Welcome to 2023, Fellows! In the words of the great American philospher Oprah Winfrey, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right!”
I’ve got a lot to share about the Fellowship this month, so I’ve decided to forgo my normal musings.
All I’ll say is, Go Chiefs!
2023 Flinn-Brown Application Cycle
This spring, about 25 new community leaders will emerge as the next cohort of Flinn-Brown Fellows and join you as members of the Flinn-Brown Network. The application will open tomorrow, Feb. 1, with Feb. 28 the deadline to apply. [Read more]
As I sit down (literally) to write this final message to Fellows for the year, the end credits are rolling on the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It took six goals,120 minutes, and a penalty-kick shootout to close the door on what was quite possibly the most exciting final of any World Cup in my lifetime. Two of the best teams in the competition, led by two of the best players in the world, with stakes high and the personalities life-size. For those familiar with the outcome, you will truly understand this quote from Oscar Wilde: “This suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts.” [Read more]
Over the holiday break, I rewatched The Candidate, a 1972 film featuring a charismatic, free-thinking political outsider who is haphazardly thrown into what is expected to be a losing electoral campaign. Not surprisingly, the candidate’s uncompromising integrity begins to weaken as his chances of winning increase. He eventually succumbs to a sensationalistic political strategy, built on hollow campaign promises and media spectacle. The film chronicles his descent from idealistic contender to shallow celebrity figure. The closing moments of the film are the most shattering – celebration at his triumph contrasted with a voiced realization, “So what do we do now?” [Read more]
I typically use this real estate to wax poetic about life and leadership, but my thoughts this month have been dominated by the upcoming election. In many ways, the last two years have felt like one of the most important cycles we will collectively experience as Arizonans. The culmination of this period of history will not only decide the course of policy and politics in this state for the foreseeable future, but will also either affirm or further fracture the bedrock of our democracy.
I’ll leave the commentary here and focus on what is important right now.Tuesday, November 8 is election day. Please do not forget to return your mail in ballot or visit a polling place to vote in person. You can find information for all 15 county election offices here, for hours, locations, drop off boxes, and publicity pamphlets. [Read More]
A few weeks ago, we hosted a delegation of Israeli government staffers traveling through the U.S. Department of State‘s International Visitor Leadership Program. In the group of five leaders, three were policy advisors to members of the Knesset, and two to the office of the prime minister.
Our program consisted of a short presentation about the Arizona Civic Life Partnership, our collaboration with the Center for the Future of Arizona, followed by a panel of Arizona leaders, who at one point in their careers, had held the positions that the delegates currently hold in Israeli government. The delegates and panel engaged in a dynamic conversation around issues such as health care, water, education, local political campaigns, and immigration and border security. [Read more]
About three weeks ago, the Wallace teenager officially became a high-school student. Excitement preceded the first day, with both she and I daydreaming of newfound independence. That illusion did not last long, and I was entirely unprepared for the daily debrief of all her grievances and drama, usually concentrated in the noon hour when our precious is let out of phone prison, or as I enter the house in an Usain Bolt-like sprint for that first glass of rosé.
Lest you judge me harshly, I have listened actively and enthusiastically, and only occasionally have I drifted to my happy place to escape the deluge of anguish inherent in the 14-year-old day-in-the-life. [Read more]
For the last two years, I’ve spent a good part of my summer in a lovely beach town in California. Nestled in the sweetest little bungalow, 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean, and mere minutes from a charming Main Street, it felt no less than a tropical paradise. Not entirely a vacation—we are busy preparing for Academy after all—but a quiet respite from my home office and a change of pace from the day-to-day sameness of a hot Arizona summer.
Post-pandemic life, and its effect on the culture of work, has been relatively positive in how organizations have reimagined their values, behaviors, and work practices. For many of us, this new flexibility and, more importantly, the affirmation and acceptance of remote work as a viable construct, seems to be tipping the scales in an encouraging way toward healthy work-life balance. [Read more]
Shortly after college graduation, a dear friend moved to Australia to study at the University of Melbourne, married an Aussie native, and never left. We’ve stayed in touch over the years, and last week, we happily connected in-person for the first time in eight years. During a lovely dinner, and perhaps after a little too much wine from the Land Down Under, the conversation veered into a political no man’s land—elections. Usually not the best place to head into at the end of a pleasant evening, but in this case, it truly was an enlightening experience. [Read more]
Yesterday morning, I wrote the message below, before the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. What I wrote now seems frivolous and tone-deaf. I write about my own musings as a parent—minor frustrations, little worries, small discoveries. They’re the kind of musings a parent distant from tragedy gets to have.
