Making A Dent In The Universe

Coco at the Delray Beach Tennis Stadium.

The New York Times ran a fascinating interview with Martina Navratilova recently.

The tennis hall of famer is 64 now, living in Fort Lauderdale and enjoying life.

Martina was a landmark athlete—she changed both the men’s and women’s games, but she’s also an influential cultural figure paving the way for female athletes while being outspoken on a range of topics ranging from LGBTQ rights to animal welfare and a lot in between.

Martina matters.

Like Billie Jean King, Jim Brown, LeBron James and Muhammad Ali, Martina is an athlete who transcended sport to leave a large mark on the world.

Those of us who live in Delray Beach and love tennis have been following Coco Gauff’s burgeoning career and wondering whether she will follow in those large footsteps.

There is no doubt that she is a special talent.

Her results as a teenager have been astonishing. Like other greats, she shows no fear on the court and actually seems to thrive on pressure.

But there’s something else about her that shines through—at least to me anyway. She seems to understand that she has power off the court, and she seems intent on using that power to make a difference.

We saw it when she spoke out at a local Black Lives Matter protest in Delray Beach shortly after the murder of George Floyd. And we saw it last week when she made a generous donation to the Achievement Centers for Children and Families in Delray Beach.

Teaming up with Microsoft, Coco is helping to refresh the main computer lab and build two additional labs at the Achievement Center, a wonderful non-profit that has served this community’s most vulnerable children for over 50 years.

Here’s what the Achievement Center had to say in making the announcement:

“As a professional tennis player and full-time remote student, Coco Gauff saw firsthand the ways that technology could benefit education. While completing classes alongside her rigorous training schedule, she was inspired to provide some of the same tools to students in Delray Beach, where she and her parents grew up.

“This community has given me a lot, so it’s definitely important to give back,” she said

Coco thrilled the kids at the center recently with a virtual appearance and coaching session.

Due to COVID-19 limitations, Coco used Microsoft Teams to surprise the kids. During the event, Coco helped students complete a coding workshop, where they learned about game design. The kids were also able to ask Coco questions  including how she became a professional tennis player and what her favorite subject is in school.

 

“Maybe this can give a kid the opportunity to find their own passions,” Coco said before offering advice to the students. “Make your dreams as big as possible, because you never know how far they will go.”

 

It’s hard to quantify how important it is for our children to see someone from their community succeed on a worldwide stage. Children need to be encouraged to dream big and they need to be given the tools necessary to achieve those dreams.

The Achievement Centers for Children and Families is a model non-profit that has done just that for half a century and in process the organization has done a lot to break the cycle of poverty.

To see Coco giving back is not a surprise to me.

While I don’t know Coco, I do know her family.

Her grandmother, Yvonne Odom, is one of my heroes, her grandfather Red is a wonderful man who has coached generations of local kids and her parents Candi and Corey are really special and caring people. The Gauff/Odom family are committed to Delray Beach, especially our children.

Coco had a big week professionally reaching the quarterfinals at the French Open, one of the the cathedrals of the sport. She’s still only 17 years old. She has a game as big as any prospect since the Williams sisters, who also have ties to Delray Beach.

But beyond sports, she seems to be a young woman of compassion and substance. She has a platform, and she appears willing and able to use it—like Martina, Billie Jean, Venus and Serena before her.

Coco’s grandmother Yvonne was a groundbreaker in her day too. Fifty years ago this September she became the first Black to attend Seacrest High which later  became Atlantic High. Three years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 7 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, Yvonne Lee Odom integrated Delray’s high school. To this day, she remains brave, outspoken and respected. She’s a treasure.

I have a feeling her granddaughter is going to leave a mark far, far beyond tennis. She sure has had some great role models.

 

Oldies But Goodies

Phil Mickelson, a champion at 50.

Let’s hear it for the old folks.

Maybe they’re not so old after all.

Or maybe age and experience is an advantage and not a liability.

Look no further than Phil Mickelson who just won the 103rd PGA Championship at the ripe age of 50. Or Tom Brady who won yet another Super Bowl at the age of 44.

Or President Biden who became leader of the free world at age 78.

Other examples abound in every field you can imagine: Dr. Tony Fauci is 80 and has been at the forefront of the fight against Covid, Queen Elizabeth is still reigning at age 95 and Warren Buffett remains an investing legend at 90. His partner, Charlie Munger, is 97 and still at it.

I have a rooting interest in the continuing viability of the older set. I’ll be 57 in August. Granted that’s a long way from 90 but it’s comforting to know that there’s life after a certain age.

I have found the 50s to be a poignant decade.

In many ways we are better than ever. We’ve got patience, experience, history, perspective and savvy that can only come with age and hard won experience.

We’ve also got more than a few miles on us so we are a wee bit tired at times and we know how fast time passes. We’ll blink and be 80 if we’re fortunate to survive. And that’s the poignant part.

Just when we get good, we get old.

But the Mickelson’s and the Brady’s of the world inspire us. It’s getting dark, but it ain’t over yet as the song says.

Still despite these inspiring examples we are very much a youth obsessed culture.

We adore the prodigy, laud the next big thing and remain obsessed with appearing youthful.

But I’m finding the seasoned players in this world have a lot to give and even more to impart.

I think we “old timers” can learn a thing or two from Phil and other folks who are crushing it as they age.

The first lesson is we can stay in the game if we choose. We might have to compensate for being a step slower than we used to be. We might not hit the ball as far as the youngsters or zip a football with the same velocity, but we’ve experienced a whole lot and that’s an advantage.

We can take comfort in the fact that we’ve seen most situations before and we know how to make the odds work for us.

It’s called being seasoned.

If you are a smart young person, you should seek out the elders in your community. You should hear their stories, soak up their experiences and listen to the wisdom you are assured of receiving if you just take the time to ask some simple questions.

What was it like?

Why did you make the decisions you made?

What did you learn? How did you get past your mistakes?

How did you run your company, build your business, raise your family, serve your community?

There is so much to learn. The best school there is right in front of us. All we have to do is ask others to share.

Whatever success I’ve had in anything I’ve ever done—-business, politics, love and family life is a direct result of asking for advice from people I’ve admired. Most of them were my elders. My grandparents, my parents.

At Delray City Hall, I was mentored by an extraordinary array of department heads and staff who took the time to explain issues to me, teach me about urban planning, police work, the work of the fire department and how municipal law and redevelopment can be applied to build something special.

