Thanks-Giving is a Good Idea Every Day

Thanks-Giving is a Good Idea Every Day

November 23, 2020

In just a few short days, it will be Thanksgiving. For many, it will look and feel quite different than past years. With the pandemic just outside our doors, many of us won’t be traveling. To keep our loved ones safe, the holiday will be simpler, smaller.

And while it might seem counterintuitive, I thought, given the times, it might be valuable to consider some interesting perspectives on the importance of gratitude in times of adversity.

There is a growing body of research that suggests that the practice of gratitude results in more positive emotions, less stress, reduced sick days, a greater sense of confidence, and higher satisfaction—even in times of great adversity.

According to Robert Emmons, author of “The Little Book of Gratitude: Creating a Life of Happiness and Well-being by Giving Thanks,” and a leading researcher on the subject, “Not only will a grateful attitude help in times of crisis—it is essential. In fact, it is precisely under unfavorable conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope.” In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.

Gratitude takes people outside themselves and to a place that is part of a larger, more intricate network of sustaining relationships.

There is a quote by Kristin Armstrong I find especially noteworthy. “I write about the power of trying because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I’ve known sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it.”

And this impacts the overall attitude of our workforce. Researchers from the London School of Economics, in analysis of 51 companies, found that while financial incentives may or may not work when it comes to motivating employees, there is overwhelming evidence that gratitude and appreciation are highly effective motivators for staff. They found that 80% of employees are willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.

“We tend to think of organizations as transactional places where you’re supposed to be ‘professional,’” says Ryan Fehr, an assistant professor of management at the University of Washington, Seattle, who recently published a paper summarizing the landscape of gratitude in business. “We may think that it’s unprofessional to bring things like gratitude or compassion into the workplace, yet evidence suggests that gratitude and appreciation contribute to the kind of workplace environments people want to be part of.

Happy day of gratitude and giving of thanks!

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We Have More Control Than We Think

We Have More Control Than We Think

November 17, 2020

Across the globe, none of us remain untouched by the pandemic, every income strata, every race, every community, every for-profit business and certainly every nonprofit organization.

Survey estimates by Nonprofit Advisor predict that 30% of nonprofits will be shuttered this year. The loss of revenue has been widespread with 73% of organizations surveyed by La Piana Consulting reporting a drop. Just last week, The New York Times reported on the compounding loss our sector faces with volunteerism falling sharply too.

At The Fedcap Group, we are working hard to sustain efforts we know are critically important to the global recovery from the pandemic. Job training and mental health and substance abuse services will ensure that the individuals we serve – living in cities and towns that dot our country’s landscape – have the opportunity to rebound.

This is not an easy task. We are preparing for 2021 to be one of the most challenging in the history of our 85-year-old organization. More than ever, we are working hard to control the areas we can control. The only strategy is to be prepared—at every level of the organization—and know what we need to know to effectively plan and course correct. A recent article in the Nonprofit Leadership Center suggested that there are five critical areas on which all nonprofits must focus if we are to survive the turbulent times ahead. I have added a sixth.

  1. Understand your cash position. The Fedcap Group has dedicated significant time every week during our Executive Meetings to ensure that we fully understand our cash status, trends and areas of concern. This has resulted in a clear plan to address issues in accounts receivable.
  2. Assess revenue streams and damage. Every company leader of The Fedcap Group is charged with ensuring that they understand the revenue/expenses of every one of their programs and to reduce expenses as indicated. This has been challenging but critical to long term sustainability.
  3. Look at the dual bottom line. Both finances and impact matter. While we believe that every program of The Fedcap Group is doing important things, it may not be possible to continue current levels and types of service delivery. When necessary, we are prioritizing programs that are making the greatest impact in the lives of the most vulnerable.
  4. Include everyone in the discussion. Weekly, a large group of individuals come together from across our footprint to discuss issues critical to the sustainability of the organization. We know that the solutions to effectively navigating these challenging times lie in the integration of ideas of many people, from all levels of the organization.
  5. Communicate consistently. One of few the upsides of the pandemic at The Fedcap Group has been an increased communication between our Executive Team and board, staff, and stakeholders. Like most companies, we’ve learned how to effectively use Zoom technology to stay connected. We’ve also learned that it is not possible to over-communicate during this time of upheaval.
  6. Understand and build your pipeline. (Added). As some of our current contract revenue decreases due to shut-downs, slow-downs or reductions in government funding, The Fedcap Group is strategically and aggressively identifying new opportunities that align with our mission and at the same time have the potential to generate maximum margin. There are opportunities on the horizon, and we are working to ensure that we are well positioned to take advantage of each one.

