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Honor Our Children

The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

“Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them.”

This Abraham Lincoln quote, from a letter he wrote prior to his election, was part of my Presidents Day post two years ago. It came back to me as I read today’s news reports about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in this country’s immigration detention centers. In those subhuman camps, degradation of our fellow travelers appears to be not only the result of our actions but the actual policy objective. If immigrating to the U.S. is seen as difficult, the thinking goes, perhaps fewer will attempt the journey.

We may say, “We’re better than this.” But at the moment, this is what we are as a country. Our institutions are under attack, not only in spirit but at the very core of their existence. We have purported leaders who only want to elevate people who look, think, and act like themselves, conveniently forgetting the “self-evident truth” that “all men are created equal.” As they undertake these policies, they repeatedly lie about the purpose and the outcome of their work.

Elevation of all fellow travelers, while administered throughout our history in a haphazard fashion, has nonetheless been a core ideal of the United States from the day that our founding document asserted that all are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” However, in today’s political climate we have a government that went to federal court to argue that it shouldn’t be required to give detained migrant children toothbrushes, soap, towels, showers or even half a night’s sleep inside Border Patrol detention facilities.  Our government also takes a humanitarian aid volunteer to federal court for the “crime” of leaving food, jugs of water, and blankets in the desert so that refugees stranded in this no-man’s land wouldn’t die. The real time parallels to the parable of the Good Samaritan are clear and chilling.

Writing on the Feast of Nativity of John the Baptist, my friend Deborah Meister focuses on the children, and notes that the story of John’s birth is about the upending of human order.  Why?

According to the angel, so that one will come “to turn the hearts of fathers to the children.” (Luke 1:17). It is a strange phrase; it rings oddly on our ears, which are more accustomed to the fifth commandment, which enjoins children to honor their parents. But to honor one’s children is to be attentive to the future: to be aware of the kind of world we are bequeathing to them.

We’re not doing so well at that, these days. Tens of thousands of children have been detained at our borders, in subhuman conditions, denied soap, toothbrushes, or warm blankets, sleeping on concrete floors and trying to eat frozen food which has not even been reheated. If these conditions had been imposed by their own parents, the U.S. government would have intervened to place the children in protective custody; today, the government inflicts such harm, while too many Americans remain silent or passive or complain but do nothing. Of the children who were born here, 21% (about fifteen million) live in poverty. Approximately 1.5 million schoolchildren are wrestling with homelessness. And that’s without even looking at the state of the ecosphere, which threatens to take away our first, last, and best home if we do not change our ways.

Why do our politicians use their policies — supported by a not insignificant minority of Americans — to inflict such harm on so many who are defenseless? There are a host of explanations, but we regularly hear the justification that the immigration policy is designed to “protect” our homeland. We are also told that our cherished individual freedom inevitably leads to inequalities. In other words, its a feature of our winner-take-all capitalistic system, which so many wrongly (in my view) equate as the equal of democracy.

Which brings me to the other giant we honor on Presidents Day — George Washington — a singular figure in the American revolution and the “indispensable man” as described by historian James Thomas Flexner. Washington warned that we should “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” It strikes me that much of what we hear about the policies that harm the defenseless are promoted by “pretend patriots.”

Lincoln and Washington were, of course, flawed as men.  However, they rose above those flaws in times of great peril to the country. As in all great leaders, their words and — just as importantly — their actions resonate across different times and various political climates to touch on our responsibilities as both individuals and as members of a larger community.

Rather than faux outrage over how we revere the national anthem or the flag, honoring the defenseless among us should be a minimum standard for real patriotism in a country where the spirit of our institutions is to elevate our fellow travelers.

More to come…

Judgement and Forgiveness

Why do we find it so easy to judge and so hard to forgive?

Part of the answer might lie in the fact that holding grudges and passing judgement can seem so satisfying. As Tim Herrera wrote in a recent New York Times article, we may actually like them, as we “tend to them as little pets.” Anne Lamott, writing in her inimitable (some would say snarky) style in Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, captures the same push-pull attraction when she says,

“Kindness towards others and radical kindness to ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart, which is the greatest prize of all. Do you want this, or do you want to be right? Well, can I get back to you on that?”

