Mar 022010

Thank you your Honor and members of the City Council.

I’ve come before you tonight to talk about Ignite!…the community visioning session we are planning for March 26 at Waubonsee Community College.

The great psychologist, Kurt Lewin, generally recognized as the founder of modern social psychology, was the first to say “Nothing is as practical as a good theory.”

So here is the theory driving our plans for March 26. All living systems naturally seek life, health, and growth. In living systems, life, health and growth naturally emerge through intimate connections and interconnections. In the living systems we humans inhabit—our organizations and communities—that intricate web of connections and interconnections is known as social capital. What Robert Putnam discovered in researching his ground-breaking book “Bowling Alone” is that social capital is in dramatic decline in America.

At a very high level, March 26 is about rebuilding social capital in Batavia. It is an opportunity for everyone who joins us to reestablish old connections and build new ones. Those will, over the coming years, enable new possibilities and a new future…a future built on friendship, respect and trust.

So how do we make this theory practical on the 26th? After we gather, we will identify the hundreds of extraordinary assets and capabilities we enjoy…the spirit of volunteerism, the magnificent Riverwalk, our relationship to Fermilab and Mooseheart, our history and historic architecture, and hundreds of others. We’ll use this amazing inventory as our foundation, and gather in small groups to generate the ideas and projects that will build the Batavia the future is waiting for us to manifest.

We’ll leave Waubonsee Community College on the 26th with ideas, project teams, plans and dreams. My dream is that future generations will point to that day in late March, in the year 2010 and say, “that was the day Batavia ignited a bright new future.”

I am hopeful hundreds will join us to begin the journey. Registration is available on the Community Calendar at and participants can follow along on our “Ignite Batavia 2010” page on Facebook.

Feb 242010

Note: This entry is reprinted with permission from the soon-to-be-released March/April edition of Neighbors of Batavia Magazine.

Many things were ignited in Batavia on February 26, 1991. Creative ideas…bold projects… effective relationships…deep friendships. It is easy to pin the origins of some of those to a hotel ballroom in Oakbrook where hundreds of Batavians gathered. Several, like the beautiful Riverwalk that embraces City Hall took many years to fully manifest. Others, I am sure, were powerful and changed the course of Batavia’s future, but were so subtle in their revelation, that we may never realize they began that day.

We were invited to bring our ideas…our experience…our wisdom to that great hall. We were encouraged to share with one another. We were asked to commit something of ourselves. And when the day ended, the call went out to the entire community to participate in the creation of a new Batavia.

Had it not been for that February day, and the Riverwalk that arose from it, we would never have had the venue to light 3000 luminaries on September 11, 2002 to remember and honor those who died a year earlier.

It was at that event I met Ted Schuster. He became my mentor and changed my life. He taught me what it means to love a community so deeply that nothing is too much to give. We lost Ted many years ago, but his influence will live in my heart till the day I die, and will live on in Batavia forever. He shifted the world in ways that will never be undone.

On March 26, a coalition of community organizations is sponsoring “Ignite…A new future for Batavia”. The Chamber, City, School District, MainStreet, Park District and Library have come together to open a space where the community can gather to identify and build on Batavia’s unique assets and capacities. The future grows from the fertility of the soil in which we plant our ideas. On this day, we hope to till soil enriched by what is good and positive.

We will begin the day by identifying the hundreds of assets and capacities in Batavia and the Fox Valley. For things that on the surface appear troublesome—as did the muddy parking lots and embankments around City Hall in 1991 that were transformed into the jewel we enjoy today—let us focus on the potential for greatness hidden within the challenges we foresee.

Once we have identified the rich soil into which we can plant our ideas, passions and wisdom, we will gather in small groups to plan, vision and dream. We will invite participants to create work groups and task forces to begin the process of building…to plant the seeds and determine what must be done to help them blossom. As we end the day and begin the re-creation of the future, we will invite participants and the community to join us.

Are we asking a lot? Absolutely! To give an entire day to anything is difficult—perhaps far more difficult than it was in 1991. But we are talking about place…we are talking about home…we are talking about the environment that has or will shape who our children become. Is eight hours too much to ask if the unique idea or passionate vision you have to share makes Batavia a better place for our children and grandchildren? Is eight hours too great an investment, when the future itself is waiting for us to nudge it into manifesting itself?

For me, this day is dedicated to Ted Schuster, because one of the most meaningful aspects of my life is the love he instilled in me for this beautiful enclave we call Batavia.

If you would like to join us on March 26, please let us know by signing up on the Batavia Chamber Community Calendar.