Inauguration Highlights from GRCF staff member and her son!
January 26th, 2009I asked Jonse Young and her 11 year old son Austin to write an entry in this blog about their experience attending President Obama's Inauguration. I will tell you to remember Austin's name as I am sure he will be a future President as he is a remarkable young man who is smart, happy and cares deeply about key issues!
Comments from Austin Young:
On January 14, 2009, my mom told me that we had tickets for the Inauguration. When I heard this I was so happy, excited, and jumping for joy about going to DC and being a part of President Elect-Barack Obama's Inauguration. I told my teachers and friends at school. I was so delighted to be a part of history.
So when we got there on Monday, I was even more excited, except for the fact that we just sat around the hotel that night. My mom told me we would need our energy for the next day. Boy was she right! Tuesday, the next day, January 20, 2009, we woke up really early to catch the Metro from College Park, MD to DC. When we got there it was amazing to see all the people and different sites, and even security. There were vendors and millions and millions of people there to share this historic event. I saw all ages, from babies in strollers to elders in wheelchairs!! I was awed and overjoyed!! Everything was beautiful. This trip was awesome, the best trip I've ever been on. It also helped me to realize more than ever before, that I too can someday, become President of the United States. Thanks mom!!
Austin James Young
Comments from Jonse Young:
Personal space was non-existent as millions of people gathered Tuesday, January 20, 2009, for the 56th Presidential Inauguration Ceremonies for President Elect-Barack Obama. Actually, I didn't mind because I wanted my 11 year old son, Austin, to witness this historical moment and we did just that. Chants of "Yes We Can", "Yes We Did", and "Barack Obama", resounded loudly throughout the Metro Stations and the DC area. What a great feeling! No violent acts, just hope, tears of joy, and excitement. Our original Inauguration Ceremonies Program and tickets will be cherished and preserved forever. Pictures captured will help to make a momentous scrap book that will be shared throughout our family for generations to come. Above is a picture of Austin and me walking from the Capitol. A live interview with Shelley Irwin, WGVU helped me to share my experience with listeners in the Grand Rapids area, such as my husband, Allen, who was unable to attend. I still cannot believe that I was actually there. President Obama, the first African American President, is a "Beacon of Hope" and has inspired me personally to do my part and help "Change" become a reality locally and abroad. "Yes We Can!"
Johngerlyn "Jonse" Young
P.S. Special thanks to Representative Vern Ehlers' office for the tickets to attend the Inauguration Ceremonies. Thanks Diana Sieger for allowing Austin and me to be guest bloggers blog. Thanks again Roberta King for the outdoor clothing that kept us very warm in bone chilling weather.
Thank you both!!! Diana
List of remarkable and brave people
January 19th, 2009Marcie Lewis reminds me in the comments below to add Helen Jackson Wilkins Claytor who was a remarkable pioneer also and I should have added that to Mayor Heartwell's list along with likely many more people. Please make your recommendations of our tremendous leaders by commenting. Thanks!
Hope for the future
January 19th, 2009I am growing so weary of having a tag placed on me. I was told several years ago by a local "Spin Doctor" who believes he is a public relations expert that describing myself as an Independent was seen in Grand Rapids as being a Democrat. He thought it was funny while I thought it demonstrated his stupidity. How very parochial - how very arrogant - how very, very wrong. (Apologies for the Spin Doctor reference to Roberta King GRCF VP for PR and Marketing and PR & Marketing Specialist Amanda St. Pierre who both represent the most positive aspects of PR, Communications and Marketing! Both are consummate public relations professionals.)
It is on this glorious day we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. anticipating the inauguration of this nation's first African American president - President Barack Obama. Today I am proud to be the age I am - 57 years old with the experience, personal faith, and knowledge to make me strong in both professionally and personally. My defining years were the 1960's and I was most influenced by the civil rights movement as a teenager.
Yes I grew up in an affluent Detroit suburb but no, I did not have a privileged life. I was raised by two down-to-earth parents who were more concerned that I was too shy versus a kid that was a revolutionary. I silently took the time to learn about the world that was beyond the borders of Grosse Pointe. I was not necessarily popular in high school and was part of a class that claimed to number more than 1,000 students and it was hard to be heard above the multitudes! I volunteered to tutor at an inner city elementary school, I worked summers and evenings at The Detroit News alongside kids from across the metro Detroit area, and I read everything I could get my hands regarding social change, human services, community organization and righting the wrongs of oppression and segregation. The riots of 1967 taught me that the border between Detroit and Grosse Pointe was artificial yet so very impenetrable.
As I sit here 40+ years later writing this blog entry, I am mindful that I write it as the President of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation - not Diana Sieger private citizen. There are reasons I am in this position today. I was determined at 21 years old that I was going to do something in my life that had tremendous meaning and that would reach out to help make lives better. It is no surprise that I am at this place in my life and I know how fortunate I truly am. Leading this foundation is a privilege and not something I take for granted.