I’m leaving the message as I wrote it because it feels so uniquely wrong for this moment. That’s how it should feel. I know that for you, there’s likely a similar feeling—a deep disconnect between what’s on your calendar for today and the terrible news from Uvalde, as the terrible news from Buffalo still echoes. [Read more]
In the mid-1970s, my family immigrated to the United States. I have very few happy memories of living in my birth country or leaving it. However, one charming memory persists to this day from our 14-hour transatlantic flight. Using all the food and airline swag at their disposal, the flight attendants on that flight delighted in keeping a bored 4-year-old busy by teaching her English. In case you are wondering, my first words: “yes” and “no.”
Excellent first words—especially when you consider how much power they yield. Yes is synonymous with opportunity and potential. It is a word that exudes positivity and connection. No is equally powerful when focus is needed and limitations are necessary to achieve one’s goals. [Read more]
In the summer of 1995, alongside nearly 1,000 people, I attended a very special naturalization ceremony—my own. I remember so many intense feelings—everything between an overwhelming sense of relief and finality juxtaposed with a sense of something between hope and rebirth.
But in truth, my strongest memory of that day is not of how I felt, but of a 94-year-old man who waited a lifetime to become an American citizen. I recall his story vividly: As a young man, he escaped from his war-torn country with the hope of building a life of purpose and prosperity for himself and his family. He used the term “freedom” multiple times during his testimonial—his freedom from oppression, fear, and persecution—but also the freedom he believed was the rising tide of his American Dream. [Read more]
When I was younger, my dad would force—I mean strongly encourage—my siblings and me to create Black History Month presentations on an influential Black person we admired. More often than not, I approached this task rather reluctantly. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Oprah Winfrey just as much as the next fifth grader, but didn’t the man understand I had haikus to write and timetables to memorize?
Now, as I near my 25th trip around the sun, contemplating the life that’s long behind, I look back on these moments in gratitude. I guess parents do know what they’re talking about after all.
So, this February, as our country commemorates Black History Month, I would like to encourage you to celebrate the “more” to the story. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some helpful tips: [Read more]
While 2022 hasn’t started out exactly as I hoped—after two years of dodging COVID, my family finally came face to face with the new variant, “He Who Must Not Be Named”—our cases are mild, in large part due to the decision we made to be vaccinated and boosted. While inconvenient, particularly to the desired social life of a 13-year-old, we are grateful to have weathered the storm, tired but safe.
However, I’m determined to not let this be our origin story for 2022. Instead, I’ve decided to multiverse our Marvel tale this year. Here’s my inspiration: recently, I noticed weird, Tetris-like graphics on Twitter posts. As a rule, I generally avoid any curiosity about nebulous Twitter content, but then it also surprisingly appeared on the boss’s feed—like, daily. It took me exactly three seconds to Encyclopedia Brown myself to a New York Times article, called “Wordle is a Love Story” where I solved the mystery and also had an incredible epiphany about my emerging relationship with the year 2022. [Read more]
Recently, a colleague suggested I watch an Apple TV+ television series very loosely based on the life of Emily Dickinson. While I grasp the show’s idiosyncratic charm—and hipster appeal—I’m afraid I may not be the show’s most logical target audience. Don’t let me lead you astray—it’s cinematically beautiful, edgy and has lovely infusion of modern-day music and adult themes played strikingly in contrast to the puritanical and political backdrop of 19th century life in the U.S. Sadly, I’m not sure I’ve got it in me to binge-watch three seasons, but the experience did lead me down the Google rabbit hole to learn more about her life and art.
An eccentric soul, Dickinson’s talent revealed itself only after her death. She lived in isolation, interacting with the world through letters. And for the 1800’s she was an extraordinary woman—highly educated for her time, feisty, but tragically also melancholy and fascinated with death. Spoiler Alert: Best part of the show is rapper Wiz Khalifa as Death who randomly shows up in horse-drawn carriage looking a little like Lestat from Interview with a Vampire. [Read More]
Thank you to all the Fellows who joined us at the Heard Museum for the 2021 Flinn-Brown Convention! It was a real pleasure to meet you all—some of you whom I’ve gotten to know through phone conversations, Zoom meetings, or your pictures in a directory. I truly appreciate that you all contributed by being engaged—asking the difficult questions and bringing your insightful (and sometimes provocative) observations to the conversation.