After a while you leave– in my case due to term limits—but I never left those relationships behind. I treasure them and regularly draw on the lessons I learned.

But as magical as those teachers were, I learned just as much from some predecessors who served on the City Commission and a bunch more from a slew of community leaders who built this city. From Old School Square and Pineapple Grove to the Spady Museum and local schools these special people did special things. They made a lasting difference and left us lessons— but only if we choose to look and to ask for guidance.

The same lessons apply in business which is changing so fast that it can feel overwhelming to keep up with technology and trends. But there are fundamentals that never change: how you treat partners. employees, customers and the communities in which you work. The seasoned veterans have learned these lessons and I have found that most are happy to share if you take the time to ask for advice.

In business, I have been so fortunate to learn from a series of older mentors including one gentleman who has helped to build two multi billion dollar companies.

Recently, a friend told me about the Halftime Institute, a non-profit built on a belief that the second half of life can be better than the first. I plan to explore a few of their programs and read their literature.

Yes, life in your 50s and beyond can be both meaningful and fun.

Sure those knees creak, that back aches and your hair may be gone (on your head at least) but there’s life in those bones and wisdom too. There’s also time to grab a few more brass rings (or Super Bowl rings). Thanks Mr. Mickelson for reminding us.

 

 

 

 

 

All Healing Is Local

“All healing is local.” – David Schmidt, former mayor and newly installed Chair of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce.

 

I had a chance to catch a replay of the Delray Chamber’s Annual Membership Luncheon and Installation of Officers on Facebook recently.

It was a nice virtual event and the Chamber is to be commended for weathering a brutal 2020. It’s important that our community have an active and strong chamber and that business in our city has a voice.

Outgoing Chair Noreen Payne is a wonderful person who did a remarkable job alongside President Stephanie Immelman and a small but dedicated staff.  Not only did they keep the chamber alive during a pandemic, but they kept the organization relevant too. We should all be grateful.

For more than 90 years, the Delray Chamber has been a leader in our community producing Delray’s signature event, The Delray Affair, advocating for business and supporting all aspects of community life.

It’s an important institution; a pillar in a disposable world in which pillars are rare and needed more than ever.

That’s why I am thrilled to have seen the installation of my friend Dave Schmidt as the chair for 2021.

Mayor Dave —as I call him— is a steady, capable and intelligent leader at a time when we crave those traits.

He’s also correct when he says that all healing is local, a take-off on Speaker Tip O’Neill’s old adage that all politics is local.

Friends, our little village by the sea has become a pretty toxic place at least during election season.

If you swing by Facebook and spend five minutes perusing the pages devoted to Delray Beach, you will witness the social media version of Chernobyl. Warning: prolonged exposure will give you hives and make you want to pack your bags and leave our perfect weather for Antarctica.

At least nobody is trying to turn Antarctica into Fort Lauderdale.

In case you don’t know, we are in the middle of an election season in Delray with the mayor’s seat and two commission seats up for grabs on March 9.

We have the usual accusations of stolen signs and the tired and false narratives about evil developers and behind the scenes power brokers. I’ve been accused of being a power broker myself…someone who controls events from behind the scenes. It’s insulting because truth be told— if I were doing so— I’d be doing a better job because the city is a hot mess and that’s not my modus operandi.

I like progress, vision, outcomes and aspiration. I think we all do, but from where I sit, we’re sorely lacking in all of those areas. And I also value good relations with city staff, local organizations and our police, fire and general employees. We’re having some “challenges” there as well.

A few days from our election, candidates are being accused of anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, crimes, corruption, extremism, bullying and all-around thuggery.

Yes, we are going to need some healing after the dust settles. Check that, we are going to need a whole lot of healing.

And I would hope some reflection too because temperatures don’t get this hot in a healthy town.

I write this while still recovering from watching graphic video of traitorous thugs who violently attacked the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. Watching the footage made me physically ill.

What’s going on?

Really, what’s going on?

The Capitol Building—built by slaves, where so many American heroes worked to create Democracy, was desecrated. If you are a true patriot, not some guy with a headdress dressed like a shaman, but someone who loves America, that footage levels you. You just can’t shake the images.

Unbridled social media, unchecked meanness and years of incitement leads to violence. In hindsight, it seems inevitable.

I can see this dynamic unfolding right here if we don’t take a deep breath and check ourselves.

I’m hoping—regardless of who wins—that we can have a reset after the March 9 election. We desperately need one. We have to learn to be a community again.

Right now, we are terribly and dangerously divided.

I’m not the only who feels this way. Many long time contributors to Delray have similar feelings.

The fact that we feel this way annoys some people who would just rather continue down this ruinous path of insult and division.

Over the years, whenever I and others have ventured an opinion there have been attempts to silence us. Some people express shock when you express an opinion. Some of these people would like us PIPS (previously important people) to sit home and stay quiet.

It’s the local version of shut up and dribble. Sorry, not going to happen.

I believe you only critique the stuff that you care about, otherwise why bother.  The truth is I (and many other “exes and formers and used- to- be’s) love this town.

We care about the people who live here. We care about the people who work here and we care about the businesses who invest here.

We are all stakeholders.

Everyone should have a voice and everyone should be encouraged to use that voice hopefully to build a better community.

I have long believed that being a “village” was a lot more than the size of our buildings, which will never be more than 54 feet tall downtown. Friends, we will never be Fort Lauderdale, or even Boynton Beach or Boca Raton which allow 100 foot tall buildings.

We have to find a way to raise the level of discourse in this community and frankly that starts at the commission level.

Our elected officials may not run the day to day operations of the city, but they are tasked with setting the tone for our community. The mayor and city commission own culture.

And culture is everything.

It’s how we feel about our city. It’s how we treat each other. It’s about civility, respect, kindness and compassion.

That does not mean holding hands and singing kumbaya. Some decisions are tough ones and they are divisive by their very nature. We will “win” some votes and be on the losing side of others, but we must learn how to debate better and then move on. This level of divisiveness is not healthy or sustainable.

Our city has a reputation and it isn’t a good one.

The notion that our CRA did nothing for 30 years until it was taken over the by commission is just not true. And anyone who doesn’t believe that can email me through this blog and I will give you a personal tour of projects.

