Inspiration comes in many forms. A poem, a smile, a beautiful sunrise, a notable achievement and often a setback or outright failure. Each one of these provides the spark within to challenge ourselves in pursuit of a better life for our loved ones, and our community.
We use the term “inspired” a lot in our work, and for good reason. Oftentimes our work can be overwhelming, difficult, defeating. But our faith in the power of community to build a better, more just and equitable world drives us to continue fighting against the odds – now more than ever. It is why the International Downtown Association has adopted the motto Inspired Leaders Shaping Cities.
I was struck last week with a renewed sense of optimism and pride following the inauguration of a new president and the words of a young Black woman from Santa Monica, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. The events of the day, the traditions on display and the promise of a return to normalcy, brought calm and some reassurance during what has been a year of turbulence and uncertainty. While we are deeply divided as a nation, I am inspired by this opportunity to start anew and find a path forward toward reconciliation and prosperity for all of us.
As leaders in our respective communities, part of our mission is to instill this same type of hope and optimism through our deeds and actions; that is no small feat in these times. But we draw strength from the fact that our work in shaping cities and building community has never been more important, more desired by those we serve. Pent up demand for our public spaces and the activities that take place within them is real. What used to be thought of as a routine trip to the Farmers’ Market, or simply grabbing a meal at an outdoor patio to satisfy our grumbling tummies, are now viewed as essential for our mental health. Our requirement for meaningful social interaction has been elevated. We are finally acknowledging the limitations of social media and Zoom calls to replicate our human desire for true connection.
We have an opportunity to reset history in our city centers by focusing on our open space, on human-to-human contact, and true dialogue that brings about a better understanding of who we are and what we want for our future. We must create safe spaces to have the difficult discussions, the pained disagreements, and ultimately those moments of solidarity that brings about lasting change.
As we begin to see progress in our fight to eradicate the coronavirus, and as we plot the course for our economic recovery, I hope that you will continue to find those moments of inspiration. A song, a sunset, a smile, and even a loss. Just know that no matter what occurs, we as Inspired Leaders Shaping Cities are here for one another, providing love, support, and inspiration.