Most of the Convention speakers and presenters were unfamiliar with the Flinn-Brown Fellowship when we invited them to participate. Since then, I’ve received numerous notes and comments about the hidden jewel that is Flinn-Brown, built on so many of the values that we are all striving for these days—thoughtful, meaningful, and respectful discussions made stronger by divergent opinions and ideologies. [Read More]
Welcome Fall! My most favorite time of year! The weather cools down, the days get shorter, and everything ever produced by human invention gets hijacked by the scent of pumpkin spice.
On a bittersweet note, Friday will be the last day of Academy for the 2020 Flinn-Brown cohort. Since August, our group of 31 amazing Fellows have gathered—in-person, then virtual, then in-person, all within the distractions of the new normal of this pandemic world. While this situation has not been ideal—and certainly challenging to operationalize—I can say that these truly extraordinary individuals found their own ways to connect and bond as closely as previous Flinn-Brown cohorts. (Fun Fact: This cohort was also responsible for five beautiful babies brought into this world since June 2020.) [Read More]
Recently, during a Flinn Foundation team building exercise, our facilitator challenged us to note a single point of certainty… and uncertainty in our lives. My brutally cathartic response – “I’m certain all 13-year-old girls are a*&h*%$s, and I’m uncertain how long I could hybrid work at home with my husband before I lose my mind.” Got a few laughs, a few nods of agreement—and a few concerned looks that conveyed “Are you alright?”
The truth is, I do not really think all 13-year-old girls are—well, a better word is difficult—and it really has not been all that bad working at home with the husband. But it had been a tough day (and year-and-a-half) on both fronts, and I was feeling the weight of it all. We all have moments where we say things we do not mean, act in a manner that is not our typical way, and let our feelings and emotions get the best of us. I am comforted by the fact that the great American philosopher, Mister Fred Rogers coined the word “mentionable” for these feelings and emotions. However, for some, what is not as easy to discern is how mentionable feelings can be “manageable.” [Read More]
One of the most awe-inspiring moments of every Olympic Games is the Athletes Parade. Watching each athlete march into Olympic Stadium under the cover of their country’s flag—I’m always struck by the joy and exhilaration on their faces and how powerfully their emotions exude from the screen. The remarkable history of the Athletes’ Parade is worth reading, especially how the opening and the closing ceremonies have evolved over the last century.
I’ll also admit that in my household, the parade provides an opportunity for a much-needed world geography lesson. Beyond the experience of learning about the lesser-known countries (many thanks to Google), we also saw athletes participating through a special team construct, the Refugee Olympic Team. Consisting of 29 athletes, from 11 countries, competing in 12 sports, the Refugee Team marched into the arena under the banner of the Olympic flag in the second position, immediately after Greece. Throughout the Olympics, I was incredibly moved to hear the personal stories of these incredible athletes, displaced by their home country’s political turbulence or those who fled from authoritative regimes seeking shelter and safety. [Read More]
In a recent meeting with members of the Civic Health Steering Committee, we posed the question, “Why is this work important to you?” We were seeking responses from the members whose work spans across the civic engagement spectrum. While this question was directed to the Steering Committee members, it gave me an opportunity to reflect upon our work at the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and my own path more broadly.
A few years ago, I transitioned my career into the philanthropic space, leaving behind years in state government and public policy work. However, I often think about what initially led me to public service—a combination of opportunity, interest, and mentors. The opportunity was in college; I was a student clerk for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah. I worked at the Department of Justice in Salt Lake City under two U.S. presidents, before and after 9/11, during the 2002 winter Olympics, and through the search for a missing girl from Utah, Elizabeth Smart. There are many stories from my time at DOJ but what left the biggest impression were the career public professionals. I met individuals whose entire careers were devoted to government service which enlightened me to the opportunities that existed within the public sector. This opportunity, paired with my interest in government and policy and a few great mentors with distinguished public service careers, put me on my path. [Read More]
Recently, my almost teenager and I took our first solo road trip. Charged with curating our travel playlist, she produced an eclectic discography that featured her favorite modern artists and her version of the “classics” she thought I might enjoy. Included were iconic songs from the Stones, Beatles, Springsteen and, interestingly enough, Don McLean’s “American Pie.” As we engaged in some car karaoke, we became curious about McLean’s lyrics, and decided to unpack the many historical references (“the day the music died”) that ultimately led us to the 1960’s political and cultural revolution in the U.S.