In our time of extreme political polarization, it may be difficult to identify the humanity amidst the ideology. The more we see religion, politics and life as a winner-take-all battle full of zero-sum calculations, forgiveness seems quaint — a lost art or forgotten concept.

This was on my mind as I entered the American Film Institute (AFI) Silver Theater last Saturday afternoon. The AFI Docs Film Festival in Washington and Silver Spring was the attraction, and there I was fortunate to see an astonishing new work:  Gay Chorus Deep SouthThe film’s website sets up the story.

“In response to a wave of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws in Southern states and the divisive 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus embarks on a tour of the American Deep South.

Led by Gay Chorus Conductor Dr. Tim Seelig and joined by The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir; the tour brings a message of music, love and acceptance, to communities and individuals confronting intolerance. Over 300 singers travelled from Mississippi to Tennessee through the Carolinas and over the bridge in Selma. They performed in churches, community centers and concert halls in hopes of uniting us in a time of difference. The journey also challenges Tim and other Chorus members who fled the South to confront their own fears, pain and prejudices on a journey towards reconciliation. The conversations and connections that emerge offer a glimpse of a less divided America, where the things that divide us; faith, politics, sexual identity are set aside by the soaring power of music, humanity and a little drag.”

The Director, David Charles Rodrigues, spoke after the showing about his desire to make a film that, in the light of growing hate and intolerance, looked at our need to step back and begin “judging our judgements.”

Today we are quick to judge both those we know and those we don’t know. In our news cycle, the pundits who make judgement the centerpiece of their arguments seem to be the ones who command most of the air time. It is all too easy to judge someone who is “different.”

On the other hand, we find it hard to forgive “the other” yet we too easily forget that we are the ones who may most need forgiveness. That can be hard.  We need to believe we are worthy of forgiveness and — if we have chosen hatred and intolerance — that we can change our minds.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt, in her book The Human Condition, said:

“Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the formula to break the spell.”

The film had multiple stories of decades-old grudges, judgements, and separation between family, friends, and churches. It showed how those involved were the victims of the consequences of those decisions. What the Gay Men’s Chorus set out to do through their tour was to begin conversations. What these 300 singers ended up doing was to begin the process of forgiveness and healing.

Learning to forgive takes practice. But we need to understand that holding on to a judgement or a grudge is not a very good strategy for a useful life. Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, suggests we,

“Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes — or ten years — ago.”

Judging our judgements is a good path towards forgiveness, reconciliation, and ultimately that warm and generous heart.

Have a good week.

More to come…


Blowing the Doors Off the Joint

Film Reel

DJB at the Movies

“You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” is the theme of this week’s AFI Docs Film Festival in Washington, where some 70 documentaries will be shown in theatres across the city over five days.  To get myself in shape, I spent Sunday and Monday watching two documentaries that are not part of the festival but are currently playing in the area. One tried — and only partially succeeded — in reaching the standards suggested by the theme. The other is a masterpiece simply because it captures a treasure at the height of her powers.  As one reviewer phrased it, “She blew the doors off the joint.”

But let’s start with the less-satisfying of the two.

Movie poster for Echo in the Canyon

Movie poster for Echo in the Canyon

Echo in the Canyon, currently playing at the E Street Cinema, is a documentary about the legendary Laurel Canyon music scene in Los Angeles from the mid-1960s. The film focuses on the music of The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas and the Papas, and the hook is a 2015 tribute concert from current-day fans Jakob Dylan (Bob’s son), Fiona Apple, Beck, and others.  As Dylan says to kick off the concert, “Are you ready to go back to the 60s?”

Well, much like the decade (and yes, I was there for some of it), the film has its ups and downs.  The music at the time was exciting and I agree that these four bands all played influential roles. But the telling of the story here is somewhat confused, and there’s too much of Dylan and his friends talking earnestly about the staying power of the music.

Here’s what I liked:

  • Michelle Phillips, who was insightful and funny from the time she first came on screen.  I loved the comment “If The Byrds can have a hit, anybody can have a hit,” a sentiment which sent The Mamas and The Papas from New York to LA.
  • Watching Stephen Stills and Eric Clapton record a new guitar solo while on different continents (even in Stills’ reduced capacity as a musician these days).
  • Nora Jones.  My God, when she sang a duet of The Association‘s Never My Love with Jakob Dylan, it was clear that she was the most talented of the newcomers to this music, by a factor of about 10.
  • Simply being reminded of some great tunes and hearing about the cross-pollination of sounds and music.

