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David Marquis

Be The Change – David Marquis

[00:00:00] Before we start, I want to put a couple caveats into this episode. This was a tremendous opportunity to have a conversation with someone who is not your typical business person, but is more of an activist. It was a great conversation and I think there are plenty of things for people to learn who have their own entrepreneurial pursuits.

Later in the episode, we talked about some issues of racial injustice and if this is going to put Your mental It’ll health at risk please Skip this episode. And listen to other Leave better episodes there are plenty of other opportunities to not have your mental health distressed

[00:00:44] The River Always Wins

Einstein taught that matter cannot be destroyed. It can change shape and be transformed, but not destroyed. Gandhi taught that one of the central tenets of nonviolence is not merely to defeat one’s adversary, [00:01:00] but to transform them.

As the water in a riverbed, ripples passed and washes over the underlying stones, a long process of transformation takes place.

A particle of rock sloughs off gives way, and in so doing it becomes a part of the river.

It joins with the river.

It is a transformation of quiet unceasing movement towards something greater than the self- transformation into a new form.

Its matter does not disappear. It is transformed. Wherever water flows over rock, the two live on.

In this way, the way of water transforming stone, we change, we change ourselves, and we change our cultures.

Hey friends, what you have been hearing is my friend David Marquis. He wrote The River Always Wins and I just [00:02:00] got shivers as you read that.

David, thank you so much. I had the pleasure of meeting you across the street in my neighbor’s backyard. They were hosting under twinkly lights, you doing a reading, to benefit the Stokes Nature Center in our area.

And what a delightful moment to hear you reading from your book and then the conversation that ensued.

And after that, I ran right up to you and said, oh, please come be on my podcast, because I knew we could have an incredible conversation.

[00:02:32] Introducing David

So you are in Dallas, Texas and you have had this passion for water and water conservation.

I have a passion for helping our planet and for seeing people transform.

And when I read your book, I was just so impressed with the weaving that you did of this literal, physical, what happens to the water, and then the metaphorical space of what happens in our lives, [00:03:00] both socially and politically and personally.

So welcome, and can we just have an amazing conversation today?

David: Oh, thank you so much. I’m so glad to be here.

I’ve performed in all kinds of places, played at the Kennedy Center, and I’ve toured 41 of the 50 states, played every kind of venue you can imagine, but to do a show for a group of people really devoted to this planet, and to conservation and to do that on evening, a beautiful evening in the fall in Utah. It was a great experience.

So I’m really glad to be here and I appreciate the opportunity.

Miriam: Excellent, excellent. For those of you who are going, wait a minute, I thought this was a podcast about business and life- it is. And the reason that I asked, David to come and have this conversation is that my goal is that as your businesses succeed and as you become more successful in life, you take some of that bounty and you pour it over into helping spaces that need help.

So, David, I [00:04:00] loved hearing in that venue some of your history. I’m hoping you’ll share a little bit of that history and why this topic of water is so important to you.


David: Water, of course, is what we’re made of. We are mostly water walking around inside our skins. So we also need to always keep in mind that where we grow up, Can be a powerful influence.

I grew up in the West Texas in a place called Lubbock, and I grew up there during the 1950s, which was the second greatest drought in the history of our country, the first being the dust bowl of the thirties. And my parents, grandparents and uncle, they all grew up during the Dust Bowl. So they came from a dry place in a very dry time.

And I come from a dry place in a dry time. I remember to this day sitting around the dinner table with the adults when I was very small and listening them to talk about where are we going to get our water?

I grew up in a place where we [00:05:00] used to have to walk home from school backwards, bent over because of the sandstorms.

Miriam: Literally, you’re not making fun. You’re not being like a person who says uphill both ways.

David: Nope, nope. It was in the sand both ways. It was blowing down your throat at 50 miles an hour, man. So that’s where I grew up and how I grew up. So to me, a glass of water is a big deal, and the reason I do this work is because of my grandchildren.

I want my grandchildren to have the chance to live a life that enjoys, the blessings that we’ve, had bestowed upon us.

[00:05:34] Your Why

David: You talk about business. I often speak to business groups, and one of the things that I do is I begin with asking people why they’re there that day.

