A Tale of Two Tuesdays: This Election Tuesday, I Look Forward to Another Tuesday

A Tale of Two Tuesdays: This Election Tuesday, I Look Forward to Another Tuesday

This Election Tuesday, I celebrate our American tradition of exercising the right to vote.  While there will certainly be a lot of talk about voter turnout and exit polls, today’s true significance is that Americans will be acting in good faith, as they always do as citizens.  Each of us, no doubt, will cast a vote for the candidate we genuinely believe will do the best job in leading our great country.

Still, as I cast my ballot, I can’t help but be profoundly struck by how divided we are as a nation, and how this election has only served to widen and deepen our divisions.  With every debate slugfest, every ad, and every speech, this election has largely been about how to shift a tiny sliver of swing-state voters from one camp to the other with the final tally this evening.  No one has truly tried to elevate us, by taking us all, as a nation, on a daring new journey of progress.

Now, more than ever, we need precisely the kind of leadership that elevates us to meet the scale of our challenges and opportunities as a nation, that inspires the energy, resiliency, and discipline it will take to succeed over the long-term.  The tragedy and devastation of Hurricane Sandy have only further revealed the enormity of some of our society’s challenges—from climate, to infrastructure, to our ability to adapt to, and lead in, our increasingly interdependent world.

It’s in this very spirit that I am looking beyond Election Tuesday to another Tuesday three weeks from now, Tuesday, November 27.  It’s called – and fast becoming known as – #Giving Tuesday.

#GivingTuesday will launch just after another American Tradition:  Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when our nation heads to big box stores and the mall, marking the start of holiday shopping season.  #GivingTuesday presents a new opportunity to serve as the start of the giving season:  to elevate our goodwill, and to innovate in HOW we are good—not just on one day, but on all days.

#GivingTuesday’s campaign headquarters is New York’s 92nd Street Y, working in partnership with the United Nations foundation.  The 92nd St. Y is a Jewish organization with a longstanding tradition—guided by a set of sustainable values—that inspires it to serve and enrich a broad and diverse community.  Full disclosure:  I am honored to have recently joined the Y’s Board of Directors.  This venerable organization is animated by a universal mission:  to repair our world by finding ways to make it stronger, healthier and more diverse.

#GivingTuesday is a perfect expression of the very qualities we fear are diminishing in this country:  creativity, compassion, and collaboration.  #GivingTuesday also celebrates competition, in its ideal form derived from competere, which is about striving together.  Above all, these are qualities that contribute to an elevated way of living and doing business, and frankly all that we do, catalyzing the kind of wave that will launch and sustain us on a new journey.

More than 500 organizations have been inspired to sign on to #GivingTuesday, designing philanthropic initiatives to launch the movement.  It’s a new beginning for many, inspiring employees to give in a new way.  Groups of pilots are coming together to fund flight scholarships for people with disabilities. Donors are setting challenge funds for their favorite organizations to match.  Parents are scheduling family conversations about giving back. Volunteer groups are planning repairs of distressed parts of our country.  Technology leaders are developing new apps to enhance donations.  National retailers are rolling out initiatives that will celebrate giving in all their stores.

We have a glorious tradition in America of giving and philanthropy.  What sets these #GivingTuesday initiatives apart is that they are not just about advocating one cause; instead, they tap into our collective generosity and concern for each other.  A 21st century community is fast forming around HOW we give, one that provides an alternative to top-down, directed programs by encouraging groundswells of enthusiastic participation among the thousands of individuals that make up our institutions, non-profit or for-profit, to design their own ways of giving.  Most importantly, #GivingTuesday uniquely encourages organizations to design strategies for giving that authentically further their own missions, bringing companies beyond the realm of “just business” to fully contribute to the creation of a better society.

Together, we are giving in ways that integrate with HOWwe operate as institutions.  We are embarking on a journey to rethink philanthropy, to reshape how we give, and to embed these programs into our operations so that they will extend far beyond November 27.

In the spirit of my company LRN’s flat, self-governing culture, I’m inspired that my colleagues across the world have come together to participate in #GivingTuesday in a way that organically connects to our mission of inspiring principled performance.  Colleagues are working with local food banks and delivery services, rescue missions, women’s shelters, homeless shelters and environmental cleanup organizations in New York, Los Angeles, London, Mumbai, and in other areas we operate, to achieve the greatest impact possible.

It’s my hope this #GivingTuesday will become a new, sustainable American tradition that we will celebrate on every Tuesday following Thanksgiving.  It represents precisely the kind of elevated mindset and ethic that can make the daring American journey our reality, landing us on every moon we might dream up.

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