A View from the Board

Richard Humphreys, 04/07/2014

As a member of the Leadership Tomorrow Board and Curriculum Committee, I always take great satisfaction from attending the last Challenge Day of the year. I had the opportunity to see the Class of 2013 at the beginning of their journey at the Fall Retreat and to see them at the completion of their journey, which ended on June 13, 2013, as they "Put It All Togther" to focus on leadership in action.
As a member of the Leadership Tomorrow Board and Curriculum Committee, I always take great satisfaction from attending the last Challenge Day of the year. I had the opportunity to see the Class of 2013 at the beginning of their journey at the Fall Retreat and to see them at the completion of their journey, which ended on June 13, 2013, as they "Put It All Togther" to focus on leadership in action.

While at the Challenge Day, I participated in an illuminating exercise along with the Class. We were given a regional map of the Puget Sound that was blank, (meaning no landmarks), just a rendition of land and water. We were asked to draw a map of the region reflecting on the important events that had happened, what interested us most about the region and where we saw the need for change. This exercise led to the emergence of a leadership moment for me. In reviewing the questions posed to us, it struck me that because of the work I do as a third party neutral arbitrator and mediator, that neutral perspective drove my view of the region and my view of the need for change. Here is the leadership challenge that I saw and mapped:

During the period of 1991 to 2013, I lived in Magnolia or Lower Queen Anne. During this time, I have seen Seattle become Paris. The central core of the city, Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne, Belltown and Downtown has become mostly white, highly educated, affluent, influential and powerful. You can also see this change at work in the Central District and Columbia City.

To the contrary, South Seattle has become the preserve of people of color who are less educated, less affluent, without influence and without power. This is not the result of some grand conspiracy or some discriminatory animus. It is the result of education, affluence and economic power. Those who can afford to will live and thrive in the core of the city. Those who cannot afford to do so will not live in the core of the city, nor thrive in Seattle.

So, Seattle will continue to become another Paris, a shining city on a hill with a glittering core of attractions, residences and amenities with an outer edge of population that contains people of color, the less educated, the less affluent, the less powerful and those disconnected from the vibrant core of the city. This is a leadership challenge. It is also the map of the region that I saw.

This development has both moral and practical dilemmas. Leaving morality aside, the state of South Seattle is a growing social tinderbox. No one can predict when it will metastasize but it is there and growing. It is in the practical interest of the region to address this issue before it becomes intractable. How to spread economic opportunity is a leadership challenge. It is also a conversation that Seattle is well equipped to have.

Are we ready to accept this challenge with clear eyes and without blame or judgment? At Leadership Tomorrow, the Boad of Directors, Jan Levy, her staff and the Curriculum Committee have prepared another group of leaders who are equipped and eager to tackle such challenges. Congratulations to the Class of 2013.

By Richard Humphreys, LT'00, LT Board of Directors & Curriculum Committee Member