It is true that we are facing unprecedented challenges. It is also true that if we work smart, strategically and leverage all of what we know, we can, in many ways, control our destiny.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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A Veterans Day and Remembrance Message: Wired to Serve

A Veterans Day and Remembrance Message: Wired to Serve

Good Morning,
As we spend this week honoring our veterans—I have asked Retired Army Colonel David Sutherland to serve as a guest blogger today. His service to this country—and his leadership on and off the battlefield is an example to every one of us.

By Retired Army Colonel David W. Sutherland, Chairman, Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services – a member organization of The Fedcap Group

Serving in the military was one of the highlights of my life. I say this, because many of those service members I served with and many of those veterans I now advocate for, are wired to serve.

I was the Commander of 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq during “surge” operations in the volatile Diyala Province. My formation consisted of more than 5,000 of our nation’s finest men and women in uniform. For 15-months, they poured their hearts and souls into the mission; a mission that many deemed impossible.

They were determined to accomplish what they were sent to Iraq to do. And they did. Their experiences were indescribable. Their sacrifices were great. It was my honor to lead these amazing Americans and witness their heroism and courage first-hand.

Through the spirit of these brave men and women, and over my near 30-year military career, my view of leadership evolved. Our veterans are phenomenal — natural leaders who did not just learn military values but live them. These men and women have returned home and are contributing to their communities. I love telling their stories of valor, courage, and commitment. Here are just a few:

  • Jennifer Grubb was a specialist in the Army who deployed to Afghanistan as a teenager. When she returned, this high performer fought a long journey with unemployment and homelessness to achieve independence and self-reliance. Jenn bought her first home in 2014, earned her degree as a licensed practical nurse, and is the recipient of the Chester County Empowered Woman Award. She has made a name for herself in local and national media, advocating for veterans struggling with substance abuse and mental illness. She is now serving as a psychiatric nurse specializing in drug and alcohol rehabilitation at a Veterans Administration hospital in Pennsylvania.
  • Kim Elvin enlisted in the United States Navy in 1986 and served four years in the Aviation Administration. After being honorably discharged, Kim found her calling in social services and caring for others. She has continued her journey of service, working for Family and Children’s Services and eventually as Director of Workforce Development/Veterans Services for Easterseals New York. Kim oversaw daily operations and the training/employment programs for mature workers and veterans. Kim is now working for Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey, as the Workforce Director of Jobs Plus and the Senior Community Service Employment Program.
  • Colonel Duncan S. Milne is the President of Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services. He served 25 years in active duty combat and non-combat experience in the United States Marine Corps, as an AH-1W attack helicopter pilot. Colonel Milne’s career after active duty, has been dedicated in service to those who have had the honor and courage to wear our nation’s military uniform. He brought his knowledge of interagency coordination and executive-level private sector interaction to Dixon Center. Colonel Milne also continued his journey of service in the state of Maine as a candidate for the Maine State Senate in the recent election. While not elected, Colonel Milne advanced the state’s discussion around veterans and legal services, innovation, business development, and economic empowerment.

These three veterans are just a few who I describe as wired to serve and passionate about giving back to their community and neighbors. We live in the age of distraction. Our veterans and their courage remind me that our brightest future hinges on our ability to pay attention to the present. Join us this Veterans Day and Remembrance Day by reflecting on the service, and celebrating the achievements, of our nation’s veterans and what they are doing to contribute today.

If you know a veteran, reach out and have a real conversation with him or her. Veterans Day and Remembrance Day is an opportunity to get to know a remarkable group of people.

No matter what you do this Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, it is a day of celebration – enjoy it.

