Gratitude and Guests
I hope those Americans reading were able to enjoy and celebrate the 4th of July yesterday. We have a lot to work on as a nation, but there is also a great deal for which to be grateful. I was nearly brought to tears yesterday watching a parade! A parade I have watched countless times over the years. But this year, when the veterans from World War II and the Korean War passed, filled to the brim with pride, despite the heat, I felt it. I was nearly overwhelmed by their sacrifice. I was led to question my own patriotism, would I serve my country? So many have selflessly served countries over the years. And whether you believe in war or a particular war or not...that act of service is filled with courage. So to those who have fought for freedom, thank you.
Today I am thrilled to begin a guest interview series! I have been blessed to meet and know some truly rad individuals over the years. It’s exhilarating to get to highlight them here, to share the goodness and continue to learn from them. I hope this series brings joy in insight and perspective.
Today's inaugural guest is a man I am honored to call friend. Jamie Van Leeuwen knows a few things about service. He has a jam-packed resume, which I suggest you check out…seriously, it’s rigorous. I will share a few highlights! Jamie is incredibly engaged in the community of Denver and beyond. He serves on several boards, has received countless awards and is often asked to speak at events. Prior to his work in public service, he spearheaded development and public affairs for Urban Peak, a non-profit servicing homeless youth in Denver, after which he was appointed to lead Denver's Road Home. Jamie currently works as the Senior Advisor to Governor Hickenlooper after almost four years as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Community Partnerships.
In 2009, after traveling to Uganda and Rwanda as part of the Livingston Fellowship, Jamie founded of the Global Livingston Institute. GLI is a non-governmental organization in East Africa designed to engage students and community leaders, with an aim to develop innovative solutions to poverty. Needless to say, he is high energy, hard working and committed to making an impact!
I am thrilled he is willing to be my first guest! I have endless questions, but have managed to whittle them to a manageable three questions. I look forward to hearing your feedback and hope you enjoy!
What does 'being of service' mean to you?
Being of service for me has always meant serving the poor and underserved. It has since I began my work in New Orleans with inner city heroin addicts as part of a study for the Center for Disease Control guided by my graduate work at Tulane. Connecting young people with access to resources that that they need to be able to live life off the streets and enjoy a quality of life that includes access to food and housing and a social network, became a core value of the work that I have done over the past two decades.
Over time it has manifested itself in my roles both with the public sector and internationally. At the end of the day, service for me has meant identifying resources in the community through government and philanthropy and connecting them with those who need them the most
How has a desire to 'be of service' led you to where you are and/or influenced your life decisions?
For me, the desire to serve has influenced most of my life decisions. My mother was a first grade teacher and my father was a social worker for 30 years. And they were really good at what they did. It was a core value in our family that we had an obligation to serve. As my career developed at Urban Peak and I was invited by the Bonfils Stanton Foundation to receive an inaugural fellowship from John Livingston, my entire program focused on growing my work with the poor. The Livingston Fellowship allowed me to expand my service outside the Denver community and it took on a more international lens as we began to develop the early phases of the Global Livingston Institute.
I expect that the next phase of my career will continue to focus on service. Over time you learn a lot in terms of what works and how to deliver services more effectively and with more humanity. You learn that service is not just about connecting people with resources but treating them with the same respect and kindness that we extend to the people in our own social circles.
How does the ethic of service manifested through your work at GLI or the State of Colorado?
Listen. Think. Act. The ethic of service defines the GLI. Our goal is to engage scholars in the art of understanding community and building relationships before we try to fix or change things. Service does not mean providing charity to someone or enabling or “fixing”. You learn when doing this work that service takes time. There are no quick fixes here and helping folks move into housing or go back to work happens when you listen and think before you act. Our complex social issues from education to affordable housing are solvable, but they take an enormous amount of time and resources if we want the service that we do to be lasting.
Thank you, Jamie for sharing your well earned lessons! Your wisdom that change is complex and takes time is a much-needed reminder, may we all be diligent in Listening, Thinking and then Acting!
Please let me know if you would like to learn more about Jamie, GLI or are interested in being or nominating a guest for the series.