Here’s what I didn’t like:

  • Where was Joni Mitchell?  How can you do a movie on Laurel Canyon and the California sound and have the only mention of Mitchell being Stephen Stills briefly talking about when they dated.
  • Jakob Dylan’s interviewing style. Several times the camera lingers after a comment, just to show you how cool he is.
  • The fact that there is no reference to why this period ended.  I kept waiting to hear about the Monterey Pop Festival and how much of the attention shifted in 1967 to San Francisco and the Summer of Love, or — more definitively — the Manson murders and the fear that spread throughout the area in 1969.  But nothing.  Just “puff” and it was over.
  • It was never clear if the movie was making the point that there was a “Laurel Canyon sound” or whether just a bunch of musicians happened to live in close proximity to each other.

So while Echo In the Canyon was enjoyable, it could have been much more.

Movie poster for Amazing Grace

Movie poster for Amazing Grace

On the other hand, Amazing Gracethe movie of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 recording of the gospel album of the same name, is — like the lady herself — a national treasure.  Currently showing at AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, this is a 90-minute church service.


In 1972, Franklin was at the top of her game, with 11 number one singles and five Grammy awards.  It was at that time that she decided to return to her roots — the black Baptist church — and record a gospel album.  And she literally returned to church, Watts’ New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, for a live recording over two evenings of the songs she grew up singing.  This movie, a long-lost documentary that went through technical and legal challenges, captures the recording sessions.

Where to start? Well, probably with that voice. There has never been another singer like Aretha Franklin. If you don’t believe me, just watch her command the stage with all the other divas of her day in the remarkable performance of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.  That voice is everywhere in Amazing Grace.  Franklin barely speaks ten words during the movie, but she opens her mouth and that sound comes out.

Did I mention that the album was the best selling record  of her career, as well as the best-selling gospel album of all time?  There’s a reason for that.

The Reverend James Cleveland, who was a gospel legend himself, serves as part master of ceremonies and part preacher.  He could have tried to steal the show, but probably knew — in his heart — that it wasn’t really possible. In his introduction, he notes that Aretha could “Sing anything . . . even Three Blind Mice.” Here he plays solid back-up to the Queen.  When her whole being goes into another world during the song Amazing Grace, however, Cleveland is literally overcome. He gets up from his piano to sob into a towel.  It is an arresting, emotional moment.

The Southern California Community Choir, under the energetic direction of Alexander Hamilton, makes it all look so effortless while sporting some great Afros from the 1970s.  The small church is partially filled on the first night. However, by night number two the word has clearly gotten around, as the camera finds gospel legend Clara Ward; Aretha’s father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin; and none other than Mick Jagger in the audience . . . all going to church as Franklin testifies on song-after-song.

Odie Henderson wrote a terrific movie review from the point of view of a former choir member in the African American church.  In it, he captures one special moment just after Aretha’s father finished speaking:

“Rev. Franklin’s words are followed by his daughter singing the first song she ever recorded, Never Grow Old, or, as we kids used to call it in church, ‘the song where they have to start dragging people out of here.’ My viewing partner, Steven Boone, and I exchanged a knowing glance just before the congregation erupted with people catching the Holy Ghost and needing to be restrained. Meanwhile, Re’s singing and her piano playing blew the doors off the joint, creating a moment of transcendence I’ve never experienced in a theater before.”

The whole movie is a powerful spiritual moment — no matter what you believe.  Get yourself to a theatre and see it, if at all possible.

And now, after going to church, I’m ready for a week-long documentary festival!

More to come…


Daydreaming Makes a Comeback

Cotswold Public Footpath

The public footpath out of Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds

I became a fan of daydreaming while on sabbatical.

Daydreaming has a long history, but in today’s culture of speed and action the idea of doing nothing generally has negative connotations. It goes by many names: boredom, weariness, ennui, lack of enthusiasm, lack of interest, apathy, sluggishness, malaise, tedium, tediousness, dullness, monotony, repetitiveness, routine, humdrum, dreariness . . . well, you get the point.