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The Argument For Thinking Big

The Argument For Thinking Big

November 2, 2020

Having a bold vision to “change the world” can often be met with some eye rolling. Yet, as an organization committed to our mission of improving the long term economic well-being of the impoverished and disadvantaged—children, youth and adults—it is imperative that we set out a bold, seemingly “impossible to achieve” course. Why? Because we know that no single system or agency can do this alone. Changing long term outcomes demands big thinking about how to improve the environment in which the people we serve live. This requires systemic, fully integrated and sustained interventions by business, the nonprofit sector, education, government and health care, and it necessitates a healthy investment by philanthropy.

Systemic interventions are always more challenging and more time consuming—and entail a significant degree of tenacity and patience. They require alignment of not just vision but of incentives. According to Forbes, “when incentives aren’t properly aligned, the relative importance of an activity isn’t the same among those who are needed to make change happen. Incentives drive behavior, and behavior spawns culture.”

I recently came across an article in Harvard Business Review discussing effective tactics of fighting poverty and inequality around the world which I found compelling. Below is an excerpt from that article.

”Given the strong demand for companies to deliver economic and social value and the ample opportunities for improving the quality of life in distressed communities, why do businesses find it so difficult to implement scalable and profitable strategies for inclusive growth—growth that benefits all society’s stakeholders?

“The answer, our research suggests, is that companies’ projects are generally not ambitious enough. Instead of trying to fix local problems, corporations and other actors need to reimagine the regional ecosystems in which they participate if they are to bring poor farmers and unemployed urban youths into the mainstream economy….

“To understand why CSR and sustainability initiatives often fail to scale up successfully, we interviewed 30 chief sustainability officers (CSOs). Most saw the problems as relating to implementation; they cited poor integration with the company’s core businesses, the difficulty of engaging with the multiple actors in local communities, and the lack of relevant measurements to motivate and evaluate benefits for the company and the target populations.

“But as we looked more deeply, we came to believe that the main problem was not in the execution of shared value projects; it was in the limited scale of projects’ ambitions. CSOs were not thinking big enough.

“Poorly functioning supply chains and systemic talent gaps cannot be solved by any single company through targeted local solutions, such as building a new warehouse, establishing a regional headquarters, selecting a local distributor, or building a school or training center. A sustainable, scalable solution requires that the company help create a new ecosystem that replaces economically and socially inefficient supply chains with ones that are both more profitable and capable of bringing more people into the formal economy.

“We identified three principles for designing strategies that can create inclusive, sustainable, and profit-generating ecosystems: Companies should search for systemic, multisector opportunities; mobilize complementary partners; and obtain seed and scale-up financing.”

So, in our commitment to change the world and to fight for the economic well being of the impoverished and disadvantaged, it is imperative that we “think big” and do the hard work to engage the right mix of partners, pursue the right kind of opportunities with aligned vision and incentives.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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A Moment of Reflection on the Power of Hope

A Moment of Reflection on the Power of Hope

There is a significant amount of research that tells that us that the more hopeful people, those who view the future with optimism, are simply happier and achieve greater long-term economic well-being. Hope is defined as an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes. It is best conceptualized by Irving Snyder (Health and Hope 1991) as “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of (a) successful goal-directed energy, [and] (b) pathways (planning to meet goals).” Further, studies have found that hope is positively correlated with life satisfaction and serves as a buffer against the impact of negative and stressful life events.

Hope.

I believe we underestimate the power of holding a hopeful, steadfast belief that the future will be positive, and that life will meet our expectations. And this underestimation fundamentally impacts the way those of us in the helping profession construct messages and deliver services.

I find that many individuals who walk through the doors of the many companies of The Fedcap Group, have experienced subtle, consistent messages of low expectations. Rarely do systems and services encourage aspirational thinking or dreaming big dreams. Instead, the individuals we serve have been subject to a lifetime of overt and covert messages that encourage them to accept a future of “less than”, that caution them against expecting too much of their lives and guide them toward generational defeat. These messages help form their self-definition, their personal brand.

What would happen instead, if systems and services were designed to encourage hope, raise expectations, challenge negative self-definitions, and help people carve out a path to greatness from a very early age?

What if all children living in poverty, children of color, children with disabilities, and children in foster care were told how smart they were—and they started to believe it? 

If they heard how motivated they were—and they started to believe it?

If someone looked them in the eye every day and told them that they could accomplish anything they set their mind to—and they started to believe it?

