Month: September 2016

Listening is an Act of Love

I’m not always a good listener.  But I know how important it is to listen.  So I felt a little better about my shortcomings when I heard David Isay, the founder of StoryCorps and the person who has said that “listening is an act of love,” confess that other than when interviewing people, he can be a really terrible listener.  He’s impatient. (I can relate).  Listening takes a lot of focus and energy, and all of us have our moments.  In the interview, it was noted that listening is not something that we do all the time. It’s work. It’s a commitment. But we want to make room for listening. And as David Isay said, “It’s something you never regret.” He also told a story that I want to pass along, in honor of Mother Theresa, who was recently named a saint by Pope Francis.  Isay said, “I don’t know if this is an apocryphal story or not, but there’s a story about Dan Rather interviewing Mother Theresa. And he asked her what she said …

Preservation with an International Focus

I have returned to Italy for the second time this year for a short meeting of the executive committee of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO).  Our host for this year’s meeting is Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI) or the Italian National Trust, a remarkable INTO member which has saved 54 properties and protected 6 million square meters of historic landscape in Italy since 1975.  Over the past two days we have been meeting with the FAI staff at their headquarters in Milan and have toured three wonderful – and unique – FAI properties.  Along the way the 15 members of the INTO executive committee have learned more about the Italian model of preservation while we share our own experiences and shape strategy for the group for the year ahead. FAI’s headquarters in Milan is in a historic equestrian exercise rink that has been marvelously repurposed for 21st century office use.  The space, desks, and equipment are all modern and set up for strong collaboration, yet the entire new three-floor interior addition could be removed without …

We Learn to Walk by Falling Down

I heard the line “We learn to walk by falling down” recently and was reminded that we can’t do anything unless we’re willing to fail.  In our work, in our lives, in our relationships with others, in everything we do we have to be willing to try, fall down, get back up, learn, and try again. All of us want our work and lives to make a difference.  Being willing to fall down and get up again is part and parcel of making a difference, and I believe that supporting others on this journey as we all “learn to walk” is at the heart of what we’re called to do. Let’s look for ways to learn together. More to come… DJB

Hope is Grounded in Memory

Last Saturday marked my 20th anniversary at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about hope in the context of life’s milestones.  Not a greeting card kind of hope or optimism, but “hope that’s kind of gritty…the kind,” as described by songwriter and author Carrie Newcomer, “that gets up every morning and chooses to try to make the world just a little kinder (or better) in your own way.” The thought that “hope is grounded in memory” has influenced the work of  another writer I admire, Rebecca Solnit. In a recent interview, she notes that “We think of hope as looking forward, but…(if) you study history deeply, you realize that, to quote Patti Smith, ‘people have the power’….(P)eople have often taken on things that seemed hopeless — freeing the slaves, getting women the vote — and achieved those things.”  Knowing history gives me hope. To be fair, hope is hard.  Cynicism – where I have gone on occasion – is easy. But in thinking about 20 years of …

The Firebrand and the First Lady

During August I took the time to read Patricia Bell-Scott’s recent book “The Firebrand and the First Lady” about the friendship between Pauli Murray and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Both women were instrumental in the struggle for social justice in the 20th century.  Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and impact is well documented.  But Murray’s story – that of an African American member of the LGBTQ community, Civil Rights and Women’s Rights activist, the lawyer responsible for producing what Justice Thurgood Marshall called “the Bible of Civil Rights law,” a poet and writer, the first female African American Episcopal priest, and an Episcopal saint – has fascinated me ever since our colleague Karen Nickless brought Pauli Murray’s childhood home in Durham, North Carolina, to the attention of the National Trust.  Early in 2015 we named the house a National Treasure, and are at work in support of its preservation and its listing as a National Historic Landmark. The release of this 2016 book was timely, as it raised the level of attention to the work and legacy of Murray …