What do the 2018 Family Separation Policy and the 1940 London Bombing Blitz have in common?

How do you get a politician known for doubling down in the face of all opposition to change his policy of separating toddlers and infants from their mothers? This policy had separated over 2,300 children from their parents from May to June 2018. But widespread public outrage peaked at the end of June.

What changed? Why the sudden outrage almost 8 weeks in?

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Rewind almost 80 years. Before the U.S. entered WW II, the Nazis bombed London almost daily for eight months, killing more civilians there than British soldiers previously had been killed in actual fighting. All of Europe had fallen to Hitler. England was the only country left standing against the Nazis.

The U.S. had a strong isolationist movement in 1940. This is when the phrase ‘America First’ first reared its head. More people wanted the U.S. to stay out of the war than enter it. Roosevelt was re-elected for a third term on the promise that he would keep the U.S. out of the war. He stated, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again; your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

The message was clear: England was going to have to go it alone against Hitler.

Then just a few months later, the U.S. was at war with Germany and Japan.

What changed?

Simply – a stronger story. And specifically, a story with visuals and audio.

In the case of the horrifying 2018 family separation policy it was this audio and the photos by John Moore, particularly this one below. You can see more of his amazing photos and his story here. If there’s a family separation story in the news it’s accompanied by one of his photos.

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In 1940 it was Edward R. Murrow reporting live from London (once even reporting from a rooftop in London during a bombingthat changed public opinion in the U.S. What was once theoretical and remote became real and immediate. You can hear what the broadcasts sounded like here. The final tipping point came when images of Pearl Harbor hit the newspapers.

Words work – after all you’re reading these.

But images and sound are infinitely more compelling. They engage the brain more strongly and with more immediacy. Hearing or seeing children sobbing is very different from reading the words, “children were sobbing.” Hearing air raid sirens live is different from reading “sirens were blaring”.

If you want to influence changes to make a better world, if you’re serious about making a difference, add visuals and audio to sink your story in deeper.

Make the world be better, by telling a better story.

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