Reflections on COVID-19: Humanity, not Politics

I sit here tonight, after watching some of the the One World: Together At Home broadcast (which was an awesome representation of good people), and after reading a few Facebook posts (which makes me sad), and I feel perplexed.  I want to be able to stand on the top of a mountain and yell to everyone that this is a crisis about humanity, not politics.

11707DA2-29C7-4D7E-991C-54AFD86D3D4APhoto by Nagesh Badu on Unsplash

This COVID-19 crisis is a struggle to do what is right around the world.  It is about making the best choices possible to help the most people knowing that every choice made will hurt someone.  It isn’t, and shouldn’t be about political positioning, or making a name for yourself.

In these times we see the best and the worst of people.  And, unfortunately social media is an amplifier of those characteristics.  I even found myself commenting back today on someone’s Facebook post that wasn’t worth it.  This is a humanitarian crisis.  Every decision has a downside, but we all have to do the best we can to help our country and the world get through this.

A few stats that will make you cringe:

  • As of today over 150,000 people have died in the world from COVID-19.  In the United States this number is nearing 39,000. The first US death occurred on 2/29, a mere seven weeks ago.
  • To help put this in perspective, let’s compare to three tragedies that most all of us can all agree were horrible events in the world:
    • Over 400,000 American lives were lost in WW2 over a long six year, world changing tragedy.  The US lives lost were dwarfed by the 75 million estimated dead around the world.
    • Almost 60,000 American lives were lost in Vietnam.  The global death count was again much more severe, but losing almost 60,000 American lives remains one of the largest tragedies in our history.
    • 9/11/2001 had over 3,500 lives lost in the day.  We also put brave soldiers in harm’s way as follow up to this terrorist attack.  We all remember where we were the day of this horrific tragedy.
  • Currently, estimates of American deaths by the end of August 2020 (just six months after the first death) range from 60 – 100K.  This will make the COVID-19 crisis surpass Vietnam in its impact on our people.  Not to mention all of those around the world.

Everyone is sacrificing right now in order to help to minimize the global impact of this crisis.  There are people out of work, without food, with “elective” healthcare procedures that they can’t get completed even though tumor removal doesn’t sound elective when the tumor is growing in your body.  There are situations where families are housebound with an abusive adult in the home, there are mental health challenges developing.  And, it sucks.  It is bullshit.  But, so is 60,000+ projected American lives lost from a Coronavirus.

My call to action for all of us is to do is to do our best every day, to be human, to not politicize this crisis, and to support each other however we can by offering help to those in need.  And to STAY HOME and socially distanced as long as the CDC recommends.  Trust scientists and help the crisis be as short as possible for humanity.

Get Off The Sidelines

I haven’t been posting for quite some time with the excuse that life (work and family) has gotten in my way. What I realized after some reflection this week is that I miss writing about things that matter to me. This blog has been an outlet to make that happen, so here we go again. No promises of my frequency, but you will know, if I am writing here I am probably a bit more balanced than if I am not as it means I am creating the time to reflect (and write). So, I am getting off the sidelines and back in the game.

Over the last week, I have had the fortunate opportunity to attend two separate events that are motivating me to get off the sidelines in a number of ways. The first event was the first ever Utah Wonder Women Summit. The Utah Wonder Women is a group of influential women leaders in Utah working to help each other succeed. The day long summit was an opportunity to convene with a focus on building the visibility of female leadership in Utah. This event was followed by SUREFIRE girls, an event for teenage girls in Utah to help them see the magnitude of opportunities available to them. A big shout out to Jacki Zehner, the original Utah Wonder Women, for her relentless dedication, drive and initiative to make these two events happen.

