Monday, January 21, 2013

A Day of Community Service

The cold slowly seeped through layers of clothes, numbing our fingers and toes, as we stood outside the entrance of the Thrashers Corner Safeway Saturday morning. We were collecting non-perishable food for the Greater Bothell Parent Resource Center (Food Bank) as part of the UW Bothell/Cascadia Community College MLK Day of Service. Busy shoppers exited the supermarket, placing their food donations into large boxes.

One gentleman with his long gray beard paused for a moment before entering the store and mentioned that, not long ago, he depended on the food bank to feed him and his family. He returned a few minutes later with a couple of cans of beans and vegetables. “I’m glad I’m able to give back now,” he said with a smile as he continued on with his morning.

As we found out during the recent economic downturn, families are but one layoff away from hardship. During our last class, Maury Forman said that there is more to economic development than just creating jobs; build healthy communities so jobs will be created. To me, a healthy community begins with an awareness of the people around us including those who struggle each day to make ends meet.

As leaders we must do our part to bridge barriers and create solutions to social problems so we can build stronger communities. Or in the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,”An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confined of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Government, for the people

The first time I voted was 1976, I was 18.  In 1973 (I think) the voting age was lowered to 18 and by golly, I was going to vote because it was my right.

I've only missed 1 election since then and it was a minor one.  I love that we in this country can make a difference.  At the local, county, state and national level.  I find it so sad that there are so many folks out there who don't vote!  And their excuse is that it doesn't matter, their vote doesn't matter.  So they don't care.

It so impressed me that every one of the speakers in our Government Day told us... we care about what you think, call me, email me... we are here to serve you.  So while we think they don't have any inkling what "the people" want, if we let them know, they will listen.

I also think they want all to get involved.  If you don't like something in your community, county, state or the nation, speak up!  You can start small but if you have a point to make, make it.  That is the beauty of our country, we all have a voice.  And we shouldn't be afraid to use it!

Monday, December 10, 2012

I love the government!

I love government.  I love that there is this beautiful structure that allows us to have some say, in the best way it can today, to affect change for everyone.  Its not perfect.  Its quite flawed.  Are there ways to change it, absolutely, but we all know it takes the energy and commitment that is far beyond what most of us have or want to offer. 

When I was 22, I told my mom I wasn’t voting.  Done.  Its not like it matters; its not important; its not like the candidate I believe in is going to win or even make a difference.  My mom would have none of it.  We didn’t get along in the first place, but over the phone she reminded me that at the beginning of the century, I wouldn’t have been allowed to vote.  There were people who fought to make this an option for me, to make it possible for me to even have an opinion in an election or on the political forefront.  And some of those people died trying to give me that right and give me that opportunity to have an opinion.  What she didn’t say, I have learned since and was re-conveyed yesterday in the leadership class. 

Its not just about voting.  If you want to be angry at the system and you want the system to change, put forth the energy.  Do something! By doing nothing, we stand by and let the things we don’t like continue to happen.  Not participating is a way to be complacent in the system.  Its not a boycott.  You aren’t sending a message.  It doesn’t change what you don’t like or change your selection of candidates.  Tim Eyman, whether you agree with most of his measures or not, is making change he believes in.  He is working in the system to make things better, as he sees them.  Do I agree with half of what he puts forth?  No.  Does that matter?  No.  Because that is what this system is about.  I think Seth Dawson said had the most beautiful quote of the day, “Democracy is just a substitute for civil war.”  It may not always work and it may be a game that makes us crazy, but if you want something to change, start working to change it.  Use the system to your benefit and what you feel with benefit others.  Put forth the energy, take the time, and make it change.  It can be as simple as calling your elected officials, as complicated as crafting an initiative or as stressful as running for office.  Your choice….but do something.  That’s what I took away during yesterday’s class, and it reminded me how much I love living in the United States.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Go Forth and Advocate

Be honest: How many of you had the “I’m Just a Bill” song dancing in your head during Seth Dawson’s presentation? Yeah, I thought so.