During our discussion, my daughter revealed that many of the themes from this song resonated with her and her generation (racial injustice, political divisiveness, class struggle). To her surprise, I offered her the soundtrack of my ’80s youth – U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, and Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World.” What happened next, through this unexpected musical journey, was a rare moment where the divide of a generational gap—and the complexity of the parent-child experience—evolved organically from the individual lens of perception to a mutual understanding and shared language about the values that were important to both of us. [Read More]
In the early 20th century, a Bell Company executive first coined the term “network effect” as a strategy to expand regional telephone services. This principle refers to any situation in which the value of a product, service, or platform depends on the number of buyers, sellers, or users who leverage it.
More recently, this economic theory has been applied to the technology marketplace. In fact, it is commonly referred to as “Metcalfe’s Law,” named after Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of the Ethernet, the system for connecting a number of computer systems to form a local area network. Essentially, Metcalfe believed that the value of the network was proportional to the square of the number of users. Or, in other words, the value was due to the connectivity between users, enabling them to work together and achieve more than they could alone. Sound familiar? [Read More]
In a recent staff meeting, my coworkers and I were challenged to share our favorite sports hero. While I live with two sports fanatics—one I married, the other I birthed—I don’t know many current players in professional sports. Of course, I know the big names like Jordan, Ali, Billie Jean King—but only from the documentaries and Hollywood biopics.
Desperate for a name to contribute to the conversation, I remembered that several years ago, my former boss gifted me a book by Coach John Wooden, A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court. As head coach of the UCLA Bruins, Coach Wooden won 10 NCAA national championships and is undeniably one of the most successful college basketball coaches, beloved by his players and well-known for his motivational sermons built on his own grounded philosophy of life. [Read More]
In 2011, the original vision of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership imagined that building leadership capacity in Arizona should be paired equally with robust civic learning and community outreach to build a groundswell of support for civic life, and with resources for statewide collaborations to link statewide or local leadership initiatives.
In 2021, we are compelled to ask ourselves if we have realized this vision, and beyond the Foundation’s own self-reflection, an integral part of our evaluation has been outwardly focused on policy and political leaders, community partners, and the Fellows themselves. [Read More]
While most of 2020 was epic in its challenges, the holiday season glimmered to me like an elixir for the darkness of our collective mood. The simplicity felt restorative in a year filled with chaos. For me and mine, the beauty of the moment and the promise of a new day felt like a soft light at the end of a long, gloomy tunnel. I had great expectations as we approached the new year.
Then six days into the new year, an unimaginable tragedy emerged filling us with renewed fear and despair. Before our eyes, the sanctuary of our democracy was violently breached by insurrectionists birthed out of the gutter of demagoguery. The world watched as we struggled with our own fragility and the overwhelming sense that something so precious as the American experiment could be slipping way and lost forever. I was equally heartsick, afraid, and powerless—something I’ve not felt since I lost my 5-year-old in a large crowd. But I don’t believe that these moments define us—certainly, not when we have messengers of hope who compel us to rise above the somber ashes of disillusionment and uncertainty and to resurrect ourselves. [Read More]
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
It once would have been hard to imagine that the opening lines of a Dickens novel from 1859 would be prophetic for the year we have all collectively experienced. But the contradictions in those words from “A Tale of Two Cities” perfectly describe 2020—a year marked by tragedy and paired with delicate moments of compassion. A year in which scientists became superheroes to the masses while valiantly fighting against the villains of ignorance. A year in which an unspeakable act ignited a movement for justice that will reverberate for generations to come. A year in which the human spirit was tested beyond its limits, and still showed its resilience by materially transforming how we work, how we educate our children – and how we live each day. [Read More]
There is nothing more lovely than November in Arizona. For locals, it is a long-awaited respite from the scorching heat of never-ending Arizona summer days. For our friends who escape here from the frigid winters of the Midwest, Arizona is the closest to paradise you can get to in a car. And while we get a little curmudgeonly about increased traffic and other little inconveniences, I celebrate our winter visitors, as they remind me to look with fresh eyes on the amazing beauty of the Grand Canyon State.
Each November is also poignant to me for more personal reasons, as it is filled with special events and moments that trigger self-reflection on my life and purpose—birthdays, anniversary, Thanksgiving, the dreaded arrival of Elf on the Shelf. And that phrase we so often hear in November, “Elections have consequences,” specifically resonates with me because at various points in my life, outcomes of elections have deeply impacted my professional trajectory. I know that is true for many of you, too. [Read More]
Last month, our country mourned the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was known to many as an impassioned advocate of women’s rights. However, not as widely known, was her legacy to broader gender equality. Many of her early cases as a litigator addressed discriminatory practices against men, particularly in their roles as caregivers to the family.
