You know those cliché, "You can do it, kid!" youth PSAs? He doesn't do those.
Growing up in a small East Texas town, I felt shrouded from an expanse of the pop culture landscape, and premium smut like MTV was pretty hard to come by.
But on a family trip in the early '90s, my cousin offered me a moment of rebellion. She flipped on MTV, and there was the Rollins Band.
On stage, Henry Rollins looked like Bruce Banner post-metamorphosis, barefoot and shirtless but screaming as if he were channeling that Hulk-smash rage toward the status quo.
I was floored. And uplifted. All at once.
Rollins also once belted anti-authoritarian anthems as frontman for legendary punk band Black Flag. The context of punk is always changing, but the unshakeable core of punk music and art is about working-class struggles and the fight against oppression — something a lot of people can identify with today, given our unprecedented levels of inequality. And while Rollins would later forsake music, the noble call of punk continues to guide his work as a writer, philosopher, and media maker.
Today, Rollins is still challenging young people to think beyond convention and to believe they can shape the world around them. He's just doing it a little more ... quietly. But I still hear him loud and clear.
The world is not a fair place. But you already know that.
Rollins isn't interested in doling out weightless encouragement. Life is hard and unequal. It's important for young people to be aware of that...
...but not be discouraged by it.
Because success, fulfillment, greatness, and heroism can't be bought.
And in that pursuit, one of the biggest pitfalls we have to navigate is succumbing to anything but the strength of our inner goodness.
We can all be leaders. We have to all be leaders. Our worth as a species now more than ever kind of demands that.
Being a true leader, being the vanguard of positive change, is not beyond any of us. We can all do it in our own ways. But we have to be driven by something truly worthy.
So what's driving you?