The Hug That Led a Nation

By Renata Bowers

Author of the Frieda B. Series

It’s a story that that encouraged me, made my heart full, gave me hope in a dark time. It’s a story that has stayed with me ever since.

Photograph by: Johnny Nguyen

At the heart of it… a 12-year-old who, unintentionally, led the nation. When I think of that moment in time, November 2014, I see two pictures… one of that 12-year-old boy with a wide, bright smile, holding a handmade “FREE HUGS!!” sign; and the other of him fiercely hugging a police officer, tears rolling down his face.

His name is Devonte Hart. And I’m not the only one who was moved by him. These photos I describe of him were widely shared… and captured the hearts and hope of an entire nation at a time when hope was running thin. Racial tension was at the forefront of the media – and a boy hugging a police officer was an encouraging sight.

Photograph by: Johnny Nguyen

A young boy led a nation to hope. How? In the example he set, of surprising love.

1 Timothy 4:12 is clear about the ability that God plants within young people, such as yourself, for leadership. Leadership just like Devonte’s: By example.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,

but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,

in love, in faith and in purity.” (NIV)

As an American Heritage Girl, no matter your age, you’re encouraged to consider and explore the many and varied ways you can use your gifts to lead. You’re blessed to have such guidance and opportunity. And as 1 Timothy states, through example, oftentimes the seemingly simplest action or spoken word – when rooted in love, faith and purity – can be the greatest form of leadership.

Love that surprises is love that leads a heart toward hope. Don’t doubt the ability you hold within yourself to lead with surprising love… hearts, hope, maybe even a nation. I don’t doubt it; I believe in you. And so does your Heavenly Father. So go love. Go lead.




At Frieda B., we are honored to offer the new Free to B. a Leader Patch Program,

to complement AHG’s Girl Leadership focus. To learn more, visit

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