Here’s another myth….our labor unions are not greedy—their job is to care for the welfare of their membership. But they see the big picture too and if you work with them and listen—you’ll find them to be reasonable people who care about our city and are proud to serve us. In my mind, their endorsements mean something.

In terms of aspiration…our northwest and southwest neighborhoods are passionate about the future of The Set, why can’t we work with our neighbors to realize their vision for their neighborhood?  And why can’t we call the neighborhood The Set?

While we are on the subject of vision, I chaired the Congress Avenue Task Force, never did we consider getting rid of a lane of traffic. There was plenty of talk about making it safer to cross the street. Is that controversial?

Sigh…

It wasn’t always like this.

We can blame social media, but that doesn’t change anything.

All of us have to do better. Me too. I thought long and hard about this blog and others. I’m not naming names, there’s nastiness on all “sides” and it’s all wrong and wasted energy.

A happy village is a better village.

If any place can do it, it’s Delray.

We can be the beacon that other communities look to in a nation sorely in need of reconciliation.

We have done this before.

After 9/11—when we learned that many of the terrorists lived here among us—we came together.

When one of our firefighters, Pete Firehock, was murdered—we came together.

In February 2005, when Jerrod Miller was shot and killed, we grieved and we came together.

We were leaders in just about any category you can name: downtown rejuvenation, affordable housing, education, race relations, citizen engagement, urban planning, redevelopment, neighborhood revitalization, historic preservation, sports, events, the use of culture to drive community rebirth and the list goes on.

But for the list to grow. We need some healing.

Right now.

 

Note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sad passing of Richard Jones, a super talented architect and very nice man who did a lot for Delray. We pray for his family during this difficult time. We also continue to pray for the memory of Jerrod Miller, someone I think of every day. 2021 marks the 16th year since Jerrod was killed outside the Delray Full Service Center. That means he is gone one year longer than he lived. That fact is a hard one to fathom. We mourn his loss.

When Is Decency Going To Be Cool Again?

 

We live in caustic times.

Corrosive, toxic, rough, tough and at times ugly.

It wears on you, slowly and then all at once when you find yourself feeling blue.

Take a peek at Facebook and watch the usual suspects duke it out.

Spend a minute, just a minute on Twitter and you’ll be soaked in snark.

Take a trip to your mailbox around election time and you better have some Maalox handy.

So when you see an authentic act of decency it catches your attention. In the example I’m about to share, it actually brought a lump to my throat.

It’s a clip sent to me by a buddy of Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing to become our next Attorney General. It’s one minute long and well worth your time.

Here it is.

https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2021/02/22/merrick-garland-emotional-family-story-obligation-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/top-news-videos/

 

In that one minute, I learned a lot about Merrick Garland the man. I saw his love of America, his gratitude for this country and what drives him. He’s a good and decent person. We need more of these people in public service.

The day before I saw the video, I read a profile of Judge Garland on the front page of The New York Times, which talked about his work as a prosecutor investigating the Oklahoma City bombing case. Judge Garland went to the scene and spent weeks walking in the rubble absorbing the enormity of the tragedy. He still thinks about the sound of the broken glass crackling as he walked the site and absorbed the emptiness of an obliterated day care center.

These kind of experiences mold you. They forge who you are.

As much as I love and value education, a degree is only the table stakes for some of these jobs. What really matters is your experience—those times when life almost breaks you. If you can survive, you come out stronger, fuller and more capable. Unless you’re a narcissist, then you don’t change. You don’t learn. Beware of those types—they are all around us.

Merrick Garland strikes me as the kind of man who can absorb life’s lessons.

I’ve been thinking a lot about decency lately so I looked up the word and the definition doesn’t quite fit what I feel the word means; so let’s just say you know you it when you see it.

To me, decency is dignity, modesty, courtesy, politeness and fairness. When you experience decency, it moves you.

I don’t think you can sustain success without being decent; without being what my mom would call a mensch.

Oh, you can have short term “wins”—maybe even make a fortune. But eventually you’ll be unmasked.

I recently read a case study of American Apparel founder Dov Charney who was a pretty talented guy but by most accounts a horrible person. He was kicked out of his own company after the board collected texts, emails and photos to create a dossier of his abhorrent behavior.

He was a genius on a lot of levels, but a dose of decency might have saved him. He was sorely lacking and it bit him.

I think the same happens with politicians—at all levels. And most are not close to being geniuses. Nor do they have to be. But they do have to be decent people or they will fail. There’s no exceptions.

I believe getting elected is like signing up for an MRI, it reveals who you really are. If you have strengths, they will be revealed. But so will your weaknesses. Each of us have plenty of strengths and weaknesses, but the best leaders recognize where they fall short and work to address the areas where they’re lacking.

Self-awareness is essential.

Knowing what you don’t know is critical to achieving success in any endeavor that requires leading or managing people.

So is a large dose of plain old decency.

I worry that the coarseness of our politics will dissuade decent people from getting involved.

Close readers of this blog know that I Zoom with childhood friends every other week. On our last call, one of my buddies said his three 20 something kids want absolutely nothing to do with politics.

They are smart and engaged young people with a big stake in the future but they think politics is absolutely stupid. And sadly, they are right.

That’s a shame and it’s tragic really because politics is important. It matters to people’s lives.

Public service is a noble pursuit. At its best, leadership has the power to transform communities, nations and the world. At its worst, it will sink anything. I don’t care how hot your city is, how great your product is or how much money you have socked away—you’re toast if you get the leadership piece wrong.

This is a hyperlocal blog, so I will bring this home to Delray.

What do I look for in local candidates?

Here’s a partial list: vision, creativity, and passion for Delray, passion for people, empathy, compassion, intelligence, self-awareness, the ability to get along with others and integrity. But the table stakes—the bare minimum is decency.

It’s a lot to ask for. But I’ve seen the damage done when any one of these traits are missing; especially if the candidate can’t find it in their hearts to be decent to others, especially those that hold opposing views.

Farewell T.J.

Coach Jackson has been a valued mentor to scores of young athletes.

Last week, T.J. Jackson, the decorated football coach at Atlantic High School, announced that he would be leaving for a new opportunity which has yet to be announced.

When I saw the news, I was happy for T.J.

He’s a really good guy and a great football coach. It’s not surprising that his talents would take him away from Delray Beach.