So I will ask people to center in on why they’re there that day, their job. Well, that’s legitimate reason, but why are you really there? What really powers you? What motivates you? What causes you to respond and become engaged?

[00:06:00] And then I tell ’em, I’m gonna count to three and ask everyone in the room to say or to whisper why they’re there that day.

And when I do this, you can hear people. Whether it’s hundreds of people in the ballroom or a few people in a seminar and everybody gets clear, everybody gets focused.

Because when you know why you do what you do, you do it better. And I really deeply believe that. So it’s one of the things that I do is get people to be clear on why they do what they do.

And for me, I work along the water issues these days because of where I grew up and when I grew up.

Miriam: Yeah, I, that’s so profound. When you know why you are there, you do your things better.

Build Something Better

Miriam: Let me read a tiny, section here from your book, one of the things that I was struck by when I listened to you in my neighbor’s yard is that you are passionate.

You [00:07:00] introduced yourself as an activist, but you don’t present like an activist.

You present as a kind and gentle non militants – there were no fists. Waving that night, and yet I could tell that you are really powerful in the way you spoke about the work you were doing for water.

In your book you say,

we will not change hearts through argument or angry rhetoric. Name calling and vitriol will not heal wounds of terror and mass shootings, nor will time simply miraculously heal all wounds. Time is an element in the healing process, but it is not the process itself. So is talking and listening and the transcendent power of love and forgiveness, the fluidity that rolls over us and bathes us like water of the womb, such stem from our humanity.

I would really like you to speak about how to be an activist and be respectful of humans at the same time.

Be “For” Something

David: Mm, thank you. That’s a great question. [00:08:00] We tend to think of activists as being against something, but let’s go back to the root word protest. Pro, of course, means for. Test comes from testare a Latin verb, which means to proclaim or speak forth.

So actually to protest says not to be against something. It’s to be for something. It’s not enough to be against war. We must be in favor of peace. Not enough to be against injustice. We must be for justice and to build systems and businesses and ways of life that are just for all. So when you begin to look at it from that point of view, you immediately have to see that you have to be for something, that you have to be positive.

You have to think about how we build something better than we have now.

And I get this from my mother. Now, my mother would never have called herself an activist, but if you wanted to get something done in Lubbock, Texas, you call Lucille Marquis and then you got outta the way [00:09:00] because she would do good things, but she would never make a big deal of it.

[00:09:06] What is an Activist?

David: When I was very small, we were driving through downtown on a Sunday afternoon. It was after church. We were all the way to a restaurant. And in Lubbock in the fall when I was a child, thousands of Mexican nationals, Mexican citizens had come north to pick the cotton in the old Bracero program where people would come north legally to, harvest crops all the way up to Canada.

And so as I was looking at all the people on the sidewalks, I, you know, I was very small little boy and, uh, I’m looking at, I turn to mom and, say, who are all these people? Why are they. And she explained to me if they came here to pick the cotton, and I said, well, who takes care of their children if they’re out in the fields all day?

And she said, I don’t know, but that’s a good question. So my mother and another woman went out and organized a a well- baby clinic to [00:10:00] take care of the medical needs of the migrant workers’ children. Decades later, that was still in place in Lubbock, Texas.

Be Real

She taught me what I said during college, you know, back during the days of the movements.

And I said, I wanna be an activist. She said, okay. But you have to make it real. You have to make it real. It has to count for something that lasts.

So to me, an activist is not someone who just carries a sign in the street, it’s someone who does the hard work afterwards. To organize new structures, new systems, more just ways of doing business, of carrying out our government.

And that’s really important to me.

You protest, you speak in favor of, you act in favor of, to me, if you want to come and be a part of this, then come and be a part of it in a constructive way.

Create the changes that really make a difference in people’s lives.

[00:10:51] Action is Key

Miriam: Yeah. Boy, I appreciate that. I just have to camp on your mom for a second. How cool is it that she didn’t say to [00:11:00] you I, you know, I don’t know what she called you when you were little? I don’t know Davy, but I, I’ve got stuff to do. Don’t bother me with all these questions.

You know, she, she took you as a very young child, seriously, and she said, your question has merit. And it troubled her, and she didn’t let it just trouble her and keep her up at night. That translated into action that then stayed for decades later. How cool is that?