Everything I have read leads me to believe that she was amused by her status as pop-culture icon—a.k.a. the Notorious R.B.G. For her great sense of humor, I am eternally grateful because it introduced her—and her story of self-determination and empowerment—to my 12-year-old daughter and her friends. Her fame and popularity among the younger generation created the opportunity for me to discuss the road to equality for women in a different way—through the powerful lens of an individual, who, otherwise gifted with all measures of success, sought to fight for the constitutional rights of all citizens. [Read More]
As we approach the beginning of autumn, I can truly say I’m happy to look back at the summer of 2020 in the rearview mirror. While I cherish the LONG summer days my family and I spent together, it is re-energizing to look forward to the months ahead and the promise of a return to some sense of normalcy. I’m cautiously optimistic that improving health benchmarks may be a predictor of a positive trend for the state. However, the advice from experts remains that we should continue to be diligent with the health and safety protocols, including masks and social distancing. #MASKUPAZ.
To that end, while we are committed to doing our part in mitigating the spread, we are looking forward to returning to our programming for the 2020 Fellows cohort, albeit partly virtually. Additionally, we are planning for future Arizona Center for Civic Leadership activities, including Flinn-Brown Network engagement and monthly CivEx webinars. We hope the broad reach of virtual events will provide an opportunity for Fellows outside of Maricopa County to participate and engage in activities that previously were less accessible to them. [Read More]
The 2020 U.S. Census is happening right now, and we need your help!
We know that as Flinn-Brown Fellows, you appreciate the impact the census has on our state. Every ten years, it serves as our guiding tool for equal political representation and distribution of more than $675 billion in funding to support essential services and infrastructure provided to our local communities. [Read More]
The month of August typically heralds the hustle and bustle of “back to school,” which inevitably touches the lives of most Arizonans–certainly if you have kids, but even if you do not. The longer commutes and traffic remind us that summer is officially over.
In a typical year, the week before school would be a flurry of shopping, happy school-friend reunions, and the silent joy felt by many parents that school is back in session. That is not our collective experience this year—instead, we are all reimagining schooling at home, in some cases reminiscent of the one-room schoolhouse where children of multiple grades are learning together. [Read More]
In May, the whole country watched with agonized incredulity as George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. In the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s death and so many tragedies like it before, we witnessed our fellow Americans take to the streets to protest and we heard them cry out in generational pain and frustration. We also saw the linking of arms, the holding of hands, and declarations of both black and white voices in unity for change, that gave rise to hope that our beloved country can someday be a place where every person is guaranteed an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In my education policy work, I often tried to push to the forefront strategies to mitigate the “achievement gap” and the impact of socio-economic status as a determinate of student success. As I have had time to reflect, I have become intensely aware of the superficiality of my assumption that the social determinates of education inequity are merely economic. To that end, I intend to engage Fellows and other civic leaders committed to furthering the success of our children of color and bring their work to the forefront during the 2020 seminar series. [Read More]
Our team has been extremely busy over the last month reviewing applications for the 2020 Flinn-Brown Fellowship. For me, it has been a great discovery of the wealth of talent and creativity among Arizonans. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the amazing public-policy work that is happening in our state by truly impactful leaders. I am also really proud to say that more than ever, our applicants represent Arizona’s geography from all over the state—from Kingman to St. David to Yuma to Prescott Valley, and many cities and towns in between.
We recruited 22 Flinn-Brown Fellows to assist with the screening of applications. In teams of two, these Fellows helped us carefully consider the range of occupations, perspectives, knowledge, and experience within the cohort. As importantly, how the applicants described their desire to improve the state and their communities weighed heavily in our decision-making. The final selection task will be no easy feat. As the program has gained prestige, there has been increased competition for limited interview and seminar slots. However, in an effort to accommodate this demand, we are increasing our typical cohort from 25 to 30. [Read More]
Last week, we closed the application period for the 2020 Flinn-Brown Fellowship. We had a tremendous response this year, with 129 completed applications from truly remarkable individuals representing communities from all over the state.
When we put out the call to service in early April for help in recruiting members, we could not have anticipated to what degree each of you would respond and offer to contribute. This is the true power of the Flinn-Brown Network—the ability to combine talents and expertise with determination and get things done. [Read More]
I am truly excited to be joining the Flinn Foundation Arizona Center for Civic Leadership team. Over the last two decades, I have been privileged to serve in a variety of roles in state government and have witnessed first-hand through my work with elected officials, policy and political staff, and community influencers, the impact of effective leadership on public policy and good government practices that ultimately benefits the quality of life of all Arizona residents. [Read More]