Thousands of messages appear every second, and nearly every one of them disappears just as quickly. Messaging is an art, and creating a truly compelling, sticky and actionable message is both rare and extremely powerful. Yesterday, a powerful messenger delivered an equally powerful message.
For those that don’t know the story, in 2004, Connie Culp, a 40 year old waitress from Ohio, was shot in the face at point blank range with a shotgun, by her husband. After life-saving surgery, all that was left of her face were her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin. Connie couldn’t eat solid foods, smell or smile.
A face is something that we all take for granted – “Our faces are more than visages to be adorned or veiled. They are essential to our communication with the world … No other aspect of our anatomy is capable of even a fraction of the complexity of motion and emotion allowed by the muscles and tissues of the face,” Dr. Maria Siemionow, director of plastic-surgery research at the clinic, wrote in her book Transplanting a Face: Notes on a Life in Medicine.
Connie was left without one due to no fault of her own. Think about that for a minute. Think about how much you express every day through your face, and then think about every single one of those thousands of signals we all send every day being….gone.
Connie was the recipient of the first facial transplant in the United States, and bravely faced cameras for the first time yesterday. It was no less than amazing. The messages she could have sent, and would have been completely justified in sending, were endless.
Connie could have talked about the raw deal she was handed. She could have talked about her circumstances, and how hard life has been since the tragedy occurred. She could have talked about the fact that her husband was only given seven years in prison for doing this to her. She could have talked about how the judicial system failed her. She could have talked about the controversy relating to face transplants and the obstacles she faced. She could have talked about….anything yesterday, and that would be her right.
But Connie gets it — she realized that she had an opportunity to deliver a powerful message, one powerful message, and she did it!
Watch the clip carefully — to Connie, it wasn’t about Connie. It was a thank you to the donor and the heroic surgeons who have given her this gift. Then it was about all of us.
“Don’t judge people who don’t look the same way you do, because you never know, one day it may all be taken away.” Unbelievably powerful.
Connie gets it — it wasn’t about her — it was about her audience, all of us.
Her comments, including this story about the young child who thought she was a monster, make you think, and for at least a second, put yourself in her position.
Her message was clear, concise and compelling — don’t judge. She did not cloud it, bury it, or complicate it, and it was very clearly a call to action.
I was deeply moved watching this press conference yesterday, and spoke to a number of folks who were as deeply moved, including a dear friend whose young daughters cried after watching it, and volunteered, on their own, that they would never tease anyone or stare at someone who looked different, ever.
My guess is that there are thousands of children and adults across the country (hopefully millions!) who felt the same way, and will think before staring or commenting long after today passes. A very effective message indeed.