 

Mr. Jackson was the Eagles’ head coach for eight seasons, compiling a record of 68-23. His 2017 team made it all the way to the Class 7A state championship. And this past season, the Eagles won the Class 7A Tri-County championship after going 5-1 in what was a shortened season because of the pandemic.

 

But T.J. is so much more than his impressive win/loss record.

He is a beloved local figure, an inspiring young leader who earned the love and respect of hundreds of young men that he has coached.

Lee Cohen, a great supporter of Atlantic High football and all-around good guy, had this to say about his friend when news of the resignation was announced.

“Coach TJ understood the importance of not just having a winning team, but in creating a successful program.  Over the past 8 seasons, he led the Eagles to incredible success both on and off the field.  Following a challenging first season, the Eagles’ overall record was 66-16 over the next 7 years and included a trip to the state championship. He created a winning culture that included attention to education, discipline and respect.”

Delray’s current Chief of Police Javaro Sims and former Chief Jeff Goldman praised TJ for his mentoring skills and for his leadership in the community.

In scrolling through the congratulatory comments, my mind drifted back to when I first met TJ a number of years ago.

He was running a non-profit at the time called “Prep and Sports” which was teaching football skills and life skills to kids in our community. He was doing great work and was passionate about making a difference.

T.J. was quiet, almost painfully shy.

But as the saying goes, still waters run deep. T.J. knew kids, had his fingers on the pulse of the community and had a passion for football. That’s a great set of tools if you want to make positive change in the community.

T.J. and a partner brought scores of NFL players and prospects to Delray to train for the season or the NFL Combine, the annual showcase where aspiring players perform physical and mental tests in front of coaches and scouts. The players seemed to like Delray and I had a few lunches with players who expressed a strong desire to help kids find a positive path and they did.

T.J., former Delray Police Capt. Michael Coleman and former assistant community improvement director Jamael Stewart and a few others led that effort.

It’s the kind of activity that often goes undetected, but this is the type of work that builds a community by changing lives.

So let’s say it straight out: these guys change lives.

Michael and Jamael no longer work for the City of Delray. That’s a longer and sadder story for another day. But I sometimes fear that we are losing sight of the special efforts below the radar that make all the difference. If my instincts are correct and those efforts dry up we will be in trouble. Because if we care about the entirety of this community we need to care about the men and women who do this work.

And we should care. We either rise together or we will we fall.

It’s really that simple.

T.J. is a guy who helps people rise.

Losing him in this community is a big deal.

So was losing Jen Costello, a neighborhood planner who went above and beyond because of her passion for Delray—her hometown.

Back in the day, we had Officer Skip Brown organizing Haitian Roving Patrols and working with a wide cross section of the community. I don’t think anyone ever quite replaced Skip or Sgt. Adam Rosenthal who died 10 years ago last week while on the way to work in his police cruiser. Adam taught self-defense classes to women in our community and worked with kids interested in martial arts.

We also lost Officer Johnny Pun, who along with his partner Fred Glass, founded a charter school to teach kids marketable automotive repair skills. The Delray Police Department became the first department in the state to charter a school, an effort that the City Commission at the time was proud to support. Johnny died tragically in a motorcycle crash. He is deeply missed.

When these guys and gals move on, retire, pass away (or are shoved out) it leaves a void. You just don’t go to a job board and replace people like this. It’s not that easy.

Their success is borne of passion for a place and for the people who live there. When you find that, it’s gold.

When you lose it, well you lose a lot.

See you down the road T.J. We all know you’ll do great things at your next stop.

Many in Delray are sorry to see you go.

 

You’ve Got To Be In It To Win It

Misfits Gaming is consolidating operations in Los Angeles and Berlin, Germany into a new HQ in Boca Raton.

Despite an historic pandemic that has roiled the economy, the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County is bringing businesses and jobs to the area.

That’s great news for Palm Beach County because we need investment and we need job creation.

So I was thrilled to see my longtime friend Kelly Smallridge, the CEO of the BDB, talk up deal after deal on a recent Urban Land Institute webinar.

But as the presentation rolled on, I noticed something: Delray Beach wasn’t getting any deals. Boca was getting them—a lot of them. Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, West Palm Beach and Boynton Beach too. Even the long passed over Glades had a few deals in the hopper.

But I never heard the words Delray Beach mentioned.

Now, I don’t blame Kelly or the BDB. I’ve served on that board twice and I know personally that Kelly and her amazing staff are fans of Delray.

And of course, I might have missed something or there may be something in the hopper that isn’t public yet and let’s hope so because we need to be in the economic development game. But I am concerned that the Delray Beach Office of Economic Development doesn’t have a director. When I visited the city’s website, the name of the departed director was still listed and the latest news was dated April 8, 2019. Sorry, folks that doesn’t cut it.

Economic development is a competitive endeavor. You have to want make something happen and you have to be out there selling your community as a great place to do business.

All. The. Time.

Despite the city snoozing, we are seeing some interesting investments—I love “The Linton” a new project by Menin Development on Linton Boulevard and I’m interested to see how the company’s bold move to build and operate the largest food hall in Florida downtown fares.

Good stuff, all of it.

It’s also nice to see some tenants moving into the iPic office building. We need the daytime activity.

Out on Congress Avenue, Grover-Corlew has done a good job repositioning the old Arbors office building into Delray Central and I’m guardedly optimistic that sometime we might actually get an overlay district on Federal Highway, an effort we have paid consultants to complete but for some inexplicable reason remains unfinished despite years and years of talking about it.

Meanwhile, the region is thriving.

Miami hired its first chief technology officer to provide “concierge” services to help tech companies navigate the bureaucracy when they come to the city. Softbank, the massive venture capital fund, just announced a $100 million commitment to fund Miami area companies, a testament to how hot the Magic City has become.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has been fielding inquiries via his Twitter account from a variety of companies and has gotten inquiries from Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Facebook investor Peter Thiel among others.

“There is an attitude that has been expressed by some leaders that says, ‘We don’t want you and we don’t need you,’” Suarez said to NBC News alluding to how business owners say they feel they are being treated in Silicon Valley. “It’s the opposite of the ‘How can I help?’ attitude, ‘How can I grow this ecosystem?”

Well said Mr. Mayor. How can I help is sure better than take your jobs and money elsewhere.

Meanwhile, to our immediate south, Boca has the amazing Jessica Delvecchio leading the economic development charge. Jessica heads a small office but you would think she has an army at her disposal. She sends a constant stream of good news about Boca and the merits of investing in the city. She’s a rock star.