David: My mom and dad, bill Lucille marquis were really special people.

In fact, go back to my grandmother, Hazel, whose earliest memories were of marching and suffragette parade holding a mother’s hand.

She was born in 1887, so she couldn’t vote until she was 33 years old. Wow. And Hazel was a really brilliant woman, but to think she couldn’t vote till she was 33. And yet her earliest memory was, I’m marching in a suffragette parade when she was a little.

Be Positive

Yeah. Now mom and dad, um, my father once fired an employee for [00:12:00] using a racial slur in the office and never said anything about it. He didn’t make a big deal of it. He just was, you don’t use language like that around here. So it’s really kinda in my blood.

And my mom was really great at dealing with young people all the time.

I’d come home from a date in high school and all my friends would be in the living room discussing politics around my mother . So, They were remarkable people. Yeah. And neither one of them would ever have said, I’m an activist. So when I wanted to be an activist, they said, okay, but you’ve gotta make it real, make it positive.

And I really learned that lesson from them. But, you know, they were, they were special.

[00:12:38] Do What You Can

David: I’ll tell you another story about Lucille Marquis this is a great story. So I believe that you have to do what you can, where you can, when you can, as part of my mantra, being an activist, uh, back in those days. You know, I’m 71 now, so this is 60 years ago, 65 years ago, everybody in Lubbock, you know, had a [00:13:00] maid.

You know, people from the, east side of Lubbock, African American women would come over to, uh, the rest of Lubbock and they would be maids. And there was a certain code of the way that you treated them, that you made sure they had food to eat, that you took them home within the day. There was a relationship there.

Now, am I saying that was a, a healthy time in terms of our race relations? No, but there was a certain way that she treated people with dignity. And my mother got word from our maid, Willie, that, um, a woman in Lubbock was not allowing her maid to eat in the kitchen for lunch, would not allow her to eat in the house at all.

And to my mother, that was just wrong. You don’t treat people that way. So, she and her buddy, Kelly, great friends, cooked up a plan and they went to see this woman and they said, we understand you don’t allow your maid to eat in the kitchen for [00:14:00] lunch. And the woman’s like, oh, no, we don’t allow her to eat in the house.

Do Something

And they said, look, here’s what’s gonna happen now. Either she’s gonna begin to eat lunch in your house today, or you will never be invited to the Garden Club or the church social or the Bridge Club ever again. You’ll be ostracized in this town. Now, was that the March on Washington? No. Was that the Civil Rights Bill?

No. Voting Rights Act. No.

But they did where they could. What they could. When they could.

And that’s a central part of what we need to do now to take care of our planet and take care of our culture. Take care of ourselves, is do what you can, where you can when you can.

Miriam: That’s pretty powerful. I always ask when I have someone on the podcast talking about various issues and things, please help us understand what we can do.

You know, because we feel so small in a, a. Juggernaut of machinery and the [00:15:00] issues that you read on in the news are not necessarily the issues that are in your area.

And it’s fascinating how much energy can be spent railing on something that isn’t actually relevant to what is happening where you live.

Do something. There for good. What you can, where you can, when you can. Thank you for sharing that story.


Think Globally, Act Locally

David: Yeah, that’s exactly right. It’s it is so easy for us to get caught up now and things, in other places cuz of social media and because of the 24 hour news cycle, we lose sight of what’s happening right next door to us.

Mm-hmm. . And I think it’s really important that we keep in mind, you know, the, the old adage, you know, think globally and act locally.. But if you do it on a daily basis, remember Gandhi, Gandhi would go out and carry out these enormous, you know, actions to free India from England, and then he’d go home and he’d take care of the goats and play with the children and, you know, live that life on a daily [00:16:00] basis.

So we need to keep that in mind that there’s that big life that we live to go out where we take on big problems, but there’s also the life that’s close to us. That we still need to be human beings with those around us.

Miriam: I think sometimes people want to get involved in something out there maybe because it seems bigger, but also there isn’t the emotional weirdness that comes with doing something in, in your locale, like when you share that story about your mom.

It’s great that she had a friend to go with her and that the two of them could pressure the other one into better behavior. Sometimes people feel like they’re the only person.