I’m happy to report that the positive aspects of daydreaming are making a comeback.

When I had the time on sabbatical to stop and reflect, I realized that I was often busy simply for the sake of being (or looking) busy.  If I was busy I was doing important work.  But I began to realize that being constantly busy wasn’t healthy, productive, or fun. A number of authors have written that there is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom.  So while in Rome, I took up the habit of a daily walk without any sense of purpose other than just to exist in that space. To daydream. I enjoyed how it made me feel but admit that I had the nagging thought that while this may work in one of the world’s great cities, Silver Spring certainly isn’t Rome!

Nonetheless, upon returning to the real world I began finding time in my days to step aside from the busyness and just be; to practice the positive sides of daydreaming. That often involved walking, but not always. Sitting at a coffee shop and just enjoying the people watching became an outlet. My assistant at work became use to me saying, “I’m going to stretch my legs for a bit.”  I encouraged others on my team to do the same, because it was easy to see colleagues who filled their hours with busyness, yet were not productive, focused, or excited about their work.

Office guitar

The (home) office guitar

Edward Abbey once wrote, “Life is already too short to waste on speed.” I’ve come to embrace that approach.

Now that I am working from home, I’ve found new ways to support my habit of doing nothing.  My morning walks through downtown Silver Spring have stretched to an hour or more in length.  No music, no podcasts, just my wonderful Filter Coffeehouse canteen and my trusty shoes. And once I do get down to work, I still think about ways to break up the day.  I’ve always wanted to have a guitar next to my desk but figured that the practice would be frowned upon in an open office setting.  Less than two weeks into my gap year I brought up a chair and little Taylor travel guitar, placing them near my desk in the home office.  When I decide to take a break from writing I’ll pull out the guitar and noodle.  I’m not practicing* but simply letting my mind wander.

Rambling through the Cotswold countryside

Rambling through the Cotswold countryside

Rambling with the sheep

Sharing the public footpath with some four legged friends

Earlier this month I returned my daydreaming act to the international stage.  While in London, I took morning walks along High Street in Kensington, stopping along the way to sit for a while and daydream over a cup of coffee. In the Cotswolds I took advantage of the many public footpaths to ramble, a fine English tradition supported by the legally protected right of citizens and visitors to travel on foot through fields and countryside.  For our first ramble we had a bit of a purpose, in that we had a destination in mind; but I returned later in the week primarily to do nothing more than move at a leisurely pace, letting my mind and feet wander.

Imagine my surprise when the New York Times had a recent article entitled The Case for Doing Nothing.  The writer, Olga Mecking, suggests that busyness is rarely “the status indicator we’ve come to believe it is. Nonetheless, the impact is real, and instances of burnout, anxiety disorders and stress-related diseases are on the rise, not to mention millennial burnout.”

A friend recently encouraged me to leave blank time on my calendar.  Mecking makes the same point as she introduces the Dutch concept of niksen:

“…the idea of niksen is to take conscious, considered time and energy to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless. The less-enlightened might call such activities “lazy” or “wasteful.” Again: nonsense.

. . . study after study shows that feeling drowsy, exhausted or otherwise mentally depleted during the workday drastically hinders performance and productivity.  In other words: Whether at home or at work, permission granted to spend the afternoon just hanging out.”

Rarely a trendsetter, I was nonetheless glad to see others embrace the positive side of daydreaming.  Of boredom. Of doing nothing. It truly can be where the magic begins.

Have a good week.

More to come…


*Practicing and mindful music-making come at different times.  Embracing daydreaming and boredom doesn’t mean that one gives up on exercise, planning, meditation, or whatever else is important to your productivity and living the good life.

Installment #4 in The Gap Year Chronicles.

History Was All Around Me: PreserveCast podcast of my career in preservation (so far)

Preserve Cast

Preserve Cast – Preservation Maryland’s podcast where historic preservation and technology meet

“Connection to place is very important to me, and I learned that by walking the streets of Franklin and Murfreesboro, where I grew up.  History was all around me . . . and I’ve always wanted to do something about connecting the past to today.”

