Journal Entry 

 Be the Change You Want to See 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

Before getting started with today’s article, let me introduce you to a new concept: TL;DR. It stands for “too long, did not read.” I learned that term by studying more about cryptocurrency and technology developments. I thought it would good to include a TL:DR in our newsletters, for people who do not have much access to computers.

Title: Be the Change You Want to See

Message: Learn from both experienced leaders and scholars to overcome challenges and prepare for success.

Key Insight: Professor Nicholas Murray Butler highlighted three groups in society: those who make things happen, those who watch, and those who don’t know what’s happening. Everyone is born into the third group, but education and response to the environment determine our rise to the first or second group.

Action: To change prison culture, focus on self-discipline and personal transformation rather than institutional limitations.

Initiative: Our nonprofit is advancing the First Step Act to increase opportunities for home confinement and ensure access to Earned Time Credits for everyone in federal prison.

Community Involvement: Show your commitment by participating in our programs and preparing for success. 

Today’s Question: How are you serving your community?


While serving 26 years in prison, I used to read about people who taught lessons on how to overcome challenges. Some people—like Nelson Mandela or Viktor Frankl—advanced their lives and contributed to society while they endured enormous and incomprehensible challenges. Other leaders led scholarly lives, teaching lessons on leadership that they read about from others; people like Stephen Covey or Robert Maxwell fall into this category.

Both groups taught me many lessons. For that reason, I’m confident that people with experience and theoretical knowledge can also lead those in our community.

For example, scholars and university professors taught me a great deal about overcoming tough times. One person, Professor Nicholas Murray Butler, served as the president of Columbia University. In March 1931, he delivered a speech discussing three population segments. The information in quotation marks below comes from his address to an audience at Columbia University:

“The vast population of this earth, and indeed nations themselves, may readily be divided into three groups as follows:

There are the few who make things happen,

The many more who watch things happen, and,

The overwhelming majority who do not have any notion of what happens.

Every human being is born into the third and largest group. Each person can only count on himself, how he responds to his environment, and his education to determine whether he shall rise to the second or even the first group.”

Until the day of my arrest, I didn’t know what was going on in the world or how my daily decisions put me on the pathway to success or cycles of failure. Leaders taught me how to focus on preparing for success.

To change the culture of any prison, we’ve got to work toward changing how we define ourselves. Sometimes, when we live in an institution, it’s easy to allow the institution’s rules to define us. Or, we make excuses for what we don’t do because of what the institution does or does not do. Leaders taught me that to overcome struggle, we must always exercise discipline. We may not be able to change an institution or a bureaucracy, but we can always work to change ourselves.

Our team will continue working to advance the First Step Act. We’re striving to help all stakeholders understand why it’s important to open more opportunities that will allow people to transition to home confinement. We also want leaders to understand why every person in federal prison should have access to Earned Time Credits.

We need help from people in our community. We need to show that people follow the examples we offer through our courses. Instead of complaining about what the institution is not doing or what the system is not doing, we need to show that people are working to prepare for success.

Be the change that you want to see.

Today’s Question:

  • How are you serving your community?

Steps to Build Your Profile:

1. Send an invite to [email protected]

2. Once accepted, send an email to the interns with the following information:

   – Your name

   – Your number

   – Your location

   – Your sentence length

3. Respond to any questions presented in the newsletter by sending your answers to the email above.

By taking these steps, you can start memorializing your journey and demonstrating your commitment to a better future.

Keep striving for greatness. Your efforts today will pave the way for your success tomorrow.

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