Antoinette M. Bailey
Vice President - Community and Local Government Relations
The Boeing Company
"Practical Idealism: Key To Building Strong Communities"
Human Services Council of Snohomish County
Partnerships Forum Annual Breakfast
October 22, 1998
"In real estate, the key to success is location, location, location. In the real world at large, the key is connections, connections, connections."
Those aren't my words. They are Stephen Covey's, from an essay entitled "The Ideal Community."
I thought of this observation when I was invited by the Human Service Council of Snohomish County to be the keynote speaker at this year's partnership forum. As someone who has lived a vast majority of her life in the Midwest, I wasn't even sure I knew how to pronounce Snohomish.
I asked myself: Where is the connection that will help me (a Midwesterner) say something of value to you (Northwesterners) on the role of partnership and collaboration in creating "COMMUNITIES THAT CARE"?
I was struck by a thought, after I had the opportunity to visit some of your agencies here and see first-hand some of the wonderful work that is being done in this community.
As a connection, I am going to ask you to reflect upon the singular event that connected us -- or, I should say, connected our distant forbears -- almost 200 years ago. I am speaking of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Why Lewis & Clark? First, because even the name -- Lewis & Clark -- bespeaks collaboration. What's more, the Corps of Discovery, as their team was called, took off from my home town of St. Louis on May 14, 1804. Eighteen months later, on Oct. 14, 1805, they entered into what is now Washington State as they swept down the Snake River toward its junction with the Columbia.
To top it off, Lewis and Clark created a sense of community -- a sense of national community. When they arrived back in St. Louis, the whole country erupted in celebration. As one U.S. Senator noted with uncanny foresight in anticipating the only future expedition that would bear comparison, "It was just as if they had returned from the moon."
If you study the Lewis & Clark Expedition (and the story is told wonderfully well in Stephen Ambrose's book, "Undaunted Courage," and, again, in Ken Burns' masterful film on the expedition), you learn a thing or two about pronouncing Indian names, like Snohomish. You also are treated to what amounts to a series of parables, showing the remarkable power of teamwork and creative partnerships in surmounting enormous obstacles ... and, indeed, in conquering the unknown. All of you in this room are faced with enormous social and economic obstacles as you attempt to create "healthy communities."
Consider the nature of the task in front of Lewis and Clark as they began their expedition. They were supposed to lead a band of 32 armed men -- across a vast wilderness -- where they would encounter large numbers of Indians -- speaking many different languages -- who had every reason to regard them with the greatest suspicion.
What were the odds of members of this group living to tell the tale?
Well, the remarkable thing is that they all survived -- except for a single man, who died from natural causes, at an early stage of what was for the others a two-and-one-half-year journey of unceasing discovery and continual peril. And they accomplished a long list of objectives.
With few tense exceptions -- calling for great fortitude and, once or twice, some amazing luck -- Lewis and Clark were able to elicit the friendship and cooperation of native Americans all along the way. Indeed, the expedition would never have been a success without the active assistance of American Indians.
There are a number of lessons to be drawn from the Lewis & Clark Expedition that are relevant to those of us who are involved in community work. I will state them quickly and then come back to each of them later.
First is the importance of a bold vision and a compelling purpose.
Next is the need for creative partnering and collaboration at all stages of a project, beginning at the planning, or conceptual, stage and continuing thereafter.
Third is finding the right people to partner with.
Fourth is an openness to others -- and a willingness to experiment.
Last, but not least, is having the courage -- and, in many instances, the stubbornness -- to persist, when day-to-day progress is painfully slow -- or seemingly non-existent -- and the final destination is nowhere in sight.
The real author of the Lewis & Clark Expedition was Thomas Jefferson. In what has been described as the greatest land deal of all time, Jefferson had just paid $15 million to Napoleon's France for the vast territory comprising the Missouri and Mississippi river basins. If that doesn't sound like much money, consider this: It was nearly twice the size of the total federal budget at that time.
Jefferson dreamed of creating an "Empire of Liberty" -- stretching from coast to coast. That was his vision, and he viewed the Lewis & Clark Expedition as a first step in its achievement.
I am sure that each of you who works in an agency or a branch of government is motivated by an overarching vision of the kind of community that you would like to create.