When PreserveCast host Nick Redding began our recent conversation on the award-winning Preservation Maryland podcast with a question about my path to preservation, my thoughts went to my childhood home, grandmother, and a favorite downtown theatre.

That podcast, looking at my work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and more, can now be found on the PreserveCast website.

In a thirty minute interview, Nick and I explore not only how I became a preservationist, but also the various jobs that led to my serving as the Chief Preservation Officer at the National Trust from 2010 until I stepped down from the position at the end of March 2019.

“Somebody said that ‘Chief Preservation Officer’ is one of the great titles in the preservation field.  Its not as good as ‘Keeper of the National Register,’ but I’ve always thought it is quite an honor at an institution like the Trust, which has such a legacy and also such promise, to be the Chief Preservation Officer. . . .to have responsibility for all our major program areas, is quite an honor and something I think about every day as I do my job.”

Some of the most interesting conversation took place around preservation losses and preservation success stories.  When Nick asked what I saw as the biggest preservation loss in recent years, my mind went back to a 2014 battle over a National Historic Landmark.

“I always think the loss of a National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a very sad occasion.  There are not that many of them.  These are places of national significance and we should do everything we can to try and keep these places — saved, thriving, alive.  We were involved in trying to save the Chautauqua Amphitheatre, which is near Buffalo, which was part of a NHL district.  This was a place where FDR, William Jennings Bryan, Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall, Ella Fitzgerald, Van Clyburn . . . the list could go on . . . These people were on the stage there at the Amphitheatre.  And yet the institution, in 2014, said we’re going to demolish the Amphitheatre, ‘We’re just going to build a new one. It will have better amenities but it will look just like the old one.’ Well, that’s just not the same. . . . When we lose something at that level of significance to the country, it cannot be replaced.”

Even with a replica, we’ve lost the physical connection which I spoke of at the top of the podcast.  It was a totally unnecessary loss of a building that could have been easily saved, easily reused, easily renovated for the next century of use.

Nick followed that question with one about my biggest preservation victory, perhaps something I’d had a hand in during my tenure with the National Trust.

That’s like being asked to choose your favorite child.

So, I took the approach of highlighting three victories.  First, while I had only a marginal role in the saving of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, I see it as a special preservation victory on multiple fronts, not the least of which is that we kept it connected to its site, its place.  Next, I turn to the Pauli Murray House, in Durham, North Carolina. I’m ashamed to admit that I did not know who Pauli Murray was when one of our staff members brought this project to me, but I now know that she was one of the most exceptional and influential women of the 20th century.  I note that I like this place because it tells me, “extraordinary people can come from very ordinary places, and that’s part of us telling the story as well.”  Finally, I end with the 2017 fight to save the Federal Historic Tax Credits.  Organizations like the National Trust do some of their best work when they advocate for tools which local organizations, local citizens, local governments can use to save places in their communities.

At the end of the podcast, Nick has another of those “name your favorite child” questions, when he asked me to choose my favorite historic site or place.

You’ll have to listen to the PreserveCast podcast for the answer.

Many thanks to Nick Redding, Preservation Maryland, and the PreserveCast crew for the opportunity to reflect on what’s past…and what’s ahead.

More to come…


Don’t Create Followers, Create More Leaders

Northington Gas Cottage

“Gas Cottage” on Lord Ashburton’s estate in Northington, where three generations of the Leonard family have called home

Management guru Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”

In the middle of a week full of simple yet sublime pleasures, I also had the opportunity to experience unexpected leadership lessons with long-time colleagues and friends.

This story begins with The National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which has been a model for preservation and conservation organizations since its founding in 1895. While many National Trusts exist around the world, all are modeled in one way or the other on this original National Trust. I’ve worked with U.K. Trust staff members over the years and have come to count several as dear friends. The Trust’s work to connect people with places and the willingness to give back out of its century of experience to the international preservation and conservation communities have long been an inspiration.

I spent time last week interacting with the National Trust at several levels. The long-time connections were also how we found ourselves in Cambridge last Monday, visiting with Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of Emmanuel College and the former Director-General (or CEO) of The National Trust. Fiona, an extraordinary leader, had invited us to join her at High Table, an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss.

