losers.
In fact, losers are my heroes.
My heroes know that to weave community you have to be humble, tender, open, unsure that you know best. My heroes are gentle, determined, and always trying to figure out how to do better. My heroes are surprised to be heroes.
I’m sure the Lower East Side can claim to have produced many ‘winners’ but I think we are even better at nurturing losers … because being willing to lose for yourself in order to win for your community is the clearest definition of ‘hero’ I know.