John McDonnell, one of the members of The Boeing Company board of directors, said in one of his speeches, "The Lighthouse Effect": "-- if you have a vision, you will see opportunities where others see only problems."
"Vision provides the ability to transcend traditional thinking and see new opportunities for growth and improvement."
From my own experience as President of the Boeing-McDonnell Foundation and from leading community affairs at a major corporation, I know that the people and the agencies that operate the most effectively, and do the most good, are those that are inspired by a clear and compelling vision of an ideal to be sought and the means of achieving it.
Thomas Jefferson recognized the need for creative collaboration from the earliest stage. That is why he sent the 28-year-old Meriwether Lewis off to Philadelphia, the year before the expedition was launched, to study under the top scientists of the day. Lewis spent months in Philadelphia soaking up everything there was to know about such subjects as botany, mineralogy, medicine and celestial navigation.
He studied medicine, for instance, under Dr. Benjamin Rush, the most celebrated physician of the day.
When his men were shivering in the dead of winter near what is now Bismarck, North Dakota, some of what Lewis learned from Dr. Rush would be put to good use. His learning was certainly put to use in delivering the baby of a young Indian woman. This woman -- named Sacagawea -- joined the expedition the following spring and played a critical role in making it a success. Sacagawea was a Soshone Indian, by birth, who had been captured by another tribe, was freed, and then married a French-speaking Canadian.
When the Corps of Discovery was in desperate need of horses to cross the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains, they came across a band of Soshones. The Indians debated among themselves over whether they should kill the interlopers then and there -- or wait a bit. The Soshones could easily have murdered all of them -- except for the stupendously fortuitous fact that Sacagawea recognized the chief of the tribe as her much-loved and long-lost brother.
Nevertheless, the incident is another example of how painstaking planning, individual enlightenment and early collaboration had paid off. Sacagewea didn't just happen to be along. She was there, first of all, because Lewis was able to save her -- and her child -- through a difficult and painful labor. Secondly, and most relevant for those of us in this room, she was there because Lewis recognized her potential importance to the expedition both as loyal friend -- and as a highly resourceful person who had been raised in the unknown territory they were soon to enter.
At the Boeing-McDonnell Foundation, and in the work that I have done in community relations, I have seen countless examples of how diligent preparation and early collaboration spell the difference between a great program and a not-so-great one.
Let me tell you how impressed I was upon taking a tour of the Little Red School House and talking to the Executive director of that facility, Barbara George. Their mission is to provide the education and therapy services to any child from birth to three years old who has a developmental delay or disability. Their service is not only for the child, but for the family. It is a community of support. This is a quote from their Quality of Life statement: "Little Red's leadership resolved to create a place where many providers of services for children will come together with a united vision to make a difference in the lives of children --"
Speech therapists, occupational/physical therapist, counselors, parents and others work as Sacagawea-type guides in helping these children in their onward journey into day schools, kindergarten and beyond.
They are programmatically partnering with Day Care Centers to ensure that the inclusion of these children is successful.
Clearly, finding the right partner is key to many endeavors.
In visiting the Work Force Development Center, I discovered their motto: "Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to achieve uncommon goals." They have partnered with industry -Boeing -- to provide needed parts. They have partnered with the school system to continue the educational process that may have been interrupted or even aborted for a variety of reasons. They have a clear and compelling vision and mission.
Larry Hanson, the president and publisher of The Herald in describing your progress toward Healthy Communities talked about the commitment for action from a wide number of agencies and people.
There are three outstanding examples of Lewis's genius in this area of picking the right partners -- or, as Stephen Covey might say, in developing connections, connections, connections. There was his selection of the steadier and more experienced William Clark to be the co-leader of the expedition. There was his recruitment of Sacagewea. And there was the assembly of what proved to be a cohesive team of men comprising all kinds of different skills and talents.
Your 2,100 square miles -- with over 550,000 residents has similar challenges of cities that are larger and more densely populated. The Healthy communities focus of Children & Youth, Discrimination, Health & Wellness, Housing, Jobs and "Economic Development and Violence are mirror images of the St. Louis 2004 initiative.
Your progress report bespeaks the effort at collaboration and the realization that no one agency, no one business, no one political entity can address successfully the issues that befall these categories.