Emmanuel College, Cambridge

The Front Court at Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Wren Chapel at Emmanuel

Emmanuel’s chapel, designed by Christopher Wren

Emmanuel College grounds

Emmanuel College grounds and gardens

Emmanuel College High Table

The Emmanuel College dining hall, set for High Table

It isn’t easy getting from the Cotswolds to Cambridge without a car, but a half-day ride on two trains brought us to Emmanuel on Monday afternoon, where we toured the college’s courts, gardens, and beautiful Christopher Wren chapel. As evening arrived, we all gathered for High Table, a tradition of colleges at Oxford, Cambridge, and beyond.  And it was there that I saw leadership lesson #1 in action:

You have the power as a leader to make everyone feel welcome and secure, no matter how lofty your position or prestigious the event.

Through the years I’ve seen how Fiona nurtures relationships, speaking to everyone in ways to support and uplift others while never forgetting a name. Add in an easy-going, casual, and unaffected manner and even something as potentially intimidating as a formal dinner with professors in their academic gowns at one of the constituent colleges of Cambridge University becomes a delightful evening of good food, wonderful drink, and stimulating conversation with some very smart people. It was a night of pleasures to remember.

One of the people Fiona brought into my life is now another dear friend, Catherine Leonard.  My interactions with Catherine later in the week led me to recognize leadership lesson #2:

Support and uplift people and chances are they will shine. That’s how leaders create other leaders.

I’ve worked closely with Catherine since she came on staff at the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) more than a decade ago.  She now leads the Secretariat at INTO as the organization’s Secretary-General.  Under Fiona’s mentorship and support as the Chair of the board, Catherine has been encouraged to blossom into a strong leader in her own right, something I’ve been fortunate to observe first-hand. When learning that we were traveling to the U.K., Catherine immediately invited us to Northington in Hampshire to spend time at her family home with her husband Ben and children Monty and Connie.

Catherine Leonard Family (c) Leela Bennett

Catherine, Connie, Ben, and Monty – our wonderful hosts in Hampshire (Copyright Leela Bennett)

Gas Cottage drawing

Architectural drawing from the 1860s for the “Gas Cottage” on Lord Ashburton’s estate in Northington

Catherine and Ben live in a historic cottage that has been in Catherine’s family for 50 years. We loved hearing the story of how both Catherine and Connie were born in the house. (Yes, the English are so much more civilized risk takers!)  Originally built in the 1860s as a cottage for the man who ran the gas plant for Lord Ashburton’s Grange estate, it was bought — and later expanded in a manner sympathetic to its historic design — by Catherine’s parents.  This delightful cottage sitting in the middle of a bucolic English countryside became our Hampshire home for the middle part of the week.

Over three days we mixed business and pleasure:  a first-rate performance (with dinner at intermission) of The Marriage of Figaro in their backyard at The Grange Festival; sharing experiences and aspirations with approximately 100 members of the National Trust staff at Heelis, their headquarters in Swindon; travels to the National Trust World Heritage Site Avebury; dinner at the local Hampshire pub The Woolpack Inn; prepping for a meeting with senior staff at Historic England concerning work on Main Streets — known in the U.K. as High Streets; providing Connie with fun facts about Wisconsin and Maine to flesh out a school project on the two states.  Through it all, Catherine’s strengths as a leader shown through.

Avebury World Heritage Site

Stone entranceway into the Avebury World Heritage Site

Circle of stones at Avebury

View of the circle of stones (and village later built in the middle of the circle) at Avebury

One of my many conversations with Catherine around our mutual work and interests centered on the values she crafted for herself over the past couple of years. At the recent International Conference of National Trusts in Bermuda, I heard Catherine use the phrase, “Not just consuming, but contributing.”  This week I asked her about it. She told me it came from her crafting of values and was a way forward she was seeking to internalize in work and life.  And there was leadership lesson #3:

Leaders don’t just consume, they contribute.

The value resonated for me, as I appreciate experiences to simply buying and consuming more and more things.  But Catherine’s take adds the importance of contributing.  We all take up space on this earth, and she was reminding me that what we do with our time and talent will be weighed against what we take away as consumers of limited resources.

Over the past decade, Catherine has been busy contributing to the work of creating, building, and strengthening National Trusts — and a new set of heritage conservation leaders — all around the world. Catherine’s contributions were, of course, allowed to flourish more abundantly because of nourishment and support received from mentors and colleagues such as Fiona.  Throughout the week, both friends showed me time and again how their work, as leaders, creates more leaders.

