Remembering That Diversity Drives Excellence
MLK Holiday Reflections
Matthew McCooe, Chief Executive Officer
Given the amount of uncivil discourse in society at this moment, I think Monday’s holiday is more important than ever. It is well understood that diversity in populations and in organizations drives excellence. Creative sparks fly when people with different backgrounds and life experiences work closely together. In fact, broadening diversity in our portfolio as well as our team is an implicit goal shared across the organization. We all reap the benefits from our ongoing open discussions and active collaborations.
Embracing the Words of Coretta Scott King
In words far better than I could ever express, Coretta Scott King beautifully captures the belief system behind Martin Luther King, Jr.’s commitment to serving others. I believe this spirit of service is core to the CI ethos—it is certainly what has me leaping from bed every morning to join my colleagues at work.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. We commemorate as well, the timeless values he taught us through his example—the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King’s character and empowered his leadership. On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit.
On this day, we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America.
The King holiday celebrates Dr. King’s global vision of the world house, a world whose people and nations had triumphed over poverty, racism, war and violence. The holiday celebrates his vision of ecumenical solidarity, his insistence that all faiths had something meaningful to contribute to building the beloved community.
Dr. King once said that we all have to decide whether we “will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and nagging question, he said, is ‘what are you doing for others?’” He would quote Mark 9:35, the scripture in which Jesus of Nazareth tells James and John, “…whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever among you will be the first shall be the servant of all.” And when Martin talked about the end of his mortal life in one of his last sermons, on February 4, 1968 in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, even then he lifted up the value of service as the hallmark of a full life.
We call you to commemorate this holiday by making your personal commitment to serve humanity with the vibrant spirit of unconditional love that was his greatest strength, and which empowered all of the great victories of his leadership. And with our hearts open to this spirit of unconditional love, we can indeed achieve the Beloved Community of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.
What Truly Makes America Great
I have had the honor to personally witness the greatness that can result from a national philosophy that embraces our fellow citizens of the world in their times of greatest adversity.
In 1990, I served as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Seattle, helping immigrants from war-torn countries such as El Salvador apply for and win political asylum. I worked days, nights and weekends after the Immigration Act of 1990 was passed allowing all immigrants from permitted countries suffering war and harsh environmental conditions to live and work legally in the United States. We encouraged people to apply, knowing they would be exposing themselves to the INS/ICE, as it bought them time and peace of mind for the first time.
It is hard to now read the headlines that over 200,000 El Salvadorans are going to lose their status. Since arriving in the United States, they have paid taxes and had 192,000 children who are U.S. citizens. They have until 2019 to decide whether to return to El Salvador or risk deportation if they stay without legal protections.
Haitians, El Salvadorans, Nigerians—many of the people being targeted by the current administration have been incredible contributors to the U.S. population, and to our economy.
A Shining Example
Here in Connecticut, Oni Chukwu is a shining example of the success that can be fostered by a welcoming nation. He is one of nine children born to a policeman in the capital city of Lagos, Nigeria. Oni had a normal childhood until his family became displaced during the Nigerian civil war. They were forced to move back to their ancestral home in the east of Nigeria, leaving behind everything they owned.
Despite this tremendous hardship, Oni and his eight siblings all went to college, and then, 25 years ago, Oni came to the United States and attended the University of New Haven, where he earned a finance-focused MBA that has carried him to triumph in the business world.
Oni is the CEO of etouches, a company that provides software solutions for event management. The company, one of the strongest companies in the CI portfolio, was recently acquired at a highly attractive premium. Oni was also an EVP/CFO of Triple Canopy, which also had a phenomenal exit. Oni’s story is an instructive reminder of the vitality of diversity and the immigrant’s drive for our society and our economy.
The life of Martin Luther King, Jr., is the ultimate embodiment of the belief that diversity is one of the principal strengths of our nation. Our ability to welcome immigrant populations and to cross cultural barriers is at the very heart of our greatest achievements.