What if all the systems, tools and resources reinforced greatness?

How would a fundamental belief in the future, in the power of possible, in the ability to achieve big dreams, change the lives of people we serve?

Transformational is a word that comes to mind.

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How the Pandemic is Changing Strategic Planning

How the Pandemic is Changing Strategic Planning

October 19, 2020

“Impact is not intent, it is the real-world difference our nonprofit makes, the results that flow from the work we do.”  Simone Price

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with strategic planning, despite how critical it is to our relevance and long-term sustainability. A well-done strategic plan provides focus and direction and, when done right, helps align staff, board and stakeholders toward a common vision.

That said, most strategic plans serve as a road map for the future. And when the environment in which we work is changing at a normal pace, we have the luxury of focusing our strategy on driving change over years.

The pandemic has changed this.

The environment in which we work is changing more rapidly than it has in decades, and this impacts the length of our planning horizon. Simply put, we do not have the luxury to develop plans that may not come to fruition for three to five years out. Funders, payers and donors across the spectrum are increasingly scrutinizing education, health and social service agencies, requiring greater transparency and accountability for managing, measuring and reporting impact, financial health and overall sustainability. In addition, funders demand a demonstration of the “value proposition” before dollars are awarded, expecting to quantify the impact of their contributions, increasingly demanding that their funds leverage other resources. Further, competition is more intense, especially from large, well-capitalized for-profit companies that have increasingly entered the marketplace over the last two decades. Finally, the pandemic has created uncertainty around government funding of social services for the poor and disadvantaged.

As a result of this rapidly changing environment, any strategic planning effort must include things that we need to do both immediately and in the long term.

One of the most critical short-term strategies the nonprofit sector must embrace is an honest and in-depth analysis of impact—the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that demonstrate where we are in relationship to our reasons for existing. We need to understand the actual difference we are making in the lives of individuals we are funded to serve. The idea of becoming data driven is not new—we have been talking about this in the nonprofit environment for years. Still many are lagging behind in the kinds of technological sophistication required to actually measure performance. According to NTEN, despite widespread awareness, most nonprofits do not engage in consistent impact evaluation. As recently as 2016, only 12% of nonprofits allocated evaluation to their annual budgets; and of them, less than one-third have performed impact evaluation in the previous year.

While organizations may have been able to manage this deficit prior to the pandemic, today, an inability to measure impact jeopardizes sustainability. We need to be hyper-focused on measuring the value of what we do, ensuring that staff across the organization are invested in this measurement and analysis, and in taking critical steps to improve performance when indicated.

Further, this kind of detailed analysis drives the emergence of critical tactical activities, such as (for example) needed organizational investments such as technology infrastructure, training and professional development, required programmatic course correction including the elimination of some programs and expanded market share in others, improved cash management strategies, etc. The better the data and accompanying analysis, the better our tactics and our ability to weather the rapidly changing market.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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Interconnectivity Required for Sustainable Impact

Interconnectivity Required for Sustainable Impact

October 12, 2020

In my last several blogs I focused on situational poverty resulting from COVID-19 and the impact that strategic alliances can have in combating this crisis. I firmly believe that the interconnectivity between government, business, philanthropy and the nonprofit community, anchored in strategies that advance the entire ecosystem, is the pathway to sustainable and measurable progress. The collective goal is an economy that is growing, business and community are thriving, and people from all backgrounds have the opportunity for economic mobility. No individual piece of the equation can do it alone, nor should they. And when we jointly own the results, we jointly reap the rewards.

What does this take in addition to a common vision? Achieving our goal requires investment in retraining and upskilling individuals who have lost their jobs, training for individuals entering the job market during this challenging time, including those with barriers to employment. And in devising these upskilling strategies, we must consider that the business sector is undergoing one of the largest structural shifts in the past four decades; traditional 9 to 5 employment is giving way to new organizational structures, heavily reliant on technology, and creating greater flexibility in work hours and location. Locality-centric businesses are seeing opportunities to take their products nationally or even globally. We must also take into account that government—a reliable funder of workforce development initiatives—wants results.