[00:16:39] Use Your Voice

Miriam: As, I mean, sometimes I wonder if my neighbor absolutely hates me. I manage to get her cell phone number and she allows people to keep horses in her back.

Space. She’s older and isn’t able to get back there very often. Mm-hmm. , and pretty much every year I’m saying, I mean, it’s different horses, it’s different people. I’m saying, Hey, did you know that this [00:17:00] animal has a really swollen leg? Hey, did you notice that this animal is bullying the other one and the other one isn’t getting any food?

And there’s always this moment of trepidation when I reach out to a neighbor and say, Hey, do you realize that your dog doesn’t have adequate shelter or that it’s incredibly lonely, or that you have a donkey who is isolated in a neighborhood with no shelter and no friends. Mm-hmm. , you know, there’s always this moment inside me where I’m like, oh my gosh, Miriam here we go again.

Speak for the Planet

But I have to speak for, for animals, for entities that can’t speak for themselves. Yes, because. I think that that’s part of the reason why I’m on the planet- I have a voice and I need to use it -in as polite and respectful, but also determined manner as I can. Mm-hmm. . And, um, in, in your book, in between the section I read and the section I’m gonna ask you to read in a minute, [00:18:00] you’re talking about erosion and one of my favorite quotes I saw like, I don’t know.

It was some old something. It was a meme. It was a meme before there were memes. But it said in the contest between the rock and the water, the water always wins. But this idea that if you relentlessly push on something, Eventually you’re gonna get somewhere with it.

And I wanted to just talk about maybe how cultures shift and change or how people grow and they see I used to be this way and now my thoughts have shifted to this.


David: The title of the book, by the way, comes from a. An experience on a bridge outside TAs, New Mexico where standing on this bridge and there were some, a couple of people about 20 yards away.

Now I’m looking down into the ravine where the real Grandie river is at the bottom of the ravine. And these two people looked down and one of ’em said, oh look, [00:19:00] there’s a river down there. And I thought, of course there’s a river down there. It worked its way down down their over a millenia. So it’s that daily movement of water, the daily work that the water does.

And I think that sense of, um, of the daily work is extremely important. Because so often the issues that we take on are big issues, even if they’re close at hand, there’s still issues that require, a constant daily, vigilance to continue to speak up in a way that’s respectful, but determined. So, for me, that sense of perseverance, of continuing that flow of acting in a way that, you know, will maybe not take full effect today, but over a long period of time will work.

I mean, let’s look at a particular movement. The anti-smoking movement in America. You know, it used to be [00:20:00] two-thirds of the American public. And then some folks began to say, you know, I’m not comfortable here bad, my lungs. And people began to say, we need to do something about this. Remember it used to be people smoked on airplanes.

The River

I mean, it was everywhere. Yeah. Well, and now we know it’s not everywhere and fewer and for people are smoking. And that was the result of some people being relentless, but doing it a way that refused to give. And yet did it in such a way that it was about the health of all people and was something’s been very positive for all of us for that to take place.

That we moved away from a place where non-smokers just had to put up with it to a place now where we are healthier people, healthier as a nation. And um, that was the result of that constant flow of energy- just does the water contingent flow with the rock and [00:21:00] you know, go to TAs, New Mexico, go to any gorge, look down.

You see a river down there. That river worked its way down there. It didn’t start down there. It started on the top.

Yeah, it worked its way down Every single day it wore that rockaway and created that river bed for.

Miriam: Yeah. You know, I, I appreciate your long view of time and your patience to say that these things will right themselves.

When enough good people just push and push and push, we will have increasing legislation to solve some of the ills, I think sometimes. I panic because I see forests disappearing quicker than they can grow and some of those other things.

[00:21:44] Water Issues

Miriam: I wondered if you could just take a couple minutes and talk about the real issues that we have with water, and are on our planet today.

I remember when you spoke, you said, um, there will never be a, a new drop of water created. And I had, I mean, I intellectually [00:22:00] knew that whole cycle of evaporation and transpiration. I mean, I think you have to learn it in third or fourth grade, but I don’t think anybody ever said, you know, there’s never a new drop of water created.

So talk a little bit about the problems we have in our country and in our world with water.

