Last weekend I sat with my family on the couch and watched the SpaceX Crew Dragon take off, returning the United States to space via our own program. No longer will we have to suffer the indignity of having to “hitch a ride” from another country to space (and Russia of all countries) as we’ve had to do ever since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. My seven-year-old son was entranced, and I was excited and proud about U.S. space flight in a way I had not felt since the 1980’s when I was seven.
Today’s column should be a celebration of what private sector innovation do and the national importance of technological advancement. But it’s not. Too much has happened in the past fourteen days to ignore. In truth, too much has happened in the last fourteen years or 140 years to write about space.
Along with the rest of the nation, we were horrified to see George Floyd killed on the streets of Minneapolis. Whatever his faults in life may have been, he certainly didn’t deserve the inhumane treatment that led to his death. The same could be said for Ahmaud Abery and Breonna Taylor, or Sandra Bland in Texas, and Michael Brown in Missouri, or Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Throughout this already long year, we’ve used the #TomorrowTogether hashtag to signify that Round Rock believes in community-wide approaches to make this place the best in Texas work, live, and recreate. In Round Rock, we support each other and solve problems with our whole community in mind. When COVID-19 struck, #TomorrowTogether became the Chamber’s rallying call to help our neighbors, businesses, and people. I’ve never been more proud and humbled to be part of an initiative like Round Rock Cares. So many within our community stepped forward in solidarity with businesses that were hurting.
Now we see that there are many in our community that need our support in different ways. If we are to live up to the spirit of #TomorrowTogether we need to stand with them. I’m unsure of all the forms that will take. We’ve been careful to spend much of the last two weeks listening to the community and national leaders and listening will remain an important activity for the Chamber.
However, this listening will also be met with action. The Round Rock Chamber is proud to announce that we’ve joined a U.S. Chamber led national townhall event, to be held this June 25. The townhall will bring together government and private sector leaders to develop real initiatives to address inequality. It is well understood that communities with diverse, multi-talented workforces support the expansion of the middleclass and grow to offer ever more economic opportunity for people and families.
We’ve added our voices to this initiative because we believe now is an opportunity for businesses to lead. Now is the right time to value diversity and inclusion, and to push back against the currents of institutionalized racism that persist. While there are innumerable facets of these systems that Chambers are not well equipped to address, there are many that are economic and business related where we can make a difference. This is where we will engage most effectively.
The beauty of the free market system is that it has a nearly unlimited capacity to expand to meet the changing needs of the nation. Business leaders seek to fulfill the expectations of their investors, stakeholders, workforce, and (for many) their community. As a result, many business leaders have also spoken out at this crucial time. You can read Michael Dell’s compelling message here. Successful business leaders understand it is their entire team that moves an organization forward, and those people deserve safety and opportunity in their own communities.
None of us can change the past. Nothing written here will change the unspeakable wrong that has been experienced by so many for so long. But it is incumbent upon us, right now, to respond to these most recent tragedies – to try to bring a modicum of good out of all this pain. If we are successful in that, perhaps it will lead to real and lasting change. Just as COVID-19 brought so much harm to our economy, we responded with Round Rock Cares, and reaffirmed that Round Rock is a resilient and special city.
If we are to live up to the spirit of #TomorrowTogether – it is our responsibility to this community to roll up our sleeves and begin the difficult work. In doing so, we add our voices to the voices of so many that have been working so long before us. We invite you to join us in these efforts.