So is Andrew Duffel, who runs the FAU Research Development Park.

Rock stars are helpful, but what’s as important is a coherent economic development strategy that is worked relentlessly by people who believe.

Such a strategy should be aspirational and realistic—two terms often at odds but indulge me for a moment.

Aspiration is essential—you have to identify a North Star and articulate why it’s important to reach for that star. It helps if the community is rowing in the same direction.

But while dreams are important, they have to be tempered by reality. So many cities want to be another “Silicon Valley” but that’s not likely.

It’s OK to borrow inspiration from a successful region or city, but I think the best strategies build off your own unique strengths.

For Boca—well the strengths are pretty amazing. Great schools, emerging universities, a world class parks system, a low crime rate, attractive neighborhoods and stable local government.

Delray has a vibrant downtown, beautiful beach, historic neighborhoods, great “scale”, loads of charm and proximity to some of those emerging universities we just mentioned.

Combined—the two cities can’t be beat. They are complementary places strategically located in the heart of South Florida.

So I’m bullish on the future but only if…

–We get in the game.

We need an economic development director. I was alarmed when a candidate at a recent forum at the Arts Garage said we didn’t need an economic development director. Sorry, Price Patton, you’re a smart man but that’s a short-sighted answer. Don’t let the crowds on Atlantic Avenue fool you. Like the rest of America, our economy has been hit hard by Covid-19. We need jobs and to help struggling parts of our city. There’s even vacancy downtown and along Pineapple Grove. We need to be in the game.

–We maintain our charm and scale. (P.S. Please ignore those goofy fear mongering mailers saying candidates want to turn us into Fort Lauderdale. That. Won’t. Ever. Happen. We won’t ever raise height limits downtown. We won’t ever have skyscrapers. We won’t even be Boynton or Boca which allows 10 and 12 story buildings. But we do have to manage growth and insist on great design. It’s good to be vigilant about our future, but it doesn’t serve anyone well to exaggerate. Let’s raise the level of discourse if we can).

In addition, we have to fix City Hall.

Businesses coming into a city need to know that they can rely on an efficient and fair approval process.

Leaders set the course, staff implements the vision. Staff is lost if there’s a poor culture and or no vision.

Poor leadership wastes a good staff. Good leadership without a good staff doesn’t work either. You need both sides of the equation.

It’s also essential to have a good story/vision.

It’s not about incentives—a compelling vision and a process free of gutter politics, bureaucratic fear and inefficiency goes a long, long way.

Ideally,-the vision comes from the community with the City Commission leading the way and serving as the guardian and driver of the vision making sure things get done and that we stay true to what the community wants. And by community I mean everyone willing and able to show up or weigh in.

We can’t afford to leave anyone behind. We can’t afford to ignore stakeholders.

We are so quick to label in this town.

The developer is always greedy and rapacious—some are, but most aren’t.

The business community has been labeled by some as a self-serving “special interest”—and yet some of the most caring, committed and dedicated contributors own businesses in town. Shouldn’t they have a voice? And what’s wrong with making a profit, this is America and in order for a city to be sustainable we need a strong and prosperous business community.

On the flip side, opponents of projects are often labeled NIMBY’s, which stands for not in my backyard. In other words, they don’t want to see anything happen. Sometimes that’s true. But many citizens just  have some questions that need to be answered or suggestions that might make the project function better.

Regardless, effective economic development means that we need to have a common vision, a staff to carry it out, a great story to sell your town to investors and a climate that doesn’t resemble Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

But most important, if you want jobs, opportunity and tax base—(and we do because if you’re stagnant you die) you have to get in the game.

I hope we do.

Hotels and multi-family projects have their place. But job creating commercial enterprises are also needed. We shouldn’t mistake the two—and I fear we do.

Boca, Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach are reeling in companies that create jobs and make their economies less reliant on food, beverage and tourism which we have learned can be very vulnerable to economic cycles, pandemics and even extreme weather events.

We need to diversify. We need to innovate. Complacency is a killer.

 

Here’s a look at some deals coming to Palm Beach County:

Beacon Pharmaceutical is building a 200,0000 square foot life sciences accelerator in Jupiter. The $80 million investment will support up to 50 companies.

NYU Langone Health is bringing 500 new jobs to Boynton Beach with a 100,000 square foot patient access contact center.

Misfits Gaming is creating 30 new jobs in Boca. Average salary $95,000.

Northwest Company is bringing 35 jobs to a new corporate headquarters in Boca.

Logistics/Distribution. 15 distribution centers occupying nearly 5 million square feet is planned for Palm Beach County. 1 million square feet and 300 jobs are coming to the Park of Commerce and 150 jobs in 75,000 square feet is coming to North Military Trail in Boca.

–The BDB’s “Behind the Gates” initiative targeting financial firms has yielded 2,500 jobs and counting.

Wealthspire Advisors is establishing a presence in east Boca.

Project Rack is in the hopper for Boynton Beach, 270 new jobs in distribution.

The Gold Standard In Local Leadership

Tom and me: Biltmore Forest, N.C. a few years back.

A month from now, on March 9, voters will go the polls and vote for Mayor and two commission seats in Delray Beach.

The upcoming election gives me an excuse to write about a very special mayor and man who has made a big difference in our city. For me, Tom Lynch has always been the gold standard in local leadership. He’s also played a special role in my leadership journey and for that I am grateful beyond words.

But how do you write about a man who opened up a new world for you?

How do you adequately describe 30 plus years of advice, counsel and inspiration?

The truth is you really can’t.

All you can do is try and share bits and pieces. I do  in the hopes that some future leader of our city will find it wise to study Tom’s exemplary model of leadership.

Tom Lynch and I have been friends since the late 80s when I moved to Delray Beach to cover the city for a local newspaper. Tom was a star on the rise in those days—already a very successful businessman, already someone leading in the community—already that someone who had that certain special something you can’t quite put your finger on.

Charismatic. Handsome. Kind. Articulate. A visionary thinker.

When Tom was elected mayor in 1990 we did a front page feature story on him. Tom was a youthful and energetic 41-year-old who oozed confidence but was always down to earth and never egotistical. But he sure looked the part of a confident leader.

I remember thinking about his “presence” when our photographer took photos of Tom in front of his Plastridge Insurance office on Federal Highway.

