Lessons from the Field: Van Jones, Glenn Beck, Rockwood and You

September 16th, 2009


A lot has been going on here at Rockwood, not the least of which is the completion of a third party evaluation, a new website and some internal changes. Before I address these, I'd like to talk a bit about what's been happening on the national stage, and the challenges that can occur when we change the face of leadership.

I've been mulling over Van Jones' resignation from his position in the Obama administration, and the many subsequent reactions to it. I have, in turn, been aghast, surprised, resigned, and outraged. I'm now moving into a sense of bemusement, and am occasionally amused at how very human and tender we collectively are.

I've had to be quite disciplined not to wade deeply into pointing fingers, assigning blame and looking for culprits to excoriate. Glenn Beck is not my business. Nor is Fox news, or any of the folks who are making a lot of distracting noise lately. They are like mosquitoes late in the night - highly annoying, hard to ignore, certainly not helpful, but nothing to spend my days reacting to. Best to close the window, and get on with the real business of creating and contributing to social transformation.

Van is a Rockwood alumnus, a brother among many of our kin. I honor his work and commitment. I'm sure I speak for Rockwood as a whole when I say that I stand with him. At the same time, I wish there had been a bit more backbone somewhere in the process that would have allowed him to stay in his position and move a very crucial agenda along. Now more than ever, we need stout-hearted, strong-minded leaders at every level of civic engagement, and it is our collective responsibility to provide strong support for those leaders.

President Obama, in his speech on healthcare said, "We have not come here to fear the future, we have come to shape it." I agree. And the future will be shaped not only by what we do, but by what we choose not to do. Inaction can be louder than action, and it is incumbent on each of us to courageously reach for our convictions and move from them. This is about purpose. About being excruciatingly clear on what we allow ourselves to attend to, and how we spend our precious and finite vital forces. This is why Glenn Beck et. al. are not my business. You are. We are. Change is. So let us be about that.

The fall is almost upon us. Some of us are home from our vacations, are back to school, are preparing for Rosh Hashanah, or the ending of Ramadan. Somehow, more than January, this time has always felt to me to be the beginning of the year -- perhaps because I spent many years in academia, perhaps because I can easily see that the leaves are beginning to change, and the nights are discernibly longer.

September also marks an important moment in Rockwood's history. We have completed a third-party evaluation of which we are quite proud, and which also shows us clearly where we need to work. We have launched a new website that I hope you will use and enjoy. We're piloting an Art of Leadership Refresher in the New York area in October, and we've changed our name to Rockwood Leadership Institute, which is both aspirational as well as a more accurate reflection of what we are.

We have also made some changes among those who help us thrive. After 10 years of amazing leadership as Chair of our Board of Directors, Chris Desser has passed the baton along to Idelisse Malave. Thank you Chris, for your exemplary service, and welcome, Idelisse. Like the transition from Andre to me, this transition was graceful, filled with goodwill and plenty of laughs along the way.

On the staffing side, I'm pleased to announce that Stacy Kono has been promoted to the position of Director of Programs. She brings many years of brilliance and heart to our work, and we are very fortunate to have her take on this leadership. Lastly I want to welcome Daniel Vasquez to RLI as our Finance and Administration Manager. I know that we are in good and steady hands. Welcome!

Finally, I leave you with a brief meditation from the Upanishads:

You are what your deep driving desire is; As your deep driving desire is, so is your will;

As your will is so is your deed; As your deed is so is your destiny.Take a moment and sit with your heart. Notice its beat and rhythm. Notice that it has agreed to beat for every minute of your life. Offer up great gratitude and consider:

  • What is my deep driving desire?
  • How will I apply my strong will toward this desire?
  • Where am I being distracted from my purpose, and how might I need to refocus?
  • What am I willing to do to manifest my deep desire?
  • How well am I using my leadership in support of the work of others?
  • How is living my destiny, my purpose, a gift to the world?

Thank you for being part of Rockwood. Thank you for helping us shape our future. We couldn't do it without you.

Akaya

September 2009