David: Thank you for that question. And yes, these are often long cycles of movements of, uh, working for justice, for protecting our planet, but at the same time, there’s some real urgency too.

You know, when I was born, there are about two and a half billion people on the planet. 1951.

Now we’re 8 billion, so we’ve more than tripled our human population, but we have no more new land. We don’t have any new water. There is no new water. There’s not a shipment arriving from Mars. There is no new water. And as a result, we’ve got three times as many people all drawing on the same fresh water.

Understand the Urgency

So these are really serious issues. And there are serious [00:23:00] issues also that do require urgency and that ask a question of, if social change takes a long time, then how do we move quickly when we have to? Climate’s a good example of that. And of course, climate and water issues are very tied together, so we have to ask ourselves then what is the best way to go about creating change more quickly?

And if you look at a big bell curve, There’s always 5% of the people really pushing toward the future and another 5% pulling, trying to go backwards and trying to move the middle is where we really create change and create it quickly when you can move the middle one direction or the other.

So one of the things we have to do with water, Is get people to understand the urgency because for most people, when they turn the tap and clean water comes out- that’s the issue to them. as long as they have clean water, they’re fine.

Well, there are some places now and uh, where, you know, water supplies and real [00:24:00] jeopardy. There are places in South Africa went through this a few years ago. They nearly ran outta water in places where you turn the tap on and nothing would come out.

[00:24:08] Crisis Brings Change

David: So as a result, crisis brings change is a good way to look at that.

And in order for us to use crisis brings change, we have to look at what is the crisis and define it well so people understand it. Then have a particular, uh, prescription for what types of change need to be accomplished in order to attain the goal we want to.

And when we have to, we can do that. We’re capable as human beings of doing that. And of course we see existentially that threat now with climate and when sit with water in places, you know, as you know, the Great Salt Lake in Utah once, it’s a real challenge.

I talked to a naturalist there in Utah when I was there a few months ago. She said she walked from the edge of where the lake used to be, to where it is now is a [00:25:00] mile a mile.


So, and you know, the droughts I grew up in, in, in West Texas, it took a long time for that land to recover. So one of the things that I think we have to do is bring to light, those issues that are immediate, those that are short term, those that are more long term, and get people clear on-

Here’s an issue that we can demonstrate as a clear need.

Friendship is Important

And this is one of our great concerns these days, Miriam, is that cause we are so divided now, that getting people to understand the realities of what we’re facing and to acknowledge those- is challenging.

It’s one of the reasons that I always try to maintain a positive spirit and a very straightforward point of view and a straightforward voice is because as soon as you raise your voice, Well, you give the other person permission to raise theirs, and [00:26:00] social media has made it very easy for us to take shots at each other verbally.

But when we sit down with each other and agree that we have a problem needs to be solved, then we can have a discussion that actually leads to solving problems. This is one of the things that I think we have to do as a culture is get back to a few things I believe in, which one is that

“friendship’s more important than politics”

yeah. I’ve been involved in politics all my life. I understand the importance of it. I also understand, you know, how it works and I’ve got old friends from West Texas who are extremely conservative. I’m not, but I’m not gonna turn my back on them. Try to have some kind of dialogue we can find something to talk about.

Finding your Purpose

David: That’s right. That’s right. David, can I ask you to go to page 83 in your book and, and read that section?

the river always wins. Our culture has become a hard pan, hard baked place in desperate [00:27:00] need of rain. A slow soul -soaking of human kindness. And when that water does come down from the sky, it runs toward the sea. The river always eventually runs toward it, never away. So too does human progress, moving always toward the greater water, the drops have purpose.

Each one, be ready for your purpose. Prepare to move to the sea.

Miriam: Thank you. Could you talk a little bit about finding your purpose?

The drops have a purpose. We as human beings have various purposes. How do we find them?

David: Miriam? I think that people today have more opportunities to

find purpose because people talk about it. People’s opportunities used to be pretty limited. They were born, lived, and died within very small areas until number of people they. The total [00:28:00] amount amount. They knew about the world was pretty limited. Now we wanna make sure that more and more people have those opportunities.

People of all kinds, whatever your faith is, whatever your color is, whatever your background is, everyone ought to have those opportunities.

