I would do it all over again. Totally lost in the coverage during those six months was the fact that Elian never had his day in court. The issue of whether he should stay or leave never got heard. There is no doubt that this case inspired me to run for office. My life has largely been dedicated to building bridges among our very diverse population.
Whatever your particular view of the central debate of the case, there was simply no excuse for the polarization that engulfed this community in 2000. I ran for mayor of Miami because a divided and bitter Miami was not the place I wanted to raise a family. The bully pulpit was my vehicle to bring us back together again for the sake of all of our futures.Q. What is Miami’s biggest challenge in the next 10 years?
As I mentioned previously, economic sustainability is our biggest challenge. Otherwise, Miami will not be able to live up to its true potential as a global city.
Q. What other civic efforts are you engaged in now?
I am involved in too many local, state and national policy groups to list here. I continue my advocacy on behalf of investment in the arts, the environment, infrastructure, immigration reform, education, urban planning, public transportation, digital equality and reasonable gun control.
Q. Do you think you’ll run for office again?
I have never felt compelled to run for the sake of running. When I ran for mayor in 2001, I did it because I wanted to improve our city, inspired by the aftermath of the Elian Gonzalez case. My expectations were simply to serve the city for eight years. Do I have a plan to run for office now? No, I do not.
Q. You’re a work-and-community-life guy. What do you do for fun?
First and foremost, I love sports. I rarely miss a Marlins game — either on TV or in person with my season tickets (played baseball throughout my childhood so I’m a big fan). I love to watch the Miami Hurricanes, and I especially do not miss one Texas Longhorns game because my son Manny is the Defensive Coordinator for the Longhorns. Today, when you run a Google search on Manny Diaz you will be directed to the coach, not the mayor. Very cool!!!
I also enjoy reading. I just finished Imperfect: An Improbable Life, the inspiring story of Jim Abbott, the one-handed pitcher who believed so much in himself and his God-given talent that he became a successful pitcher in the major leagues and even pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees in 1993. Fantastic read!
Finally, I’ve become a regular on the golf course, hitting the greens at least once a week.
Q.You’ve had both failures and successes in your business career. Can you share a few lessons you’ve learned from each?
Always maintain an even balance by being well-grounded. Look upon your success as something that was expected of you. Don’t dwell on it. Be proud of what you accomplish, but once achieved, it’s time to move on to the next goal or challenge.
Don’t dwell on your failures or losses. View them as building blocks. What is important is not to be afraid to try or take risks, to always give it your best and then some, and to learn from your experience. Sometimes you have to lose to win.
Q. Tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise your colleagues.
Something many of my colleagues would be surprised to know is that I have a 38-year-old son and three grandchildren. My first son Manny was born when I was 19 and I have watched him grow into an accomplished professional and a wonderful husband and father. With one more son (Bobby, age 26), and two daughters (Natalie, age 29 and Elisa, age 17), there will be plenty of Diazes to carry the torch long after I’m gone!