“Lead by love and not fear.”
“Have compassion by actions.”
Those were some of the closing statements from Jenna Bush Hager when she spoke in Springfield late last month during Missouri State University’s Public Affairs Conference.
Sitting among the crowd in the packed Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, her speech felt like a breath of fresh air – a brief reprieve from an oppressive political and cultural climate.
For one, Hager is the third generation of a political dynasty. She’s the daughter and granddaughter of former Republican presidents and the niece of a former governor and presidential candidate, but she doesn’t sound like today’s loudest voices from the right. And for two, she’s an NBC journalist who in the age of “fake news” received a standing ovation.
She didn’t get political, but she did speak freely about the ideals for the country she learned from her parents and grandparents.
When asked by MSU President Clif Smart if it was weird to go from a political family to the press, she said her father didn’t consider the fourth estate as the enemy.
“My dad believed in a free press,” she said. “It’s part of what keeps our country a democracy.”
She quipped that her dad’s favorite joke is that “Jenna is just extending the longstanding Bush relationship with the press.”
Earlier in the day, her mother Laura lovingly reminded an audience at the Bush Presidential Library in Texas that Hager had gone from sticking out her tongue at a photographer in 2004 to being a part of the press five years later.
Hager, thinking aloud in her speech in Springfield, asked why she had brought that up again. The audience laughed along with her as many, I suspect, Googled the photo.
Joking aside, she shared how lucky she is to tell important stories from around the country, like the man who opened a camp for kids whose parents died in the attacks on Sept. 11 and the powerful interview she conducted with poet Maya Angelou a year before her death.
Smart asked Hager to remark on President Donald Trump’s comments earlier that day in his address to the United Nations. He mentioned Trump’s reference to the end of globalism, and she said that made her sad.
You could see it on her face.
“I was raised by people who said, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,’ and we have a lot in this country,” she said to an applauding crowd.
She reminded the group of her father’s creation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Since PEPFAR was launched in 2003 to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, “Twelve million lives have been saved … and nearly 2 million babies have been born HIV-free to infected mothers,” George W. Bush penned last year in a Washington Post op-ed plea to keep the program funded.
Hager also spoke of her late grandmother Barbara Bush’s moment of humanity at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the states.
It was 1989 and Bush, then first lady, held a sick baby at Grandma’s House, a residential care home in Washington, D.C., for children with HIV or AIDS. Hager said her grandmother wanted the press to be there to capture compassion around an issue that was severely lacking it.
For me, someone whose aunt died from complications related to AIDS in 1988, that photo is really meaningful, and I found myself moved to tears as Hager reminisced about that act.
That’s the power of compassion and unity.
In her own right as a teacher in a poor community in Baltimore, Hager said the plights of her students taught her about the power of compassion.
“No class could have taught me what to say to a child who witnessed a stabbing on their way to school,” she said.
From the outside, it’s easy to put people in a box, but it’s not so easy face-to-face.
Unity in Community was this year’s Public Affairs Conference theme. This topic seems as far away – and as important – as ever. Hager’s speech was a challenge to all of us to show how true compassion is a key to bringing us together.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have conversations with compassion for people who don’t think like us?” she said. “Find your sisters and your brothers in your community here, and make them feel like they are enough.”
Springfield Business Journal Features Editor Christine Temple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bike enthusiast Cody Stringer is betting his bike share nonprofit will lead to a more bike-friendly city.
Kevin Wyas, founder of ECRI, started his first business at the age of 19, ran the business for 16 years before selling it. He recognizes the benefits of starting a business so young when he had relatively little to lose. "The stress and the uncertainty of this would be crippling," he says for somebody accustomed to a regular paycheck.
ighty percent of questions are common across industries, so you don't need industry-specific experience to do effective market research according to Debra Kassarjian, independent consultant and owner of DKInsights. As a matter of fact, she thinks there is a great deal to be gained from exchanging ideas outside of your industry.
Danny Collins, 37 North founder and guide, says the biggest leap they took in the first year was to purchase a vehicle. That major financial investment, however, allowed them to provide their outdoor guide services at a price point they felt was more appropriate.
Springfield Diner owner Ömer Önder sits down with a restaurant consultant who starts challenging the menu offerings."No bashful food." The blunt conversation is the launching off point to determine how the Mediterranean influence will affect the young restaurant's offerings in the future. Made to Order is an ongoing sbjLive documentary series in collaboration with Springfield Business Journal tracking the rebranding of a local restaurant.
Haden Long, owner of Ellecor, opened a retail home decor business five years ago in a traditional retail space. When the interior design side of the business took off, she decided to renovate a 100-year old bungalow to better show off product samples and installations.
Scott Shotts, partner with Missouri Spirits, says when they started in 2011 there were approximately 300 distilleries in the U.S. and now there are more than 3,000 so competition has grown significantly. Diversification of their business model has helped them succeed.
Matthew Blystone of Theta Float Spa had the financial means to start the unique business, but used crowdsourcing for pre-orders to determine market interest in addition to gathering a nice cash reserve before opening.
Avery Parrish with the Springfield Regional Arts Council explains how businesses can display local art in their spaces for a fraction of the price of investing in a permanent collection. The corporate partnership program allows a business to select from a customized portfolio of local artists' work curated based on the company's mission and aesthetic that can be switched out every six or 12 months.
After a year of experiential market research, Danny Collins, 37 North founder and guide, found three ways they plan to expand. Some were anticipated and others were not expected until they …
Inspirational speaker Chad Porter shares his story of turning a tragic accident that took him to the darkest depths into a rewarding career as a motivational speaker and business coach.