Finding Hope Among Leaders

Nancy Lublin, best selling author of “Zilch” speaks at Leadership Florida.

For me, Leadership Florida is an antidote for the mundane and the banal.
For two and a half days every year, I can count on seeing good friends, hanging out with smart accomplished people and learning from the best minds around.
It’s a break from the cacophony of social media, the gossips at the gym, petty politics and the rigors of daily life.
Over the years, we’ve heard from the likes of Ken Burns, Colin Powell, Tom Brokaw and thought leaders from science, journalism, education, medicine, education and business.
It’s energizing.
But this year was different. This year, we weren’t sheltered from the outside world. There was an 800 pound gorilla in the room by the name of political dysfunction and it dominated official and unofficial discussion.
All four keynote speakers/panels that I saw referenced it: Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas woke us up with a challenging talk about immigration.
Vargas is undocumented and he challenged us to see parts of the debate that many of us avoid: the personal (he hasn’t seen his mother since he was 12), the factual (he produced staggering stats regarding the economic contributions of immigrants) and of course the politics. Always the politics and the sad fact that we can’t seem to get a coherent immigration policy in this country.
Vargas was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Knight Foundation CEO Alberto Ibarguen and featuring former Gov. Bob Graham and former Miami Herald Publisher Dave Lawrence.
The trio discussed civic engagement, their long careers full of real and lasting accomplishments and politics.
Several of the questions focused on the toxicity of the current moment and the lack of true leaders in the public square.
Gov. Graham sees civic engagement and education as the answer.
We need to train better citizens who will become servant leaders.
Watching these guys–serious people with gravitas–only pointed out how those qualities are missing today and so badly needed.
It was a good segue to Chuck Todd, the host of Meet the Press and himself a lighting rod for the right.
Todd’s message was how compromise and bipartisanship went from desirable behaviors to political death. He spoke about civility and how gridlock is preventing anything from getting done.
Nancy Lublin, a legend in the non-profit world, followed with a sobering talk on crisis trends in America as expressed via text messages to her organization which provides counseling to those crying out for help. Once again, political dysfunction seems to be driving anxiety, fear, anger and stress.
The last speaker I caught was the great Geoffrey Canada, the recently retired founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone.
He gave a roof raising talk about the importance of education and how teachers are often given short shrift in society.
It was a call to arms. A plea for seriousness and an impassioned argument to save a generation.
Our incoming chair Beth Kigel believes that if Florida and the nation were turned over to the men and women of Leadership Florida we would be able to solve a lot of problems and seize a lot of opportunities.
I agree. Because I believe in the organization.
But I also know that won’t happen and that many of my fellow alumni won’t be running for office anytime soon.
Oh sure, there are many current and past elected officials in the organization and more than a few current and future candidates. And yes, these talented men and women are making it happen in business, academia, social work, health care and the social sector but we are not in charge.
If we were there would be bipartisan compromise. There would be fact based discussions, there would be civility and policies based on a genuine passion for Florida.
Yes I am biased. But I’m also optimistic it’s possible because Leadership Florida is a mix of parties, philosophies, ages, geographies, backgrounds and ethnicities. And we get along. We care for each other.
It’s possible. We can do this. We must do this.
Happy Independence Day.

 

Comments

  1. Roxann Levitsky says:

    What a great article Jeff. It’s not easy to be optimistic in this political climate.

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