So much inspiration at these events. This photo is a picture of the SUREFIRE ambassadors, ranging from junior high through seniors in high school, on stage talking about what they are hoping to learn from the SUREFIRE event. I was struck how powerful it was for these teenagers to see a room of 100+ female leaders in the audience focused on helping each other, developing our skills, aspiring to help Utah be a better place for female leadership tomorrow than it is today. But, what made me even more amazed was the energy that I took from these ladies reminding me of my role to get of the sidelines and dedicate even more time and energy to making the community, the state, our business environment and the country a better place for these ladies than it is today.

In case I wasn’t inspired enough leaving the UWW Summit, I headed this week to FORTUNE magazine’s Most Powerful Women Next Generation conference. It was an honor to be able to attend this. I guess you can call it part two of a reinforcement to get off the sidelines. With all of the stories recently about sexual harassment and assault, much of the event had a theme of being vocal. Stories of both a pursuit for gender and race equality as well as the recent #MeToo social movement came from all sides of the room. Business leaders, athletes and entertainers spoke of their own experiences with a call to action to be vocal and through our voices ensure that equality and respect are what we expect. Hope Solo, former goalie of the US Women’s National Soccer team, spoke candidly of her pursuit for pay equality in US Soccer, and her own personal experience with harassment. She also shared her clear belief that she was fired for being vocal.

One of my favorite speakers across these two events was Pat Mitchell. Pat is known for her leadership in the media industry as a CEO, producer and curator. She has used her position of influence and leadership as a force for social change. Among other great accomplishments, she is the host and curator of the global TEDWomen conference. Her talk was on power, and how we need to own it and use it to lead and drive change. Her eloquent speech was calm, reassuring and enabled me to center myself. We often perceive power to be masculine, but it isn’t. The definition of power is the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. Nothing masculine about that. One of the quotes she shared was from Bella Abzug, a lawyer, member of the US House of Representatives, and social activist and leader of the Women’s movement.

“Women will change the nature of power, rather than power changing the nature of women.” – Bella Abzug

Both of these events came at a great time for me. I have been working very hard lately and am probably off balance with how I am spending my time. I am still home for my family in the evenings at a reasonable time, working out a few times a week and trying my best to be a great spouse. So, it isn’t about work-life balance. That said, I am relentlessly moving when I am gone, pushing myself to always keep taking a step forward on the issues that matter every day in my work. There is a lot of good in this (especially for our business).

What I recognized after this week is that by dedicating so much energy here, I may be missing some of the things that I need to be doing to fulfill my purpose. I need to get off the sidelines, but not in a way that drives more “movement” at the office, or more stress. Instead, getting off the sidelines is about choosing to channel my “movement” to more effectively influence positive change for women in business, media and policy. So, thanks Pat for the advice. I am planning on owning my power and using it to drive change.

Thank You Hillary…#ImWithHer

I find myself at a loss of words after this monumental week.

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Katharine was beyond excited to stay up to watch Hillary Clinton accept the presidential nomination.  As was I.  I found myself moved almost to tears by Chelsea’s introduction (however not comfortable Chelsea looked), by Hilary’s deliberate recognition of the power of the moment, by her humble acknowledgement of both her strengths (work horse) and her weaknesses (show horse), but most notably by Katharine’s excitement about the evening.

For her it was just about the experience, about learning and understanding how this election thing works, about being able to stay up late, about seeing daughter introduce her mother for something exciting, and about the fascination with the role of our President.  And, it was of course cool that it was a girl.  She asked me if I was ever going to have her introduce me for something like that.  She wondered if the whole world was like America.

For me it was about making history, about hard work, about perseverance, about striving for something despite all odds, and about creating opportunity for all of the little girls that  were watching.  And, it was of course because it was a girl.  I had hoped for this day for a long time.  It made me proud of America.

I know that my politics haven’t always lined up with Hillary, and I am certain that I don’t agree with everything that she is advocating for, but #ImWithHer because of the lesson that she can teach America and the world.  She is showing us that hard work, perseverance, dedication to a cause, and belief in equality can change the world.  She is helping all of the little girls see what they can be.