Joe Martin Cantrell

Lesson 5: The Changer – Being an Advocate for Change


To recognize that we possess the ability and responsibility to influence and provide support to the things that empower change.


In this activity, you will make a pledge and a plan for making a difference.

The Changer

This role is referred to as the “magician” in the traditional hero’s journey.  It’s a place of self-awareness.  This is the stage where you realize you possess the strength and wisdom necessary to bring about change.  These are qualities you had all along, but the act of the journey reveals them to you.  This is the place of realization and revelation.

When Duty Calls

“A lot of Vietnam Vets have been living on the streets or up in the hills for many years.  I think it is incumbent on those of us . . . that they in a way, become my tribe.  It is incumbent on use to help each other. That is part of what groups do . . . Also, (they) advocate for certain social programs.”

Joe Cantrell

One of the realizations revealed to Joe during his lifetime was the notion that when things are unjust, it’s our civic duty, as individuals and as members of society to work towards change.  For example, when you see a need -- like Joe did concerning veterans dealing individually with PSTD -- you realize it’s time to muster your strength and become an advocate for supporting those in need.  When you help others, you become part of a greater entity – and gain strength as a partner in advocacy.

There are some keys elements for being an advocate.  Look at the list below and then think of ways you could take on each role of advocacy for others.

1.  An advocate investigates how a system works and makes a plan for working within that system.  For example, finding services designed specifically for PSTD might require pounding the pavement or honing up on technology skills.  Making phone calls, knocking on doors, or searching using a means such as the Internet will help familiarize you with members of a particular service community (like places that provide PSTD-related treatment).

2.  An advocate is aware that developing a good relationship is a key element to a positive outcome.

3.  Advocacy can be both simple and complex.  No matter how little or how big the need, know you are doing the right thing by helping.

Become an Advocate!

Using the elements listed above, do the following.

1.  Make a Plan.  Identify what you want to accomplish through advocacy, then outline how you will approach the task.  As example, if you wish to lobby for governmental change, will you write a letter to an elected official or pay a visit to an official office?  To help someone in need, will you make a phone call to gather useful information to educate that person?  Or could you spend an afternoon as a volunteer driving someone to and from an appointment?  Come up with ways you can be of service to someone needing help.

2.  Network to develop good working relationships.  Identify and create a list of key individuals you will use as point-of-contacts.  For instance, if you need to find information about services provided at a local organization, call or drop by and get to know someone there.  Establish a specific contact name/number for someone from that organization.  Nurture that relationship so you can call on that person anytime you have a question or need help.

3.  Set a goal for how often you plan to advocate for others.  Then get to work so you can reach that goal.

Read how Joe Cantrell advocated for his peers, veterans from the Vietnam War, by providing them with a “place to be,” a photo exhibit depicting their personal history with the war, sharing the stories that had been previously remained untold:

“The Telling Project . . . brought people out that have never come out before . . . halfway through the evening, somebody told me to go to the back of the room.  Some of my sad PSTD pictures were back there.  I went back and all you could hear were people crying.  Because we (realized) it was so important, (we) manned the place and kept it open on days when the schedule said it would be closed.”