East Meets West

Leslie Smart

Leslie Smart, CFRE (LL ’13) system director of philanthropy, Children’s Hospital Foundation Norton Healthcare

By Leslie Smart, Leadership Louisville Class of 2013 –

March Madness is ever-present and Louisville’s No. 1 seed is exciting.  Oh yeah!   But I experienced a different kind of madness with the March Leadership Louisville program day, “Making the Louisville Mix Work.”  The objectives for the day were simple:  1) explore the cultures within Louisville and how they create our city’s identify; 2) provide an opportunity to discuss the racial and ethnic issues that prevent us from being a “Possibility City” and 3) have a frank dialogue about race and culture, and how to be a leader of a diverse workforce.

Where is the “easy” button?  As a Norton Healthcare employee, inclusion and diversity are high priorities.  I’ve always considered myself an individual who embraces acceptance and respect for every individual, but the stark reality of my insular world became quite apparent as we went through the first exercise with Max Maxwell.  The global bracelet beads that I selected, which represented the ethnicity of friends and colleagues that surround us “most of the time,” quickly became a complete disappointment.   My one black bead amongst the dominating white beads represented Nat King Cole, my all-time favorite musician.  (Sorry darling, spouses didn’t count on this question.)

Even more revealing was my lack of understanding on the history of Louisville, which became apparent when Merv Aubespin and Ken Clay presented their co-authored book with the late Blaine Hudson, “The History of African Americans in Louisville.”  They spoke eloquently about the black community of Louisville from the 1700’s to the opening of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in 2009, which, in fact, was our venue for the day. It was also the first time I had stepped foot in the Center.

The Leadership Louisville team continued to layer a star-studded panel of experts and artists to enhance and develop our thinking, culminating with Debra Walton Wells, who led us back to Day 1.  If you’re a Leadership Louisville graduate, take just a moment to relive it.  Begins with an S.  Aah, you got it — SIMSOC!  Of course, we are nearing the end of the year and it is fitting that the program would come full-circle.  What would it take to make us the “Possibility City?”  The 2013 Leadership Class was up for the challenge and the result is a simple equation:  C=D x V x F>R or Change equals Dissatisfaction times Vision times First Steps that are greater than the Resistance.

The buzz word at the close of the day was “opportunity.”  I encourage you, along with all of my Leadership Louisville colleagues to take time from March Madness to explore the many different cultures and neighborhoods of Louisville.  Venture past Ninth Street and explore the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, dine across town and expand your culinary palette, and pick up a copy of the March edition of Louisville Magazine.  Dan Crutcher devotes 38 pages to West Louisville and highlights seven cities that have turned their communities around. Turn to page 58 and see the “Signs of Progress” that Louisville is already making. Can Louisville progress to being a “Possibility City?”  It’s possible, things are happening every day!