Election Day was a departure for me — not because of how, or for whom, I voted. Instead of spending the evening in the Daily Globe newsroom doing the hurry-up-and-wait for results with my colleagues as I have for major elections over the past 25-plus years, I was at Sugar Lake Lodge near Grand Rapids.
I was fortunate to have been chosen for the Blandin Community Leadership Program, an opportunity that comes around only every 10 years or so. On election night, many of the BCLP participants, all of us from the Worthington area, gathered in the hospitality suite that was set aside for us and anxiously awaited the outcome of the votes. The television set was on, but no one paid it much attention. We talked about community issues, discussed the potential for new leadership, the probability of various outcomes.and what that might mean to each of us and Worthington as a whole.
As people who were learning about becoming more effective leaders in our community, we all seemed particularly connected to this vote. Some had a strong stake in the outcome, most notably a couple members of the school referendum committee. There were moments of surprise, disbelief and relief, the latter in particular when the referendum results became clear.
Election day was early on in the five-day Blandin experience, and as the week progressed, we learned a lot about each other, and even more about ourselves, but I think that Tuesday night bonding set the stage for much of what was to come.
As we neared the end of the week and our initial Blandin experience, I found myself having what I have since called, “The Breakfast Club” revelation.
“The Breakfast Club” is a John Hughes 1985 movie that follows five students who are forced to serve detention on a Saturday morning at a fictional Illinois high school. The five are all from different cliques of social groups, and the disciplinary principal gives them an assignment to write an essay about “who you think you are” and the violations that landed them in detention.
Being it is a John Hughes movie, juvenile hijinx ensue, and the five find themselves bonding despite their differences. At the end, instead of writing their individual essays, “The Brain” in the group is recruited to write one letter to the principal on behalf of the group:
Dear Mr. Vernon:
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain… …and an athlete… …and a basket case… …a princess… …and a criminal.
Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club
Now, I’m not implying that those of us who participated in the Blandin program were from such diverse worlds or indulged in such stereotypes. But after spending an intense week with those 21 other individuals, I realized that perhaps some of my preconceived notions had quickly melted away as we listened, laughed, engaged, performed skits (yes, skits!) and talked about the issues confronting our community. We looked beyond the titles by which we are so often defined — college dean, banker, pharmacist, nurse, journalist, immigrant, fire chief, librarian, principal, etc. — and looked at the big picture in the hopes of bringing it better into focus and a whole lot brighter for the future.
Yes, we learned a lot about ourselves, each other and our community. Thank you, Blandin Foundation, for the opportunity to grow in ways we never expected.