“Delray is a leader,” said a former city commissioner I quoted for the story. “This man will take us places.”

He sure did.

That’s what special leaders do—they transform.

They take us places that maybe we didn’t know we wanted to go—but when we get there we sure are glad.

In Delray’s case, Tom took us to a place of stability that we longed for after a tumultuous decade that featured lots of political infighting and a revolving door of city managers. When we stabilized, when we began to get along, when we talked through our differences—it felt good. Around town, the possibilities felt infinite. Nothing changed—except the leadership dynamic—and therefore everything changed. We were on the way…

–“Best Run Town in Florida” said the cover story in Florida Trend.

–A coveted All America City Award in 1993.

–An intangible feeling of optimism in the air that made all the difference.

We started believing again.

Sometimes I think we underestimate the value of belief. Businesses, relationships, organizations and yes cities can’t succeed without belief.

Great leaders instill belief.

They make you feel safe and they make you believe that things can get better; we feel protected when they are on the job and that leads to trust, cooperation and achievement.

My wife Diane, who worked in the planning department when Tom was mayor, remembers what it felt like to work with a mayor and commission who cared deeply about what the staff thought and recommended. City staff felt empowered and important, they had a sense of mission and a notion that they were doing big things—and they were doing big things.

My wife and others felt they had found heaven working in Delray where the mayor and commissioners were polite, passionately committed to building something special and willing to stand up for what was right.

Meetings were civil, productive and business like. For someone like Diane it was a sea change from what she had experienced as a young planner in Hollywood where staff presentations were often fraught and stressful exercises.

In Delray, the culture set by Tom was collaboration not confrontation. It made all the difference.

There’s a saying by Maya Angelou that I think sums up some of what I feel about Tom’s leadership legacy: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Tom made us feel confident in our future. He made us believe.

We’ve had some terrific mayors before Tom and some good ones since, but Tom Lynch was and is extra special.

He had a calming presence.

He saw the big picture.

He was a holistic thinker and he was kind to staff, fellow commissioners and constituents.

Tom Lynch was the mayor who put us back on track after we were divided and unstable in the 80s. He was blessed with a citizen driven “Visions 2000” and bond issue money which funded a slew of great projects in the 1990s.

One could argue it would have been hard to fail given those advantages, but one would be wrong to assume that success is ever assured.

It takes leadership to execute on a vision, maturity to build a team and strength to steer through the inevitable rough seas. We’ve all seen leaders fail despite given great advantages, it takes skill and intelligence to navigate the land mines which are many in public life.

Nobody did it better than Tom.

For me and I suspect others, he was the gold standard of leadership and I quietly tried to model myself after him. I don’t think I ever told him that. But every time we spoke I was taking mental notes.

We were and are very different people, but there’s a whole lot of common ground too.

We’ve been engaged in a 30 year plus conversation which is the best part of friendship and while we’ve agreed on scores of topics we’ve had a few differences as well.

But we’ve always managed to listen to each other and find a way forward. I learned from our agreements and I learned even more when we saw things differently. His high standard made me want to work hard. If you want to talk about  philosophy and leadership with Tom Lynch you best come prepared because he’s thought through or lived through the issues we’re talking about.

While Tom’s civic resume is beyond impressive—mayor of Delray, mayor of the Village of Golf, School Board Chair, Chair of the Business Development Board, President of the Palm Beach County League of Cities—and the list goes on—the true measure of a person is the lives they touch.

Tom has touched more lives through his service, friendship, business acumen and all around goodness than I could possibly quantify.

Personally, I’ve been blessed with many incredible friends and for that I am grateful. My friends have brought me immense joy and have been incredibly supportive through every phase of my life.

But there are four men in my life who have shaped me in ways too profound to describe.

Two of those men were family, my grandfather and original hero Abraham and my father and all-time idol Sandy.

The other two special guys have been Carl DeSantis—my mentor in business who opened up new worlds to me and my family and Tom Lynch who sat me down all those years ago in the old Annex in Pineapple Grove and talked to me about  giving local politics a whirl. It took a few years for me to take the leap, but he planted the seed and never left my side through hurricanes, shootings, lawsuits, controversial votes and term limits. He advised me in business and in life, attended my mom’s funeral (even though he didn’t know her), and supported me after a divorce and when I found new love.

Over the decades, we’ve talked about kids, family, education, politics, business, technology, people we admire and how to build cities and companies. We have never run out of things to talk about.

He’s been elemental in my life. Absolutely elemental.

How lucky am I?

How lucky has Delray been?
So my wish is for future mayors to find each to find each other or others who might mentor them so they can be all that they can be.

Because when a mayor succeeds so does a city. Mayors cannot succeed alone. It really does take a village.

I should note, that while Tom and I agree on many things, we are members of different political parties. And yet, we have found a way to be close, to change each other’s minds on occasion and to find a lot that we can agree on.

The two of us are admittedly, a small sample, but it shows that agreement, reconciliation and mutual respect is possible and a whole lot more desirable. We benefit when we open our hearts and minds to the special people in our midst—especially those who see some things differently.

Thirty plus years ago, I interviewed a newly elected mayor not knowing that 10 years later I would be taking the same oath that my mentor and friend took. How could I have known? But I am grateful that I knew enough to listen to this special man because he has meant the world to me and my family and I owe him more than I can ever describe.

Here are five (there are hundreds) of principles that Tom brought to our community:

The notion that cities are like sturdy tables—you need a strong foundation that includes a healthy business community, strong neighborhoods, good schools and healthy non-profits. All the legs have to be strong. Now that sounds basic, but as we navigate the blizzard of campaign mail over the next month watch the messaging of candidates who bemoan “special interests”—code word for businesses and organizations. Truth be told, successful mayors have to cultivate relationships with all the stakeholders in town. Tom felt it was important for the city to be engaged with local schools, homeowner associations and non-profits. He also knew how critical it was for the city to have good relationships with the business community, local cities, the county, School Board, state and federal governments.

 

Business-like, civil proceedings. As noted earlier, civility and professionalism breeds stability and progress. Delray became ‘the’ place to work not because we paid more than other cities, but because of our culture and the fact that we were doing big, creative things. As a result, we attracted and retained talent. Having institutional knowledge is critical.

