A message from the firm’s President, Nicholas de Wolff:
I have been struggling these past days with how I, a middle-aged white man (albeit of Hispanic ancestry), might express my present despair, disappointment, frustration, and solidarity in a constructive and meaningful way. Reading and sharing the words of a Person of Color, a Woman, an individual more intelligent and eloquent than I, proved to be the most constructive thing I could do. Recognizing that her words are far better than mine might ever be, I append here below a letter written by the Head of School of one of our nation’s most impressive High Schools, which happens to be exclusively for Girls, and happens also to be one of the most inclusive I have ever come across. Dr. Meera Viswanathan is a cultural warrior, and I hope her words affect you as they do me:
Dear Walker’s Students and Walker’s Community,
We have been dealing with a crisis for the last few months in the form of a pandemic beyond our control that has threatened the stability of our nation and our world. Now we are confronting another that is even more serious and tragic because it is one over which we do have control — systemic racism that has resulted in a pattern of killing Black people across the nation because they are Black. This is not new, but it has been exacerbated by the pandemic at hand, as so many inequalities have been.
In times of crisis, people often reach back to their traditions, their ideals, their values. At Walker’s we have our mission, our vision and our meditation as a guide. Our school meditation concludes, as every student knows, with the line “In love lies the key to life.” The philosopher and activist Dr. Cornel West, reminds us that “Justice is what love looks like in public.” If we are to be true to our values at Walker’s, we must be committed to justice because that too is the key to our lives as a society. If some of us have the right to jog, walk home at the end of the day, sleep in our beds without worry that harm may come to us, then all of us must share that same right, that same freedom equally. Again, our meditation enjoins, “Help us to look beyond ourselves and recognize the needs of others.”
Many members of our community, Black and Brown, worry daily about their safety and well-being; they worry especially about their parents and caretakers, their siblings, their relatives and their communities, wondering how to keep them safe and worrying that some day they may be targeted for what has been termed, “living while Black.” Former First Lady Michelle Obama described this as “a heartbreak that never seems to stop.” This cannot continue. All of us need to ask ourselves if the ideals to which we aspire are simply fairy tales which we tell ourselves to go to sleep at night. Or, are they ideals that we are determined to achieve, working every day to get closer to realizing them? This is not about politics; this is about who we are and what we believe in as human beings in terms of justice for all.
It is not enough to be saddened or angry by all that has happened, because those emotions usually dissipate after a week or two as people return to the status quo ante. Now we must ask ourselves something very different — how have these recent events altered how we see the world and ourselves within it? Can we commit ourselves to justice as the embodiment of our love for our Walker’s community? Are we courageous enough to be willing to see our own blind spots, those places of bias within us? Remember again our meditation, “Let us never be afraid to follow where the truth may lead us.”
These killings have engendered protests and uprisings that have resulted in more unrest. It is not enough to condemn the unrest, we must ask ourselves why people en masse are so compelled to abandon the rule of law. The answer can only be because they have felt abandoned by the rule of law. Violence in any form cannot be glorified; it must be abjured. Again our meditation offers guidance, “May we have insight to understand each other, And wisdom to know why we are sometimes misunderstood.”
To the memory of Emmett Till, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all those countless others who have lost their lives simply because someone did not like the color of their skin. Or where they were from. Or their religion. Or their political affiliation. Or…
Now is an ideal moment to take stock of our performance, and reorient ourselves in the direction of peace, renewal, introspection, and togetherness.
However challenging this past year may have been for you or your business, we hope that the net effect has been a positive one, not only to your bottom line, but to your and your colleagues’ personal sense of wellbeing. We work to live, and may we all live to make our world a little better – whether through art, commerce, social service, or whatever pursuit gets you out of bed at the beginning of your day!
As always, our firm’s marker for success is how much we were able to learn and grow, in any given year. 2019 was no exception, though it had some unforeseen moments!
Our recent engagements have taken us into a variety of new markets and fields, for which I am grateful. Whether working with the UN Foundation on their “Girl Up” initiative, restructuring a nationally syndicated radio talk show for the podcast era, or celebrating the opening of a new local business venture. Our company’s focus remains on people, sustainability (environmental and fiscal), and innovation.
