Jerry Davich: Digging deeper into diversity, beyond race and gender
JERRY DAVICH December 10, 2013 10:54PM
Updated: January 12, 2014 6:26AM
Think fast: What’s your immediately reaction to the word “diversity”?
Is it more of a black and white issue, hinging on race relations? Is it about multicultural tolerance and acceptance? Is it simply a point of respect when things differ, as the dictionary defines it?
Historically (and conveniently), we treat the dark issue of diversity as a white-hot football in Northwest Indiana — punting, passing or kicking it to the sidelines instead of tackling it on a level playing field, as I’ve noted before.
Or possibly we’ve mastered the illusion of “action” regarding diversity by creating endless workshop symposiums, roundtable discussions and newfangled initiatives with public officials who attend more meetings than a recovering alcoholic.
I’ve attended too many of these meetings where familiar-faced participants mingle over a free lunch and then a freefall of self-congratulatory compliments. Then they touch on a few key issues before developing a formal response and calling it a day.
It sounds good. It looks good. It even has the feel of action. But is it? Hmmmm.
On Thursday, a more promising daylong conference will take place at Avalon Manor in Merrillville. It’s titled “Deepening of Diversity: Beyond Race and Gender,” and I hope it digs deeper than previous conferences hosted by other organizers.
“We’re going to look at diversity beyond race and gender, but also diversity of thought, career and ideas,” said Roberto Castañeda of QV Enterprises, LLC, which is hosting the event. “And also diversity from a psychological and philosophical perspective.”
QV Enterprises co-owner Lorraine Guillen-Wentz added: “Diversity and inclusion has been proven to go hand in hand with economic development and success.”
QV Enterprises aims to unite business leaders, academia and government officials to address cutting-edge topics related to diversity and inclusion, as well as its daily impact in our lives.
The event’s keynote speaker is three-time Emmy Award winner Lourdes Duarte, a WGN TV news anchorwoman. Other speakers will represent diverse viewpoints, from private industry and the United Way to the NAACP and the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.
The conference’s panel of speakers will be moderated by Kelly Vaughn, a radio and television personality from Indianapolis. Other special guests and panelists include Denise Dillard from the Methodist Hospitals, Michael Suggs from NIPSCO, Tony Barreda of Union Benefica Mexicana in East Chicago, Leanne Hoagland-Smith from Advanced Systems in Valparaiso and Juan Salgado of Instituto del Progreso Latino in Chicago.
Community leaders are encouraged to attend, and tickets cost $25, including lunch. To register or for more info, call 973-5488 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I typically tell guests at my public presentations, a thousand words can’t compare to a single action. Trust me, I know, I’m a wordsmith, not an activist.
Up in smoke
If you missed my latest Casual Fridays radio show with special guest Tommy Chong of “Cheech & Chong” fame, you can catch it online at http://lakeshorepublicmedia.org/tommy-chong-calls-in/.
Tommy was not only funny, candid and lovable, he also was humble by giving a lot of credit for the dynamic duo’s success to his cohort, Richard “Cheech” Marin.
Did they really smoke all that pot in their hilarious movies? At age 75, does Chong still light up today, and did heavy doses of cannabis heal his cancer? Does he mind his fans repeatedly asking about his stoner days? Tune in and hear his responses for yourself.
Don’t be “too shy or too high,” as Tommy quipped to us on the air.
Christmas Elf Fund
The 70-year-old woman handed me a check for $1,000, which she saved throughout the entire year from her meager monthly pension checks.
Just like last year, she did so to donate it to my annual Christmas Elf Fund for needy and deserving Northwest Indiana families and individuals during the upcoming holidays.
Unlike most of us, the woman doesn’t embrace the holidays — for painful personal reasons — but she wants to make Christmas a little more cheerful for others who need it most.
“It’s not much money, but we’re on a fixed income,” she told me with a gentle smile.
In return, she asked for only a signed copy of my book, “Connections: Everyone Happens for a Reason.”
Otherwise, she imposed no criteria for who should receive her anonymous monetary gift, or if it’s divided for a child, a senior or a family, of any age, race or demographic.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” she said. “I just want to do this.”
“This,” I told her, is the true essence of Christmas.
A few days later, at a Christmas party I attended, a man slid a check into my hand for my Christmas Elf Fund, now in its fifth year.
He, too, wishes to remain anonymous, saying he wants only to bring a little joy to others during Christmastime. No strings attached. No questions asked.
Stay tuned for my updates on the surprised recipients of these generous donations. The old adage, “It’s better to give than receive,” certainly rings true each time I’m honored to pretend I’m an elf of sorts. For me, it’s a heartwarming experience that begins today.
I was surprised and saddened to find out about the death of John Burke, the longtime Lake County deputy prosecutor whom I respected and admired through the years. John always had compelling, behind-the-scenes stories about his murder cases, sending hundreds of bad guys to prison time and again.
After 37 years in the courts, John and I bumped into each other several times since his retirement and each time he seemed profoundly happy to be doing nothing but relaxing with his family and his two granddaughters.
“Life is good, Jerry,” he would often tell me. “I should have retired earlier.”
Maybe this will be his most prophetic closing argument to the rest of us.
Connect with Jerry via email, at email@example.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.