Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, founder and CEO of Radical Partners, received the 2017 Ruth Shack Leadership Award on May 11. She has led local community movements for education, social entrepreneurship and transit solutions. This is an excerpt from her acceptance speech.
Ruth Shack is a fierce leader. She stood up for equity, civil rights, and diverse leadership before it was obvious to everyone else. She was before her time, and Ruth remains a legit godmother to this community.
As a woman, as leader, there is no person I’d rather be put in a category with than Ruth Shack. I remember the first time I met Ruth — she gave me a run for my money. I was fresh off the boat from New York, as the executive director of Teach For America. I was a child — like 26 or 27 years old. Back then, I had all the answers. Ruth pushed me to think about not just what I stand for, but to think about what Miami stands for.
And what an awesome question that is: What does Miami stand for.
Because we may not know each other, but we have joint custody of this town. We are co-parents, and in some cases, co-grandparents together of a city, our daughter, Miami, and we’d better get our act together so that we raise her right.
Our daughter, Miami, She’s beautiful. And talented. Old people love her. Young people love her. She’s smart. She wears whatever she wants. Most of the time she has a good attitude. Needs a little help with the driving.
Our job, as parents, is to instill values in her so that as she grows into an adult, she knows what she stands for. We need to decide, as a group of leaders, what what values we will instill. Together.
Here’s what I hope.
I hope our Miami grows up to be inclusive. To ensure everyone to has a seat at the table. To makes sure the table is wheelchair accessible. Has translators. Feels welcoming to people of all backgrounds and ages and races and sexual orientations and abilities and income levels. She should be thirsty for perspectives and experiences that are diverse because she knows she is stronger that way.
I hope, our Miami grows up to be giving. And not view philanthropy as an obligation for the wealthy. But rather as a chance for everyone to use their power to shape the future of their city.
I hope our Miami grows up to be innovative. And builds solutions to issues that matter, like the environment, and infrastructure, educational equity, ethical leadership.
Miami has much to learn from her condescending older brother, New York City, and her hippie older sister, San Francisco. But we’re not trying to to be a second-rate version of another town. Do you know why they call this the Magic City? I did a little Google: It’s because of how fast we grew. In our first 100 years we grew from 1,000 residents to 5.5 million. People want to be here.
Because in what universe can a complete nobody like myself, move to a new city without any friends and have the ability to play a role in shaping the future of the city? Here. In our universe. That’s no accident. That’s the values of the generation that came before us.
And the question is, for our next 100 years, What do we stand for now?