When I hear the name Richard Florida, I think of a guy wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt, sitting in an Adirondack chair sipping a fruity drink. I guess it’s the ‘Florida’ connection, but I just can’t shake that image – however, after spending an hour in the Imperial Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency this morning hearing what the real Richard Florida had to say, my picture has greatly expanded (and for the record, he was wearing a dark suit. No Tommy Bahama in sight).
In town for United Way’s Social Innovation Ideas Festival, Richard took time out of his busy schedule to engage with a group of primarily young(ish) folks brought together thanks to The United Way’s BeCause initiative. Hearing this ‘world-renowned thought leader’ begin his time with us by noting how ‘amazing and wonderful’ Calgary is was both inspiring and exciting.
The real question is, how can we make Calgary even better? One of the many thoughts, and the one I would like to focus on, is the power that comes from ‘lifting up the service class’. From an economic and legislative perspective, this can be accomplished by increasing wages, improving transportation and providing sustainable and affordable housing options. If you are in a position that allows you to advocate for and help with these types of initiatives, please do so. If you’re not, maybe you can volunteer or encourage someone else to. On a personal level, we can all make out city stronger by treating those who serve us, and whom we serve, with respect. My challenge for you may not be as large as those posed to The City by Richard Florida, but is still very valuable: smile. Smile at the person helping you in the retail shop, the person serving you coffee, or the stranger on the sidewalk. We don’t all need to be urban theorists and economists to help make our city even better – we can do it in small ways every day.