The Flint Water Crisis and the Power of Truth

This post originally appeared on Burness.

Every year, a handful of Burnessers head to Gainesville, Florida, for frank, a gathering of people who use strategic communications to drive social change. 

Burness’ connections to frank run deep. The gathering was named in homage to Andy Burness’ mentor Frank Karel. Burness manages the Karel Fellowship, a summer program for undergraduate students who want to work in the field of public interest communications. Burness leadership advises different elements of the frank program, and I served as the marketing and outreach director for the gathering during its inception while I was an undergrad at University of Florida.

So, we are big frank fans. We’ve seen it grow in just three years from a humble convening of dozens of people interested in social good to a full-fledged “tribe” that draws participants from far and wide and speakers that may fly under the radar, but are changing the world in meaningful and strategic ways.

I’ve had many “frank moments” over the years, but none has been as memorable as hearing investigative journalist Curt Guyette tell how he broke the story of the Flint water crisis. If you haven’t heard of Curt yet, he’s basically the Erin Brockovich of our time. Through his reporting, he likely has saved thousands of lives.

At frank, he spoke of the avoidable, man-made disaster in Flint, Michigan, in which the government, which is supposed to keep its citizens safe, knowingly poisoned children—all, in his words, “to save a few million bucks.”  

I don’t want to give details of his talk away because I highly encourage you to watch all 20 minutes of it below, but here’s one of his quotes that touched me most:

“We’ve heard a lot of talk about the power of storytelling. But there’s another power. It’s the power of investigating and unearthing the truth. The truth is a very powerful thing when it’s unleashed. And that is what happened in Flint. Residents refused to believe the lie that their water was safe.”   

To understand just how deep this disaster goes, check out his talk for yourself, and head to the frank digest to learn more about the other amazing folks we met and heard at the gathering. 

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Posted: March 11, 2016