Martin Luther King, Jr. did make an impression on me as did others who were attempting to right the wrongs that many Americans felt. President Barack Obama represents the hope for a future that will bring people together in a peaceful manner trying to build consensus on things that matter and not build thick walls. He also knows that total agreement on all things of what is the best for our country - our communities is unlikely and how we work things out is important.
Thank you to those who came before President Obama who were instrumental in helping him achieve the position of President. Mayor George Heartwell noted many of those local champions - Champions of Diversity - in his State of the City address on Saturday, January 17th: Maurillia (Molly) Blakely, Marshall Chavez, Dr. Julius Franks (posthumously), Lillian Gill, June Horowitz, Alphonse Lewis, Hon. Lyman Parks, Mary Roberts, Vernis Schad, Dr. Ella Sims, Francisco Vega, and Roger Williams.
Thank you to all of you - you are brave heroes and you paved the way.
January 7th, 2009This past Monday, I was honored and fortunate to be invited to lunch with some gentlemen who call their group "The Improvement Association." It is rare the female who gets an invitation and the Association is widely known in leadership circles in Grand Rapids. One of my hosts told me that they figured it out and found that the average age of the group is 88 years old! He then quickly added pointing to the man who invited me, "That one, at age 98 years old, brings up the average!" Well in truth the "young man" who noted that is young in name and young in energy and spirit and frankly is not old by the standards of the group but would be considered elderly by other standards. But it is to his advantage and to all of the members of the group as they have the wisdom and ability to lead that eludes many people who term themselves "community and national leaders." Better for all of us to learn from these wise ones!
Frankly this post may have more appeal to a Grand Rapids audience with the exception of the message. The Improvement Association has been in existence since 1940 and some years after that, they started to meet in the "Gold Room" at the now defunct Peninsular Club every Monday for lunch. I was told they met at the Pen Club for 60 years. In fact, when the Pen Club folded in 2008, the group did adapt and changed venues over to the University Club atop the Fifth Third Building where they are treated royally! Their robust spirit didn't seem dampened one bit by the change of location.
There are pictures and stories that are framed and hung on the in the dining room wall where the men hold their lunches. I saw faces of many of my mentors who have since passed with a sense of sadness yet glad that I was lucky enough to have been in their company particularly in their time of reflection and wisdom. Susan Lovell, a writer and great chronicler in our community of all human sagas that are important to recount, has been commissioned by the group to write their history. That is a history that will definitely be worth the read.
One of the long time members of the Improvement Association introduced me to his poem describing the group about 18 or so years ago after we had lunch at the Pen Club. Jack Chaille, who passed away a few years ago, had a tremendous influence on me and in fact this Community Foundation. He was a "networker extraordinaire" with a quiet demeanor - certainly not silent - with a sense of fun and humor that provided zest to every encounter that anyone ever had with him. We honored him more than a decade ago with an award that we now give out annually for a person or family who has had a positive and meaningful impact on the GRCF. That award bears his name and is synonymous with leadership and community service.
Jack showed me a picture of the gentlemen who at the time comprised the Improvement Association with his poem printed with the photo which hung on the wall of the Gold Room for years. It reads as follows:
The Improvement Association
Words of great wisdom
and extraordinary humor
fairly describes our meetings.
Our objectives are vague,
Our accomplishments frail;
Since we aim at nothing,
We can hardly fail.
Bill Martindill, the aforementioned 98 year old, gave me a copy of the poem on Monday and I was grateful for his kindness. And that is the message. I was in the company of a group of very wise men. Men who are now "retired" but who in their working days were known by their identifiers of CEOs of major companies in West Michigan, bank presidents, university presidents, internationally known physicians, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders paving the way for the "watch out world here we are" spirit that our community is known for today.
I spoke a bit about the Foundation, my view of the community but mostly was intrigued by their reactions and questions. What distinguishes these leaders from others is their ability to actively listen. These men listen and they nod knowingly with respect. I can tell because having been in the company of many leaders in my time, when someone is patronizing, you can smell it a mile away.
Their ability to lead is evident and their ability to understand the human condition is remarkable. Why is the latter important? That is the other distinction of these leaders as they do care about the human condition which is critical to the success of a healthy community, a productive organization, and paving the way for a strong future of all people in our area, state, nation and the world! It would be better if many of our leaders understood that. The men of the Improvement Association listen and they do understand the critical importance of relationships.
And yes - it doesn't escape me that these are all men and likely the Improvement Association will remain that way for decades to come. I have gotten over that. As a member passes away, another person is invited to join their luncheons and learn their rituals which include coin games to determine who pays for lunch. But that's another story for another time and one that is better told by Susan Lovell.
Thank you gentlemen for the invitation, for the lunch and for realizing your strengths and the gifts you give back to our community!