Eleanor Roosevelt led an active, full, and interesting life, if not a sad one. She was immediately stricken at an early age with the loss of her mother, father, and brother to illness and depression, only to pull herself back together and have to nurse her husband, FDR, through his presidency and paralytic illness. Despite all of her obstacles, she maintained her drive and developed her voice as a feminist and anti-racist. She became an outspoken (and therefore criticized) woman in the public eye, redefining the role of “First Lady” with her social platforms, speaking engagements, and sometimes outright disagreement with her husband.
I love her example. Considering that in times gone before me, thought pioneers did more with less keeps me going. It reminds me that the fundamental task of finding your voice is the rudimentary first step but learning to flex it is another task entirely that requires dog-headed determination. It is not enough to be in the room if you never speak up — you must decipher a room and speak to your audience clearly, honestly, and sometimes, urgently.
Make no mistake; we find ourselves in urgent times that require the voices in the room to speak with authority. The availability and quality of our air, water, energy, and soil are at the mercy of our “progress” — our ingenuity cutting both ways. Simultaneously, we are asking similar questions around our societal structure: the quality of our schools, cities, public spaces, and social capacity hang in the balance of unanswered questions around exactly how we ended up with so much brutality disrupting our ideals of humanity.
There is a deep public outcry for answers.
Forgive me for sounding too optimistic, perhaps; I believe we — the designers, dreamers, artists, and scientists in AIA – can actualize a better future. I also believe the process will be just that — a process. It will require honest, open, transparent communication facilitated by creative and inspiring thinkers that get things done. Forgive me again for sounding too naïve, but I believe our design community has the right tools for the challenge. Not only are you equipped by virtue of your training, education, and passion, you have a secret weapon: AIA Utah members and staff who are all dedicated to the same ideal.
For now, that staff will no longer include me, as I am taking a post in another AIA Chapter. I will be moving in June to take on the role of EVP / CEO of AIA Oregon. I am glad I spent the time here in Utah learning all of the ways in which members can influence their world. I am grateful to every member.
As AIA Utah continues to grow, I hope you will connect to communities you perhaps have not yet, because I think that will allow you to expand your knowledge at the same time you increase a sphere of influence.
Some of the outcomes will look like failures; I assure you they are not. They are continued attempts at success that will help AIA Utah build resilience and working capacity. You’re going to increase our stamina and strength as a group recovering from COVID and racial unrest, and that will take time, consideration, and measured thought. But I know that if any group of individuals can come together to make it happen, it’s AIA Utah members. Everywhere I have been in this nation, I have bragged about how AIA Utah members are poised and ready to take on tough issues, and now should be no different.
It won’t be easy at first, perhaps, to come back together after over a year apart. You’ll have to relearn some things and maybe even disabuse yourself from others. But I know I’m looking forward to the journey, as it takes the Wilson family and myself to Oregon; I hope you are looking forward to the future as well. Although I will not be right here, I won’t be far, and I’ll still be in AIA, so I look forward to seeing how your individual contributions can make your AIA that much more valuable to you. My tenure has been an exciting time of expansive growth, and I thank you for trusting me to lead. Let’s continue to change this world for the better, together, wherever we are.
Gratefully Yours in Design,