Open Government. Tom introduced the “town hall” meeting—which was mothballed even before Covid. But the intent was to provide an annual report to citizens and business owners, much like a corporation does for its stockholders. A big part of the town hall was a presentation giving everyone a full report of where the city stood in terms of projects, financials, building permits, initiatives etc. It was educational and built community.

Brings us solutions, not just your problems. Tom stressed the importance of the community leading the process of providing solutions so he challenged groups to come to the city with ideas on how to fix problems. If there were disputes, parties were often encouraged to work it out before the city imposed a solution that might not be ideal. It proved to be a good incentive.

The Mayor as consensus builder. Tom saw his role as the consensus builder on the dais and so he most often spoke last making sure to hear the thoughts of his fellow commissioners, staff and citizens. He would try to sift through the input to piece together areas of agreement. He built consensus, he didn’t polarize, label or divide. When an issue was voted on and he lost, he moved on and urged others to do so as well.

 

 

The Merits Of Comfort

We just marked the one year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death.

“To lead others, you have to constantly learn. I wouldn’t say my leadership style changed over the years. I like challenging people and making them uncomfortable. That’s what leads to introspection and that’s what leads to improvement. You could say I dare people to be their best selves.

“That approach has never wavered – from basketball to business. What I did adjust, though, was how I varied my approach from player to player, business to business. I still challenge everyone and make them uncomfortable; I just do it in a way that is tailored to them.

“To learn what would work and for who, I do homework and watch how they behave. I learn their histories and listen to what their goals are. I learn what makes them feel secure and where their greatest doubts lay. Once I understand them, I can help bring the best out of them by touching the right nerve at the right time.” Kobe Bryant on leadership. Found on the website of his venture capital firm Bryant Stibel.

 

I’ve been on a reading tear of late.

I guess that’s what happens during a pandemic where it’s just not safe to resume your normal life of running around.

I’ve always loved to read and I’m a late bloomer when it comes to education—I did the minimum to get by in school excelling in the subjects I liked and struggling in those that didn’t interest me because I just didn’t work very hard. But sometime in my late 20s, a ferocious curiosity overtook me and I just became a voracious student of life. I was a journalist back then which meant that every week I got to interview interesting people and learn a little about their lives. I spent time with homicide detectives, street cops, paramedics, doctors, developers, entrepreneurs, scientists, farmers, chefs, techies and more. I learned a little bit about a whole lot of things.

Being in newspapers in the late 80s and early 90s, was the best job imaginable for someone like me who was curious and liked to write. And so I became what some refer to as a “generalist.”

My editors knew they could assign me to any story and I could figure it out. So I wrote about business, law, education, crime and even agriculture. I profiled athletes, playwrights, professors, detectives, artists and politicians.

But when you are a generalist, you don’t master any one thing. And so in my business life and my civic life, I have had to lean on experts and reading materials to make it through. It’s worked—for the most part.

I thought about all that last week, when the world observed the one year anniversary of the tragic helicopter accident that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others. What a horrible ending to a magnificent story. Kobe was focused on one thing. I am not.

Kobe is an interesting model because he was a flawed man with a past (a sexual assault accusation in 2003) that marred his legacy. He worked hard to reinvent himself and edit the narrative of his past, according to one profile I recently read. He learned that real life is not so easy to revise. I think we all learn that.

We also learn that we are fragile. All of us. Money, power, fame, talent and smarts doesn’t give us protection against all the things that might rear up and bite us. And so if we survive, we might find that we get stronger, wiser and more empathetic.

We can’t let setbacks define us, or we get lost forever.

As Hemingway said: “We’re stronger in the places that we’ve been broken.”

So like I mentioned, I’ve been reading a lot these days—a book about those who achieve “unreasonable success,” another on the “hidden habits of genius” and a book about how to change your mind.

These books have made me think about life and the people I have observed along the way.

In Kobe’s case, I thought about his leadership style which he describes in the quote above—and his efforts to make people feel uncomfortable.

I like everything about that quote except the word uncomfortable. Oh, I guess being uncomfortable has its place in life. Sometimes you need to be uncomfortable to garner the will to make a needed change.

But I have found that making people comfortable is a better way. Comfort is not complacency, which is a killer. But comfort allows people to feel safe to do their best work, make good mistakes (there is such a thing) and to settle in so they can work hard to break through.

Everywhere I have worked or spent time, I have wanted people to be comfortable. I despise complacency, believe in accountability and like to be around people who work hard. But I have found that if you’re having fun, over time you’ll find success.

I like cultures that encourage experimentation. With experimentation you will experience a fair amount of mistakes. But you’ll find that most mistakes aren’t fatal and if you learn from them and don’t repeat them you’ll break through.

I’ve worked in organizations where fear ruled and it isn’t pretty.-Sure, you might get some short term results but fear isn’t sustainable and it doesn’t age well.

The best organizations are those where people feel free to innovate, experiment, speak openly and where they know they are listened to and respected.

These are not genius insights, I know that. But yet, why is that kind of culture so rare?
Why?

In my recent reading, I’ve marveled at the game changers who achieved unreasonable success and I discovered the hidden habits of genius, but the common thread seems to be people that really want to change the world and are obsessively focused on doing so. Some were individuals who worked well on their own and some built teams and companies. Some led countries, some used art to expand our consciousness.

Still, not too many of us are Einstein’s, Edison’s, Dylan’s, Van Gogh’s or Kobe’s.

So maybe the key is to surround yourself with people who are relentless about self-improvement and doing good things. Once again, Kobe left us some advice: he looked for two characteristics when evaluating people. “The most important thing is curiosity first. I want curious people — people who ask questions, people who want to figure things out, and people who figure out new ways to do things,” he says. “From that curiosity, then you need to have the determination to see that curiosity through.”

I’m comfortable with that.

What do you think?

Pre-Election Thoughts

One day, I hope the arena will be safer. We will all benefit.

In my fantasy world, election cycles would be uplifting events in which we debate issues, weigh competing visions and cast ballots for candidates that we admire.

Sadly, the reality often doesn’t quite live up to the fantasy.

Our national scene is a toxic cesspool in which billions of dollars are spent to convince a very thin slice of undecided voters to turnout for candidates who almost always leave us scratching our heads and asking the question: “is this really the best we can do?”

It has been that way for a long time now. But there was a time when local politics was an exception. There was a time when local candidates ran on the merits of their ideas and their civic and career track records.

