A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of delivering the keynote speech at a fall luncheon for the Austin Woman’s Federated Club at our State Capital. The Lieutenant Governor's Reception Room was a historic and elegant venue for the presentation of an award to Cecilia Abbott, the First Lady of Texas, for her years of service and her platform encouraging volunteerism.
For decades, the large room behind the Senate Chamber served as an apartment for the Lieutenant Governor. The fire in 1983 caused extensive damage to the space so during restoration, the apartment was eliminated and the area transformed into a reception room. The antique furnishings and artwork in the room reflect the popular tastes during the 19th century and a historian told us about the china, paintings and furnishings.
As I walked around appreciating this collection of historical memorabilia, I thought for a moment how civilized it all felt coming off a crazy, traffic ridden day of data overload about catastrophes around the world. I suspected that if the walls could talk, they would tell stories about earlier generations faced with their own seemingly impossible challenges. And, because hindsight offers so much more comfort than the hard task of foresight, it would be helpful to appreciate that the world continued to move forward despite the zigs and the zags of human agendas.
During the few short years of restoration of that beautiful room in the early to mid-80s, other progress was being made. The cell phone and disposable cameras were invented, astronaut Sally Ride became the first woman in space, the World Wide Web came into existence, DNA fingerprinting was developed, Apple Macs and Microsoft Windows were invented, Rotary Club was mandated to accept women members and the Berlin wall came tumbling down.
And yet, during that same short time period of restoration of this beautiful room, a terrorist explosion in Beirut killed 237 U.S. Marines, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated, there were a series of terrorist attacks on airplanes and a cruise ship, scientists announced the discovery of a hole in the Ozone layer over the Antarctic, both Chernobyl and the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, a fatal earthquake hit L.A. and a terrorist bomb destroyed a Pan-Am 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland killing 270 people. All of these events were over 20 years ago but, the one stark difference is that we weren’t hearing about them all day long on our smartphones, PCs, and every other device downloading information to us 24 hours a day.
The point of all this is the reaffirmation that I received from those walls that day. After the luncheon, I went and sat in an empty Senate Gallery for awhile reflecting before I returned to the Reception Room to have a conversation with those hallowed walls. The problems of the world and my country seem so massive to me now, but they were equally massive 20 years ago and 20 years before that.
The one thing that I know for sure is that we each have a responsibility to do something … anything … to create positive change rather than spending an inordinate amount of time trying to stay on top of things that we personally can do nothing about. I’m convinced that we must each contribute to resolutions, to be vanguards and change agents, not paralyzed or indifferent because the news, fake or otherwise, has the ability to make us feel helpless and hopeless.
So, I want to invite you to join any of the groups below and walk with me on this path. If you are an individual hungering to make a difference, join our Illuminate Small Group Cohort or if you are a social entrepreneur looking for help as you launch a business with amazing solutions, join our Innovator Business Intensive. If you are a small to medium-size company who recognizes that you must step into the world of social responsibility in order to compete effectively or recruit future generations who expect you to play big, call me about our Social Responsibility Toolkit. There are amazing Renaissance Companies stepping up to the plate and you are welcome in this group of conscious leaders doing good for the world even as they do good for their investors.
Sometimes looking back is the best way to remind us of the exact steps we need to take to move forward.
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