Stratiscope hosted the July, 2018 City Impact Lab at the wonderful Porridge+Puffs in Historic Filipinotown. Minh Phan served up a delicious porridge breakfast and spoke to her goal of making Porridge+Puffs’ new location an integral part of the surrounding community. Our two speakers were Raphael Sonenshein, professor, author, and L.A. governance expert, and Ruben Zaragoza, the Government Affairs Advisor for Southwest Airlines. Here’s what they shared…
As recently as 5-10 years ago, Raphael started to develop a great mission in his mind of getting people engaged and showing them how the world works and what their place in it could be. In the last two years, Raphael’s feeling about that mission has changed dramatically from one of desirability to one of urgent necessity.
The three goals at the Pat Brown institute, where Raphael teaches, are to inform, engage, and inspire. With so much misinformation and confusion going on these days, there is nothing more empowering than telling the truth clearly and without rabble rousing, bias, or unfairness. Here’s how Raphael informs, engages, and inspires:
Inform – “I would tell you that the media is doing a wonderful job, but they’re not… half of every therapy session in L.A. is a discussion of the news.” And yet, Raphael has found that informing people about what is going on in a real sense is actually calming. He doesn’t listen to much radio news, but instead reads constantly. Explore the options out there and find a source of news that works for you, and hopefully doesn’t make you feel like our situation is hopeless, because it isn’t.
Engage – “Stories about people and what history tells us really does at the end of the day engage people.” Stories mean a great deal and can be terrifying in one sense, but hopeful in another. The story of Daryl Gates, for example, and how Los Angeles citizens took an authoritarian police department that was not subject to civilian authority, sent it back to the barracks, and instituted real democratic government. Now we can choose who our police chief is as opposed to having a chief who serves for life as Daryl Gates would have. And then there are stories of how the United States dealt with threats from authoritarian regimes almost a century ago. This is all history, but suddenly history has come alive, and we better learn from it.
Inspire – “I would like people to be scared enough to not take lightly the situation we are in, but not so scared that it leads to paralysis or ill-advised actions, and that’s where inspiration comes in.” Inspiration is hope based on reality. For example, On December 8th, 1941 when basically the entire American fleet had been destroyed, FDR told Americans not to shrink from the truth. Our situation is no piece of cake. We have no idea how this story will end, but if we keep our heads about us, stay informed, use stories and history, and engage in this struggle intelligently, no matter how it ends, you don’t want to say that you didn’t put everything you had into it. That’s where the inspiration is.
At an interview for an entry-level government office position Rubin was asked where he saw himself in 10 years, and he responded “as mayor of Los Angeles.” The interview quickly changed to an interrogation, because young Ruben hadn’t factored political competition into his answer. It turns out that people working in government offices have aspirations of their own and may not be fond of new hires with goals of competing against them later. They ended up hiring Ruben anyway.
Years later, in a different job, Ruben’s boss started a self-development practice where each employee read a certain book each month. One book really stuck with Ruben and served as the genesis for three practices that he has maintained since:
Mentoring Youth – With a mentor to guide him, Ruben may known not to draw attention to his mayoral aspirations. Youth have so much to gain from a relationship with experienced professionals. Mentoring just one person can make a world of difference.
Develop a Braintrust – Similarly, experienced professionals have so much to gain from relationships with other experienced professionals. Rely on each other, and help each other out. The sum is much greater than its parts.
The moral is, we can achieve so much more together than we can apart. Go out and find a young professional who you think has potential and help them realize that potential. You’ll be surprised how meaningful the simplest insights can be to someone just starting out. And develop your inner circle, learn from your peers, and help them succeed as well.
Raphael and Ruben both know firsthand the value of helping others reach new heights. Do you know anyone you could reach out to and grab a coffee with to share your experiences? An ambitious college student who might benefit from some inspiration, tips, and tricks? How about other professionals who you could learn from or collaborate with? Get out there, make some friends, and make a difference.
Thank you to Porridge+Puffs for hosting this City Impact Lab, and we hope you will all join us for our next monthly breakfast.