I tend to struggle with the issue of “lobbying”. I work for a federally funded organization so we are not allowed to “Use Corporation resources or use the Corporation name for lobbying or political purposes, or [here we go] engage in such activity during employee’s assigned working hours.” I am, however, permitted to engage in such activities on my personal time but, by the time I get home, the last thing on my mind is to email my representatives regarding any good cause I might be passionate about. Yet I still am a big fan of the democratic system and believe participation goes far beyond voting on Election Day and occasional dinner conversations.

With that in mind, here’s a question: Do you know the name of your Federal representatives? (Murray, Cantwell, (mine) DelBene) How about your State representatives? (Hill/Goodman/Springer) But more importantly, at least I believe so; do you know the name of your mayor? (Mine is Bernie…) City council members? (Um…)

Now, back the issue of lobbying or better yet, advocacy. Advocacy? This, for me, is a manageable way for all of us to lobby. A few years back, I attended a conference workshop on Advocacy facilitated by Stephanie Vance ( She presented some great tips on working with your representatives (federal, state or LOCAL). Here are a few highlights (in my own words):

1. You may be passionate, but… : Who’s to say anyone else shares your views? Your representative can become passionate about your cause if you make it personal to them. For example, let’s say they have a dog named Ozzie. Your initiative promotes animal rights. You might say, “A vote for our initiative is a vote for Ozzie!"
2. Sound-bites: We live in a sound-bite era. Don’t drone on! Get your point across in a minute or less. If they want more, they’ll ask. When meeting elected officials (on my own time…) I’ll usually say, “Thank you for your efforts on ‘Workforce Development’”. That’s all. But many will stop and chat.
3. Repetition: Like washing your hair – Wash, rinse, repeat. Memorize your one-sentence-sound-bite-mantra. Say it to your elected official. Repeat each time you meet them.

I was inspired by “Government & Public Affairs Day”. I’m going to stop by next week’s City Council meeting in the People's Republic of Woodinville. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

What an AMAZING day!

Last Thursday was Education Day for this year's Signature Class.  I found the overview of law enforcement inspiring – John Lovick (Sheriff, Snohomish County), Kathy Atwood (Chief, Everett Police Department), and Tony Aston (Training Sergeant, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department) all spoke about leadership and the people in their lives that inspired and mentored them.  The biggest takeaway for me was that life-changing inspirations do not have to come from your parents and do not have to be monumental events.  They often come from complete strangers who can affect us for a lifetime with just a few words.   I was very impressed by the speakers’ spirit of cooperation, humility, and pay-it-forward approach to leadership.  It made me wonder how many times I could be (or perhaps already have been) that person in someone’s life and how profound the ripple effects can be. 

Our County is not perfect and is facing some pretty significant challenges – many of which were touched on throughout the day.  It seemed the perfect day to start our Leadership curriculum talking about authenticity.  The day reminded me of something I read and highlighted in the chapter on authenticity: “Convictions are acute moments of authenticity.  When we hear someone speak from conviction, it is powerful and moving.”   I found every person I heard speak to be authentic, full of conviction, caring, passionate and fiercely proud of their role in our community.  I am very appreciative of the time and effort put in by everyone involved in making the day valuable and memorable.   Best of all - thrilled about my team’s project!     

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Professional Development with an Impact

I always encourage the youth I encounter (and other folks for that matter) to integrate “lifelong learning” into their lives. In today’s work world, ongoing development of new skills is essential in one’s career – for both maintenance and advancement. So when the opportunity arose for me to apply to this year’s Leadership Snohomish County class, I jumped at the opportunity. Four coworkers in my organization are alumni of LSC and speak highly of the program.

During the initial two-day retreat, I realized how much of a positive influence LSC strives to make in our community. Professionals come together not only to develop leadership skills but to learn about service organizations around our county and, most importantly, are charged to make a real difference – leading by example.

I’m looking forward to the months (and years) to come. There is great energy with the Class of 2013. Together we’ll truly impact our county.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's September 2012 and our 15th program year has started. This is my 6th class with Leadership Snohomish County and all in one hour, many of the people I have only heard over the phone, read their applications, suddenly come to life. Just when I think, oh, I can't imagine loving this class as much as the last class, someone touches my arm and says, "I'm so happy to be here". And I think, "I am too!" In the first hour of the retreat, I  sat with a group sharing about a leader who touched them and I fell in love with the new class.  I'm here for the stories. I love hearing your stories.