One strategy that we should actively advance during this time is sector-based training—a strategy that brings economic developers, labor organizations, community colleges, local governments and workforce trainers together—to ensure a pipeline of job-ready workers. Together they develop training curriculums that focus on the skillsets needed for particular jobs within specific high growth sectors. According to the National Skills Coalition, sector strategies are among the most successful workforce interventions that statistically demonstrate improved employment opportunities and wages for individuals, increased competitiveness of business, and improved economic health of communities.

Our research suggests that the skills gap is of special concern for industries with the highest projected rates of job growth, including health care, “green” industries and niche manufacturing.

This convergence of business needing specific skills, government and philanthropic funders wanting quantifiable results, communities wanting foundations for sustainable economic growth, and the nonprofit wanting to leverage its decades of experience in workforce development could result in the interconnectivity required for real sustainable impact.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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The Potential for a Substantive Alliance Between Business and Nonprofits

The Potential for a Substantive Alliance Between Business and Nonprofits

October 5, 2020

Emerging Mission-Focus of Business
More and more companies are embracing the concept of corporate purpose as Americans’ perceptions of big business have shifted. In a discussion at the 2019 Aspen Festival, Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., said his company has been taking a stand. “We desegregated our factories in the South ten years before it was the law of the land…It’s not just about making a buck and returning dollars to shareholders. It’s also about making a difference in communities and the world,” he said.

PayPal President Dan Schulman stresses that corporate purpose is not simply hanging your company values on a wall, but ensuring that the products and services you offer are part and parcel of your social mission. “If you don’t take action on your values as a company, then they’re really just propaganda,” said Mr. Schulman.

Corporate purpose doesn’t just give companies a reason to pat themselves on the back—it actually drives success and profit. During this same Aspen Festival, Nancy Green, President and CEO of Athleta, stated that shifting Athleta’s focus to shared values, sustainable practices, and female empowerment changed the way the company profited while benefiting the bottom line.

Historical Mission Focus and Emerging Business Practices of Nonprofits
Since 1741, when it is thought that the first charitable organization—Foundling Hospital in London—was established to give homes and support to orphaned children, nonprofit organizations have been fighting for social justice and sustainable solutions to meet the needs of society’s most vulnerable.

Annually the nonprofit sector contributes an estimated $1.047.2 trillion to the US economy composing approximately 5.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. According to a 2019 report by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, nonprofits account for roughly one in 10 jobs in the US private workforce, with total employees numbering 12.3 million in 2016. Equally as important, the nonprofit social service sector has a community of dedicated volunteers—an estimated 25.1 percent of US adults volunteered in 2017, contributing an estimated 8.8 billion hours.

Further, over the course of the past decade, with shrinking government resources and increasing operating costs (talent, facilities, utilities, insurance) the nonprofit sector has shifted its operating structure and practices to mirror those of business. This means tightly managing revenue and expenses, evaluating growth opportunities such as mergers and acquisitions, investment in technology and other critical infrastructure components, expanding to international markets when indicated, and establishing and tightly monitoring financial targets. These practices are in service to our mission.

Limitless Potential
One can only imagine what would happen if the business and nonprofit community moved past the traditional “sponsorship” relationship to something much more substantive—where they intentionally and strategically joined forces to design long term, smart and sustainable solutions to some of society’s most intractable problems. The potential that could result from leveraging the experience, resources, talents, and community connections is limitless.

Stay tuned for further discussions on the potential of business-nonprofit solution-focused partnerships and strategies both entities can apply to secure meaningful, productive alliances that result in measurable impact.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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Combating Situational Poverty Caused by COVID-19

Combating Situational Poverty Caused by COVID-19

September 28, 2020

The Fedcap Group is committed to removing barriers to long term economic well-being for the vulnerable and disadvantaged. This includes people with disabilities, the chronically or structurally unemployed, people in recovery, veterans, individuals with mental illness, youth leaving foster care, or people leaving prison or jail. This has been our mission since our founding in 1935.

Over our 85 years, the profile of the people we serve has changed. In the beginning, it was wounded veterans and others with physical disabilities shunned by employers. Some of the individuals we have served were from families who have experienced generational poverty—having been in poverty for at least two generations. Others struggle due to very specific life circumstances—a disability or mental illness that results in a reduced opportunity to obtain and/or maintain living wage jobs. Some experience the stigma associated with having been involved in the criminal justice system.