Personal commitments prevented me from spending my usual couple of months with our London and Lisbon teams, but more time in the Los Angeles area allowed for greater participation in some local initiatives.
We continue to enjoy supporting the great work done by the film and TV industry’s Green Production Guide team, and I enjoyed spending a day at the Produced By Conference in early June, roaming the Warner Bros lot, challenging the thousands of industry professionals in attendance to rethink and upgrade their approach to sustainable production. Personal engagement remains the foundation stone upon which fruitful change is built.
Our firm continues to work with and advise a variety of political and educational initiatives and organizations, including the City of Burbank, where we are based. We are passionate about improving the transportation infrastructures and community health of this beautiful city – no small undertaking in an area so slavishly devoted to the automobile! We were thrilled to participate this year in some milestone events and initiatives, including the groundbreaking ceremonies for a bikeway we’ve been working on for a number of years, the continued development of a regional rapid transit system (BRT), and ongoing improvements to the intersections between our regional and local traffic infrastructures (more access for bicycles, pedestrians, and public transportation!). There has been a lot of success in 2019, but, as with all such projects, the movement is glacial and there remains much to be done!
This was a great year for improving the city’s fiscal and functional health, and it’s been a pleasure to welcome new City Manager Justin Hess, while thanking outgoing City Manager Ron Davis for his service. Each person, though cut from different cloth, brings a standard of excellence and service worthy of appreciation. The inimitable Emily Gabel-Luddy, nearing the close of her term, will shortly be succeeded as the City’s Mayor by our other admirable friend Sharon Springer, and I look forward to a period wherein her infectious enthusiasm, love of community, and intelligence will continue to inspire and uplift not only City Staff, residents, and businesses, but the municipalities around us, as California continues to lead the way in facing the challenges and opportunities of our myriad communities.
A summer opportunity to travel back to Seattle, Washington allowed me to catch up with a previous client, OneRedmond, and the numerous technology and entertainment companies with whom we collaborated during our most recent project in the area. Some very interesting progress has been made, including the establishment of a very promising Public/Private partnership serving the Greater Seattle Economic Development area. This region includes not only Seattle itself, but also the wonderful cities of Redmond, Kirkland, and Bellevue. We were also able to spend a good amount of time with another cherished client, one of the Northwest’s top event and hospitality firms with whom we are developing a growth strategy, as they expand into more strategic and global ventures relating to their already impressive core capabilities.
The Northwest region remains a favorite one, and I’m excited to see its continued growth as a hub of innovation and workforce development. The area’s renowned commitment to sustainability and community makes it an excellent breeding ground for the next generation of purpose-driven enterprises.
Bungie Offices in Bellevue, WA
Harebrained Schemes HQ
Big Fish Games in Seattle, WA
Back in Los Angeles, I was recently invited to participate in a long-overdue Mobile World Congress workshop session entitled “Women4Tech”. It was inspiring to see and talk with such a diversity of women leaders in the fields of tech, marketing, engineering, government, and creative production. Some of next year’s most compelling innovations from around the world will be coming from women-led enterprises, and we can only benefit from their contributions, guidance, and insights.
At the end of last year, I was invited by Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Leader, helping to inform and inspire communities to become more actively engaged in combating the undeniable climate crisis we all face. In addition to giving presentations to schools, local governments, corporations, and community organizations, it was an honor to be asked to establish and chair one of the newest Chapters of the global Climate Reality Project. This proved a mighty and worthwhile challenge! During the course of this past year, we recruited more than 40 passionate advocates for responsible stewardship, and together we have made a marked impact on local, state, regional, and national policy and action. We look forward to helping the organization further consolidate and maximize the energy, knowledge, and commitment of these leaders.
