Horton Hears a Who

Note: I first published this in the March, 2011 issue of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce newsletter, Batavia Business.

An open letter to Joi Cuartero, Executive Director, Batavia MainStreet.
Welcome Joi. I am grateful to the MainStreet Board of Directors for offering you the position as Executive Director.
Do you, per chance, recall the book Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss? In it, Horton the elephant hears voices from a small speck of dust, which turns out to be a tiny planet and home to the Whos of Who-ville. The Whos, you may recall, are in desperate need of protection because no one can see them.
As you know, I was invited to sit in on the final interviews for your position. Afterward, the Board generously asked my opinion. I simply quoted a dear friend who spent many years as a consultant in human resources. He once said “Organizations tend to hire people for what they are… and fire them for who they are.” The moment the words slipped from his lips, they were securely lodged in the synapses of my brain.
Our primary weapon as we journey from job to job is the infamous resume; it informs the world of our accomplishments… the what’s of our lives. Mine reports years in sales, a chapter as a consultant, a snippet or two about my community work, and ends with accomplishments as Chamber Executive Director.
As hard as I might try, however, who I am—my love for this community, my passion for helping others discover who they are capable of becoming, the heartache I experience on the suicide hotline and my love for my family—becomes very small and is in constant danger of being lost.
The whats of my life are well-documented: BA, MS, MSM, Consultant, Fireworks Chair, Executive Director. And while those experiences help, little of that really matters as I face life. What is about my past. Who is about how I interface with the world today, tomorrow and into whatever future I might still be granted.
Joi, I have seen your resume, and it’s marvelous. Your event planning experience and organizing skills bode well as you face the necessary tasks of Batavia MainStreet.
However, my enthusiasm for you as Executive Director does not flow from my confidence in your skills. My joy, Joi, comes from who I see lurking behind them. Your passion for the arts, the intensity of the vision you contributed to the founding and ongoing success of Water Street Studios and the way you light up when given an opportunity to talk about the future of Batavia This is the fingerprint you leave behind that informs us about who you are, and who you are capable of becoming, Who you are, rather than what you bring, is what gives me confidence in our future with you as an integral part.
So, as you and I have an opportunity to dream together with the larger community about what might be possible, please bring your skills and experience. We need those. But what will more likely animate the future is when each of us takes time to look deeply into who we are and brings our deepest desires… fiercest passions…and most vivid visions forth so they can fuse and collide with those around us.
As in Who-ville, all is lost if we lose who we are. I look forward to working with you.

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