Friends nurture our soul in different ways.  Sometimes we can help them grow by showing our support and providing the space they need to flourish as leaders.  And we also have special people we know and cherish who teach us by the way that they live their values, if we are open to seeing and learning.

Have a great week.

More to come…


Update:  Catherine Leonard provided her perspective on our visit in her June 9, 2019 blog on the INTO website.

Remembering D-Day

Britain remembers flag

Britain remembers its fallen troops on the 75th anniversary of D-Day: one of many flags along the streets in the Cotswold town of Moreton-in-Marsh

Seventy-five years ago today, almost 160,000 troops from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States — including smaller contingents from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland — invaded Nazi-occupied Europe on the beaches of Normandy.  Over the next three months of fighting, 209,000 Allied troops would die before the Nazis were pushed back across the Seine.

June 6, 1944 — D-Day — should never be forgotten. It was a time when the countries of the world came together to combat bigotry, racism, and hatred.  Many men and women made the ultimate sacrifice in that fight.

The American Cemetery at Normandy

The American Cemetery at Normandy

To be in Britain for the 75th anniversary is a reminder of our better natures.  We began to see the remembrances of the anniversary as we stepped off the bus in the small Cotswald village of Chipping Campden last week.  There, in the center of this beautiful High Street, was a small World War I memorial covered with poppies, the now almost-universal symbol of remembrance for those killed in war.

This week, we are staying with friends in Hampshire where American troops camped in preparation for the invasion. We enjoyed an evening of dining and opera at The Grange, a historic estate where on March 24, 1944, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Dwight Eisenhower met in the Picture Gallery (our venue for dinner) to discuss the invasion of Europe.  Places here stand as living memorials to that fateful day.

Chipping Campden WWI memorial

The World War I Memorial, covered with poppies for the D-Day Anniversary, in Chipping Campden

The English lost an entire generation of young men in World War I. English cities were bombed night-after-night in 1940 and 1941 during the German campaign known as The Blitz in World War II. Their memories of the price of war and the price of the fight against hatred and bigotry remains closer to the surface than in the U.S., where our World War I memorials are sometimes forgotten or threatened with demolition and where so-called leaders wish the troops a “Happy Memorial Day” without understanding the gravity of the sacrifice we are honoring.

Michele Heller, whose father served at D-Day, has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post to help Americans remember what our parents generation was fighting against and how that contrasts with our current amnesia over the importance of leadership.  She ends her remembrance of her father — a Jew who escaped Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and eventually found safety in the United States, only to enlist two years later in the U.S. Army “to fight, as many immigrants still do, for their adopted country” — with the following:

“They all were war heroes — the captured, the killed, the wounded, the mentally maimed, the lucky survivors such as my dad — because of circumstance, not desire. They went to war because of what happened when xenophobia and demagoguery supplanted real leadership.”

Even with all their current troubles, the English clearly remember the sacrifice, and they keep that remembrance front and center.  The U.K.’s primary day of remembrance for their war dead remains November 11th, when the armistice ending World War I was signed and went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  This year, however, the countryside was filled with special honors and memorials in June, just in time for the 75th anniversary of one of the bloodiest days in history.

Remembrance for D-Day

Remembrances for D-Day in Chipping Campden

Memorials are about memory, which is an essential part of consciousness. Individual and collective memories, connecting over a continuum of time to create community and national identity, are at the heart of why we save old places — why old places matter.

Diane Barthel, writing in Historic Preservation: Collective Memory and Historical Identity, speaks about places where moments in personal history “become part of the flow of collective history. This collective history transcends individual experiences and lifetimes” and are very much tied to place.

The beaches and fields of Normandy certainly stand as reminders of what those who came before sacrificed for future generations.  A simple memorial in the middle of a historic, thriving Cotswold High Street helps bring our individual and collective memories together.  It helps us understand the price required to push back against bigotry, racism, and hatred.

With thanks for the sacrifice made by the men and women on D-Day.  May we never forget, and may we be forever vigilant in fighting leaders who spawn hatred rather than condemn it.

More to come…