Climate Reality Leadership Training in Los Angeles
Climate Leader Workshop
Meeting Climate Reality Leaders from all over the globe
The Southern Poverty Law Center has been a favorite organization, ever since I was a student at Duke University, helping to set up a chapter of the Center’s then-new “Teaching Tolerance” initiative. I’ve long enjoyed supporting the great work done by this laudable organization, and this year we were offered a marvelous opportunity to spend some time with co-founder Joe Levin, as we reviewed the extraordinary efforts undertaken by the SPLC, on behalf of the disenfranchised, marginalized, and oppressed members of our nation’s family. I remain in awe of their passionate zeal and commitment.
While 2019 provided a diversity of opportunities and discoveries, it also unhappily took away important treasures. I was greatly saddened this year to participate in memorial and funeral services for some great people, including my friend, Blake Byrne; an important mentor, David Picker; a previous boss, Michael Lynne; and former colleague and icon, Cokie Roberts. It would be pitiful to attempt here any sort of In Memoriam for such admirable people, so we will instead commit ourselves anew to conducting our professional business in a manner reflecting their integrity, passion, and service. We are sure that each of our friends, colleagues, and clients has experienced the pain of loss this year, in their own unique but equally important way, and we offer each our sympathy. Life is indeed a fleeting gift, the value of which we seem to fail to take full measure, until we find ourselves being ushered toward the exit. To borrow the latest aphorism: KonMari the year ahead, and share the joy you keep!
With Burbank neighbor, Adam Schiff
With SAG-AFTRA President, Gabrielle Carteris
Some friends from the PoC Network
My old friend, the hard-working Antoine de Cazotte
The future must always be seen with optimism. We are looking forward to continuing our work with our newest client: an exciting tech & creative startup venture focused on increasing access for the visually impaired to content otherwise out of reach. We’re eager to see what other opportunities and innovations present themselves next year, in markets and industries that will assuredly teach us new lessons and show us new wonders!
My thanks go not only to my colleagues, but to clients and friends alike who have welcomed us this year into their offices and labs, as well as onto the many studio lots and sets! The opportunity to learn from and watch you invent inspires me on a regular basis!
Driving onto the Disney Lot
Wandering around Disney Studios
Driving on to the Sony Lot
Walking onto the Warner Bros Studio Lot
Wishing you the peace, renewal, and togetherness to which I alluded at the beginning of my post, I close, grateful for a year where the positives outweighed the negatives, and in the hope that this trend continues robustly in the year to come.
California’s dirty air caused more than $193 million in hospital-based medical care from 2005 to 2007 as people sought help for problems such as asthma and pneumonia triggered by elevated pollution levels, according to a new study. While much work has been done previously to catalog the economic impact of air pollution across California, the study is the first to quantify the cost of hospital-based medical care caused by the dirty air.
The following were real questions asked on a major international tourism web site, with answers recorded by the site managers (but never posted, for reasons of customer courtesy!). The country in brackets indicates the origin of the question:
Q: I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow? ( England )
A. We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.
Q: Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street? ( USA )
A: Depends on how much you’ve been drinking.
Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto – can I follow the Railroad tracks? ( Sweden )
A: Sure, it’s only Four thousand miles, take lots of water.
Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Canada ? ( Sweden )
A: So it’s true what they say about Swedes.
Q: Are there any ATM’s (cash machines) in Canada ? Can you send me a list of them in Toronto , Vancouver , Edmonton and Halifax ? ( England )
A: No, but you’d better bring a few extra furs for trading purposes.
Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada ? ( USA )
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe Ca-na-da is that big country to your North….oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Calgary. Come naked.
Q: Which direction is North in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees Contact us when you get here and we’ll send the rest of the directions.
Q: Can I bring cutlery into Canada ? ( England )
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.
Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys’ Choir schedule? ( USA )
A: Aus-t ri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is…oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Vancouver and in Calgary , straight after the hippo races. Come naked.
Q: Do you have perfume in Canada ? ( Germany )
A: No, WE don’t stink.
Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Where can I sell it in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.
Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? ( Italy )
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.
Q: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Only at Thanksgiving.
Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round? ( Germany )
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gathers. Milk is illegal.
Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Canada , but I forget its name. It’s a kind of big horse with horns. ( USA )
A: It’s called a Moose. They are tall and very violent, eating the brains of anyone walking close to them.. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.
Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? ( USA )
A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
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