River of Goodness

One of the things that I was very lucky to find in my life was a great high school speech teacher. Someone, who taught me that I have something to say and that she would help me learn how to say it. And teach me how to write and perform. Her name was Maime Porter and she was a great teacher.

So I think that’s one of the things we have to do as people, is find that sense of purpose in, in my next book we call the River of Goodness,

and I talk about bring your shovel, whatever your shovel is. Your nurse, shovel your teacher, shovel your banker, shovel your software developer, shovel, whatever your shovel might be. Everybody has a shovel. You have to use that shovel to do your daily work. And all of us are involved in that daily work. [00:29:00] Now they, nowadays people have the opportunity to have a dozen different jobs in their lifetime.

A lot of people do, but what I find is that people, when they find their purpose in life, they become clear on it, that that’s what drives them, that’s what motivates them. It might be their job or it might not be. I know some people who make a lot of money doing something else, and they use that as a way to, to provide for them and their family so they can go do what they think their real purpose is.

Others have the opportunity to have a purpose that pays their living, Also.

You are the Artist

David: What I encourage people to do is have that clarity to know if what you’re doing is not deeply satisfying you in some way to know there’s a bigger world out there that needs you somewhere and you need to find what the world needs of you and respond to that so that your response to that helps you attain that purpose in your life.[00:30:00]

You have to look at the watershed of your life and just as the water in its flowing creates its riverbed, the course of your life is your river bed.

You are the artist with the chisel and the hammer, creating your own river bed, chipping away at the rock.

You’re going on to the greater water, something greater than yourself.

And that to me is the ultimate test is -are you doing something that in the end is greater than yourself? Why are you here? Why are you on the planet? Why are you doing this work today? If you ask yourselves those questions, you get some clarity on, oh, I understand today why I’m here.

Our Journey’s End

Miriam: Yeah, and that makes sometimes going to work, whatever that means.

Unbearable then, and those people change jobs. Sometimes it means going to work becomes bearable because now you know why you’re doing it. Mm-hmm. , and I appreciate you asking the questions. [00:31:00]

We are getting close to the end of where we need to be, and I’m sad because this has been so delightful. Toward the end of your book, you have a statement, if the ocean dies, we die. Our journey ends.

Can you read that next little section? On page 1 0 5?

David: Yes, I can. And thank you for asking me to.

If the ocean dies, we die. Our journey ends. For now, we. Under toes and rip tides and jet streams move drops in ways never imagined while in the river. Peaceful, restful. Now the greater water is dynamic and powerful and it moves. And what do the drops learn from this ride on the tide?

That the destination is not what they expected and the journey gets even better.

The drops free now have moved on to a place unique to itself, but part of [00:32:00] something greater than itself.

[00:32:04] Where to Find David

Miriam: Thank you so much. How can people find you? How can they purchase your book? If they’re interested in it?

David: If they wanna purchase the book, you can, of course can order it from big services like Amazon. Also, you can find lots of, uh, bookstores, especially the independent bookstores that we like to support.

You also can go to theriveralwayswins.com

David: it’s a website devoted to the book, beautiful website. We give a shout out to Vicki Gouge from Oak Cliff, Texas, right here in Dallas who did a beautiful job. If you love pictures of water and rushing water, go to the website. It’s really beautiful, and you can order from there.

And then, David.Marquis@SBCglobal.net, m a r q U I. Sbc, SB as in boy SBC global.net, so I’m happy to put that out if someone like to be in touch.

Miriam: Very good. I’ll have all of that in the show notes and as we were talking [00:33:00] beforehand, , my listeners know I like to support a charity in your name to say thank you and you chose the Shedrick Wildlife Trust, one of my favorite organizations.

We will be adopting a tiny elephant in your name and you’ll get monthly updates, and know that you are doing something to help together.

We’re doing something to help, you know, animals in a far distant land.

Thank you so much for just the pleasure of this interview and, for just investing your life in something so meaningful.


Miriam, thank you so much. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be with you. Thank you for all that you do.

End Credits

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Music by Tom Sherlock.

head shot Miriam Gunn

If you are curious to know more, please contact me!

As someone who has been a therapist for over a decade and has been coaching people for over three decades, I am uniquely qualified to address your concerns.