From what I have been able to observe here in Snohomish County, you have done an excellent job of bringing multiple streams of energy and expertise into a comprehensive plan to support the people of this county.
You must feel as I do, therefore, that it is vitally important for each of us in our different capacities -- in social work agencies, in business and in government -- to communicate with one another and to seek out programs and outcomes that advance our mutual interest in having a better community.
Ideally, human service providers should be able to think and plan like the best business people; while business people, in interacting with their communities, should be able to see with the deep-seeing eye and feel with the deep-feeling heart of the best human service provider. But that's ideally speaking.
More realistically, human service agencies that are looking for business support will enhance their chances if they do certain things right: If they learn to speak the language of business, and understand its logic; if they are creative in seeking out win-win situations; and if they make wise use of the human resources to be found in the business world.
To cite a small but telling example of finding a good win-win connection -- each year the YWCA of Metropolitan St. Louis conducts its major fund-raiser, Leader Lunch. The proceeds from this fund-raiser provides a portion of the operating budget to fund critically needed programs such as the "Women's Sexual Assault Center", "Y-Tools Teen Program", transitional housing and many others. While these programs are needed within the community and provide structured quality services with proven results, thus making them candidates for funding in and of themselves. The YWCA also uses this fundraising event to recognize working women who have made remarkable contributions. This event affords businesses the opportunity to recognize their women achievers publicly. This is the win-win, the "quid pro quo" if you will, funding for needed services and an opportunity to highlight working women.
There are also, certain skills that are readily available to you from the abundant number of people in the business world who are active as volunteers -- or looking for opportunities to become involved in community events and issues. People with accounting and finance skills, strong analytical and strategic planning skills, and a facility for networking with others in business or in positions of influence and power.
In connecting with business people, never forget that you have a lot to offer us. You can place us into situations and provide us with challenges that will help us develop new skills and understanding. That is something we must have in order to continue to grow in our business as well as our non-business lives.
Harry Stonecipher, Boeing's president, put it very well when he said: "Most people discover they get more from giving than almost any other activity. They gain an understanding and appreciation of others. They learn team-building skills. And they come away renewed and refreshed from an exposure to new points of view and from a sense of genuine accomplishment."
Every year Boeing people spend millions of hours in services to their local community.
I believe we are fortunate to live in a time of rapid and seemingly ever-accelerating change. And change always requires an openness to new ways of thinking -- or a willingness to experiment.
The fact is, those of us who work in community affairs have entered into unknown, or at least unfamiliar, territory in many ways.
Today we are seeing problems that people in our parents' generation -- even our grandparents' generation -- seldom acknowledged or saw. The increasing mobility of people, the breakdown of families, increased volatility in both the social and economic environments -- these and many other variables pose serious new challenges for our communities. They call for new kinds of solutions. They require creative, sometimes ingenious partnerships
I believe we are going to see more and more creative collaboration between different kinds of agencies -- which will bring together some programs, but realistically and practically not others. We, like Thomas Jefferson, must practice "practical idealism."
One thing has not changed. The hardest and most important work to be done in the whole area of community affairs will always require people of great personal courage, persistence and dedication. That means people who are willing to go into the toughest schools, the poorest hospitals and the least desirable neighborhoods -- in advocating the cause of the least fortunate members of our society.
My deepest admiration is reserved for all of you who do that on a daily basis. You are the kind of people that Meriwether Lewis would have chosen for his ultimate journey, the one he contemplated in his moments of wishing for something greater than either fame or fortune.
To him, service to the community -- service to others -- was the highest calling.
"This day I completed my thirty first year," he wrote in his journal shortly after a dazzling series of "firsts" -- being the first American citizen to cross the Great Plains, the first to view the Rocky Mountains, and, soon, the first to cross them on his way to the Pacific.
"I reflected," he wrote, "that I had as yet done but little, very little indeed, to further the happiness of the human race, or to advance the information of succeeding generations."
"In the future," he concluded, he would "live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself."
What can we do to bring that kind of spirit more to the forefront of our society?
As Meriwether Lewis did, we must lead by example. Many of you are setting a great example for the rest of us to follow. For that, I thank you, and I look forward to working with you in doing everything I can to help you in your endeavors here in Snohomish County.