Anyone who has ever met me knows that I have never met a stranger and I live my life as an open book. So in this month where we celebrate love I thought I’d share a little about the love in my life and how it has given me such a strong foundation for the work I have chosen to do.
More than thirty years ago a young man walked into my home, and into my life, a friend of a friend who had come to visit. In true Valentine’s spirit, it was love at first sight for us both. All these years later, after raising four children together, my husband Patrick and I live in a three-generational household with one of our daughters and her two children, 4 ½ and 2. It makes for a home full of noise, mess, frequent viruses, and lots and lots of love.
Patrick and I also share a deep and abiding commitment to bending the arc of history towards justice.
But in addition to sharing three decades of marriage and family-building, Patrick and I also share a deep and abiding commitment to improving the lives around us, and – to paraphrase Dr. King – to bending the arc of history towards justice.
Over the past two decades we have each found different ways to build that mission into the career paths we have chosen. As president of United Way for Greater Austin, I am dedicated to building a strong and resilient community and to addressing the root causes of poverty and inequity that hold too many of our neighbors back in this Greater Austin region. Patrick’s career has focused on state and national policy, for 13 years as an advocate for low-income Texans at the state Capitol and since 2004 working around the country to build support for public solutions to our most pressing social challenges.
While I have focused on leveraging the power of the nonprofit sector and individual philanthropy to drive community change, Patrick has dedicated himself to re-building support for our public institutions and systems and the role they can and must play in a just society. He has worked with community leaders, advocates, civic leaders and public managers to change the way we talk about the public sector and its role in addressing poverty and other economic challenges. He is part of a great team that is actively engaged in creating more “civic-mindedness” in our culture.
Patrick and I agree that nonprofits and the public sector are crucial partners; together they provide the foundation for a healthy society and pave the way for a vigorous private sector economy. But while we rightly celebrate the role that our nonprofit partners play in our community, we often take for granted the myriad “public” systems that enrich our lives every day – from our libraries, schools and museums to our public parks, courts and infrastructure. Rebuilding faith and trust in a government dedicated to the common good is directly connected to how we work together to solve community problems. If I’ve piqued your interest in what Patrick has to say, you can watch a speech he gave on the topic in 2011.
Someone recently asked me if Patrick and I debated issues of social justice and public policy and discussed ways to solve poverty in Austin and America at our breakfast table. I just laughed and told them that our conversations these days revolve around feeding the grandkids, dogs and chickens and discussing where Elmo is. But one of the ways in which I am blessed is that the man I have chosen to walk through life with shares my deep convictions and we have always supported each other’s work. We love what we do, and we are lucky in the love we share.