They say great minds think alike. As we worked on the profiles of the 2007 inductees into our magazine’s Affordable Housing Hall of Fame for this issue, I realized that powerful leaders often dream alike.
This year’s inductees all had a powerful vision for the future that seemed risky or even outrageous at one time. But they turned their ideas into realities because they always believed in what was possible and inspired others to share their optimism.
In a famous movie from 1946, Jimmy Stewart played the son of the pioneering founder of a small “building and loan,” or what we more recently called a “savings and loan.” He wanted to leave his small town life for bigger things, but he was called on to stay and take over the institution and he did. When he despaired about the meaning of his life, he realized, with the help of an angel, how important his work had been to the people he helped to buy homes.
The movie is It’s a Wonderful Life, and it was the favorite film of Terrence R. Duvernay, one of our Hall of Fame inductees.
I never discussed it with him, but I bet Terry loved the movie because it showed what one person can do by working hard and staying true to the ideals laid down for them by their mentors. It showed what can be achieved through the power of principle, persistence, and yes, compassion for one’s fellow man.
For me, the film suggests the need to keep the bigger picture in mind. The daily work of developing housing is often tedious, and it may seem like a thankless job, especially when the homeowners near a proposed project site are threatening to kill you for proposing affordable housing. But over time, all the hard work adds up to make a tremendous impact.
Few of us will ever have the magical experience of seeing our impact on the world as Jimmy Stewart’s character did in that film. But we have Duvernay and our other inductees to remind us, through their example of what we can do working together, and to inspire us to keep pushing.
This is the point where I should say it’s too bad there are not more people like our inductees, visionaries with the guts, smarts, and dedication to change things for the better.
It’s easy to be cynical, especially when you think about the political hacks who run our federal agencies today.
But compared to our inductees, George Bush’s cronies are like insects buzzing around a giant Sequoia tree. They will leave no legacy greater than a smear on the windshield of some car on a back road somewhere.
As we honor the leaders of the past, we must also look ahead and do what we can to find new leadership in Washington, D.C., and in our own hometowns. It’s time to start thinking about the next generation of great leaders in housing and community development. I know they are out there. Help me find them.
Nominate someone under the age of 35 for inclusion in a new feature we are planning: Young Leaders of Affordable Housing.
Then, when you meet someone you think has that kind of leadership potential, make yourself available to mentor them and help them see their own potential.
This industry has made enormous strides in the last three-plus decades, thanks to our inductees and others like them. If you want to see as much progress in the next 30 years, nurturing tomorrow’s leaders is not just a good idea, it’s essential. It is seeding our future.