Sadly, those days are in the rear view mirror. Too often, local contests become mud-slinging exercises instead of a debate over vision, voting records and performance.

I hope someday that we can return to a more civil discourse and create an atmosphere that may attract our best and brightest because as we have noted on many occasions— leadership is important. And local leadership is especially important because city government touches so many aspects of our lives.

When I moved to Delray Beach in the 80s, our politics were very reminiscent of today. If the past is prologue, then we can look forward to a golden age in Delray because the strife of the 80s was followed by the 90s “Decade of Excellence.”

By that, I mean that the turnover we saw in the 1980s in the city manager’s office and staff ranks was followed by a long run of stability and progress.

But there was a difference back then—citizens as a whole stood up and said “no more.” No more infighting. No more intrigue. No more factions. No more nonsense.

Today, we seem to tolerate division. It’s not healthy or productive—citizens get lost in the muck.

Back in the 90s, our leaders heard the call and they stepped up and made things happen.

A series of solid candidates took a risk and entered the arena. They promised and delivered on a wide range of policy proposals that surfaced during visioning exercises held in the 80s and again in the early 2000s.

The benefits of those community driven efforts gave us today’s Delray Beach.

We are far from perfect and far from a finished product (city building is never done) but we have a lot to be proud of: a rocking downtown, historic districts, cultural facilities, parking infrastructure, a tennis stadium, public art, a land trust, a healthy beach and other amenities. These accomplishments and more are a direct result of local leadership that enabled city staff to execute on the community’s dreams and aspirations.

It’s not a difficult formula.

Ask the community to share their aspirations, prioritize and budget for those ideas so they can come to life, task the staff with getting it done, hold them accountable and get out of the way. This isn’t exactly nuclear fusion my friends.

But yet, from my vantage point, we begin 2021 with a lot of challenges to address.

Our politics have grown ever more toxic and vastly more personal over the years.

This poisonous “culture” doesn’t serve our community. Problems go unsolved, opportunities vanish and over time the sense of community we treasure gets eroded.

As a longtime observer and one time participant in all things Delray, I can state with certainty that culture is the killer app. If you have a great culture there are no limits to what you can achieve and no problem that you cannot solve or at least improve greatly. But if you lack a healthy culture—well let’s just say you’ll experience symptoms like lawsuits, investigations, rampant turnover and an inability to figure what do to with your sea grapes. (Sea grapes, for goodness sakes!)

There is so much for us to do in Delray—a partial list includes:

-Congress Avenue

-North Federal Highway

-The Old School Square Park

-Infrastructure

-Getting to work on the issues raised by The Set Implementation Plan

–Creating opportunities for our children

–Helping businesses and families recover from the Covid pandemic.

And the list goes on and on.

We have so much to build on—thanks to the hard work of generations of stakeholders— but whether we thrive or slide depends a lot on the men and women who bravely step into the arena and run for public office.

I have a long list of traits that I look for in candidates but ultimately my choice is limited to those who decide to run and qualify for the ballot. There’s an old political saying—don’t judge me against the almighty, judge me against the alternative and that is true.

So what am I looking for in the March 2021 election?

Initiative—does the candidate have ideas? Are they viable and interesting?

Kindness—can they get along well with others or will they polarize and divide?

Work ethic—will they show up and do their homework? P.S. Someone can be a hard worker but if they work hard at undermining people and good ideas they’ve lost me. I want to see candidates who will roll up their sleeves, get out in the community and make something good happen.

An open mind—do they automatically vote no or yes? Are they glued to the hip to one group or another elected official or are they independent and able to make decisions for the long term good of the city?

Consequently, I will not support candidates who are civic bullies or who are backed by civic bullies. I won’t support people who consider only the impacts not the benefits of projects, events, ideas or the like. It’s easy to say no to everything but yes opens the door to possibility.

I’m also looking for courage.

It’s easy to bend to the noisy mob but I want someone willing to risk it all to do what’s right for our town.

Sometimes the loud voices are right and sometimes they’re wrong. Also, sometimes the noisiest citizens aren’t representative of the will of the community. It’s not about counting heads at a commission meeting—there are plenty of people who can’t come to meetings and sit for hours waiting for an item.

Those folks—and they are the overwhelming majority–rely on their elected representatives to do the right thing—not just count noses at a meeting held during working hours which might exclude many who would love to be there but have to work or have child obligations.

 

After the last few years of lawsuits, dizzying turnover, longtime employees dragged through the mud and of being the punchline to jokes, I’m looking for kindness, empathy and an entrepreneurial spirit.

The stakes are huge my friends. We have a lot or repair work to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Poignant Covid Memorial

Rituals matter.
Love and empathy matters too.

We’ve lost 400,000 Americans to Covid-19, 100,000 since December.

It’s a staggering and brutal number.  And it will get worse before it gets better.

I was overcome with emotion as I watched our national Covid Memorial yesterday—seeing those beautiful lights and knowing that they represent the departed souls of our brothers and sisters.

It’s been six months since I was infected during the summer wave which pales next to our current Covid surge. I made it and am grateful for that daily and cognizant that so many have been lost.

We are living through a nightmare; a human nightmare that’s ending lives, upending families and threatening economies worldwide.

As I write this, I have friends with sick parents, friends who have lost relatives and friends who are dealing with long hauler health issues. It has been a nightmare.

While I am feeling so much better, I still wake up and go to sleep with headaches and have arm and leg pain. I looked at the 400 columns of lights and felt immense gratitude for the doctors, nurses and the prayers of friends that somehow for some reason saved me.

Others weren’t as fortunate.

And a nation aches for them. We also feel for those whose health has been compromised perhaps for the rest of their lives.

Much has been written about the politics of Covid, but not as much focus has been placed on the human toll of this virus.
That’s why it was so gratifying to see our beautiful nation’s Capitol illuminated with lights remembering those we’ve lost.

So many people of all ages and from all walks of life no longer with us. So many empty seats at the family table.
It’s important to grieve and to acknowledge the loss we have suffered.

These national rituals are reminders that we are one country—indivisible but only if we choose to be. It’s a choice.

Regardless, there is power in empathy.

Leaders look for opportunities to connect and educate.
They look for teachable moments that can move hearts and minds.

Yesterday’s Covid memorial was pitch perfect.
We needed to mourn, honor and remember—together. The together part is most important. Especially now.