For both individuals and the broader business community, the past few months have been a collection of cancelled plans, compromises, rescheduling, and rain dates. In addition to the upheaval COVID-19 has had on our lives, we have all participated in a national moment of reckoning in coming face-to-face again with systemic racism and how we as both individuals and as organizations have perpetuated it - but can also take action to stop it.
The impact of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement has been felt across every industry in the city of Boston and far beyond.
And one thing that has been strengthened is our sense of community.
Although there is no substitute for gathering in person and networking face to face, it has been inspiring to see how organizations have created and innovated despite the difficult times.
Like many businesses, we have had to adapt and innovate at the Chamber. Our Annual Meeting, which for over 100 years, has historically drawn in more than 1,800 leaders from across all sectors will now be held virtually for the very first time.
We are grateful for the opportunity to connect in this new way, convene with more people than ever, and continue to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of our 2020 Distinguished Bostonians. Our 2020 class of Distinguished Bostonians, Andrew Dreyfus, Lee Pelton, PhD, and Marcy L. Reed have all achieved incredible triumphs through the tests and trials of leading organizations. Our award-winning production partners at Good Life Productions sat down with each of our honorees to hear them tell their own tales of how they’re focused on the future of moving Boston business forward together.
A great city attracts great talent. From brilliant college students seeking knowledge, business moguls eager to make moves, or inspiring immigrants looking to build new lives; our city brings in the best.
Lee Pelton, President of Emerson College, is no exception. He came back to Boston after a 25-year absence, but distinctly remembered leaving in July of 1986 and thinking, “oh, no, I’ve made a big mistake.”
Pelton’s love for the region made him eager to return, but he didn’t just want to come back and turn a blind eye to the issues in the city. He shares that when he came back, he “vowed that [he] would become a civic leader and engage in the city as much as [he] possibly could in a variety of civic roles.”
Through both his position as President of Emerson College and within his many spheres of influence throughout the rest of the city, Pelton proves to do that in a multitude of ways, most recently sending out a personal letter to students about his experiences with racism as a Black man.
Boston is a place where each resident can make a difference – and Pelton is a bright example of that.
When it comes to business in the region, Marcy L. Reed, President, National Grid Massachusetts; Executive Vice President, US Policy & Social Impact, shares a few thoughts on what business in Boston means to her.
“It’s not just about business or by business. It takes all members of this great city to ensure that every single one of us can be our best selves, where, where business provides opportunities for our citizens, where communities peacefully coexist, and lean on each other, where the quality of your education doesn't depend on your zip code, and where equity and justice are facts, not just aspirations.”
Reed specifically shares about her position as the President of National Grid, saying that, “when I think about my role as chair of The Partnership, I know we can do a better job moving Boston forward, not just through business, but also, through how we engage every single member of our community.”
Business is more than meetings in board rooms (or on Zoom), it’s more than networking over coffee (whether in person or online). It is about people, and Marcy Reed has demonstrated this through her leadership on boards, boosting diversity in greater Boston and through running a business with transparent commitment to her people.
On Moving Forward
A once-in-a-century global health pandemic has flipped our world upside down in a matter of mere months. Leaders from around the world are working tirelessly to understand what work will look like moving forward.
Andrew Dreyfus, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, shared his take on what he believes this time should look like.
He shares that “we have to be patient. [Returning to work] is going to take time and we can’t rush this. We need to base our judgements on science, not fear or solely on the economy.”
Dreyfus goes even further in saying that the pandemic “has exposed something we’ve known about in the healthcare community for years – that there are deep racial and ethical disparities in healthcare. The epidemic has hurt African American and immigrant communities at a much deeper level than other communities. It’s exposed racism in the community. It’s a time to take stock of how we can bring greater social justice and equity to our healthcare system.”
It’s a time to take stock of how we can bring greater equity to all our systems. As we prepare and plan to move forward in a COVID-19 world, we must prepare and plan to move forward for all people.
A theme consistent across each of our Distinguished Bostonian’s interviews was the deep empathy for the events of the past few weeks (and, furthermore, past few centuries) and the great emphasis placed on building racial equity in practice and in policy.
At Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dreyfus shares that he tells his team that,
“the letter I that begins the word inclusion and the letter I that begins the word innovative are both about thinking differently.”
He challenges his people to recognize that “if we’re more inclusive, we’ll be more innovative, which will lead to breakthroughs, higher performance, business success, and community success.”
At Emerson, Pelton hopes the community can
“turn up [their] sleeves, starting with city leaders.” And he doesn’t just mean elected officials. Pelton “means all of us who are in leadership positions, including myself, civic leaders, and business leaders.” He tells us that it’s time to “get to work on making this an even better place than it already is.”
And at National Grid, Reed speaks of how she envisions that,
“each of us in our own way will be relentless stewards of the vision that our community can be one based on the principles of fairness, equity, acceptance, tolerance, [and] inclusion.”
Find out what that looks like when we celebrate the achievements of our three Distinguished Bostonians, as well as many others, during our 2020 Annual Meeting, held June 29 from 3:30-5 p.m. Reserve your spot now and, for every ticket bought, we will give one to a small business, free of charge!