As we face the impact of COVID 19, we are seeing a new group of individuals struggling with economic well-being—those experiencing “situational poverty”—a lack of resources due to a particular set of events, such as a pandemic. These individuals lost their jobs due to a global health crisis that closed down local businesses around the world. While certainly from time to time we have seen individuals struggling through situational poverty due to a death in the family or unexpected illness, this is widespread and requires a structured response.

Where many of the people The Fedcap Group have served in the past needed to develop both work readiness and entry level career skills, the individuals we are starting to see, as a result of the pandemic, are skilled and have a steady work history. These individuals mirror the characteristics of the unemployed as described by the US Department of Labor—unable to shift to telework, gig workers with no postsecondary education. (Recent job-level analyses from the Department of Labor show that while 2 in 3 workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher could work from home; however, only 1 in 10 workers with less than a high school diploma and 1 in 4 workers with only a high school diploma held jobs that supported teleworking).

As workforce development organizations around the country prepare to serve the new population of individuals in need of job support, we will need to change our approach. As opposed to entry level skills, according to the National Skills Coalition, “working adults need access to upskilling opportunities—and the wraparound services to support their success. A new report found that many workers looking to change careers say they’d need to reskill in order to do so, and only 4 in 10 workers with a high school diploma or less have access to the education and training they want to pursue.”

The Fedcap Group is preparing to serve this new cohort of unemployed by positioning our organization to be able to provide a new array of certifications in high growth sectors, including plumbing, welding and construction. And, because we believe that over the next decade the pathway to economic well-being will come through technology, we are ensuring access to critical training in technology.

This is the time for the nonprofit community, already seasoned in developing an entry level workforce, to step up and assist in the recovery by helping the 13 million unemployed individuals in our country become skilled in new, sustainable careers.

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For Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-1920)

For Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-1920)

September 21, 2020

It takes courage to stand for something. And even more to fight for what you stand for. And it takes a remarkable amount of courage to fight in a way that reflects a deep, abiding sense of honor, consistency and fairness.

What I admired most about Justice Ginsburg was the equity in her fight for equity.

Her first big case was a challenge to a law that barred a Colorado man named Charles Moritz from taking a tax deduction for the care of his 89-year-old mother. The IRS said the deduction, by statute, could only be claimed by a woman, or a widowed or divorced man. But Moritz had never married. The solution was to ask the court not to invalidate the statute, but to apply it equally to both sexes and she won in the lower courts. When the government petitioned the US Supreme Court, stating that the decision “cast a cloud of unconstitutionality” over literally hundreds of federal statutes (and it attached a full list of those statutes), it became the road map for Justice Ginsburg’s career.

As President Obama said, “Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn’t about an abstract idea of equality; that it doesn’t only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It is about who we are and who we can be.”

That to me was the point of Justice Ginsburg’s lifelong fight against injustice and inequity—the idea that if we as a society treat anyone as “less than,” the entire underpinning of who we are as a people is at risk. Equity has always mattered a great deal to me—the simple (and apparently complicated) fairness in our treatment of people.

And equity has been the foundation for the work of The Fedcap Group since its inception in 1935—where our founders fought against discrimination in the workplace for people with disabilities.

Justice Ginsburg’s life and, possibly even more so, her death, are a challenge to every one of us. “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

When great trees fall,

rocks on distant hills shudder,

lions hunker down

in tall grasses,

and even elephants

lumber after safety.

When great trees fall

in forests,

small things recoil into silence,

their senses

eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,

the air around us becomes

light, rare, sterile.

We breathe,

briefly.

Our eyes, briefly,

see with

a hurtful clarity.

Our memory, suddenly sharpened,

examines,

gnaws on kind words

unsaid,

promised walks

never taken.

Great souls die and

our reality, bound to

them, takes leave of us.

Our souls,

dependent upon their

nurture,

now shrink, wizened.

Our minds, formed

and informed by their

radiance,

fall away.

We are not so much maddened

as reduced to the unutterable ignorance

of dark, cold

caves.

And when great souls die,

after a period peace blooms,

slowly and always

irregularly. Spaces fill

with a kind of

soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never

to be the same, whisper to us.

They existed. They existed.

We can be. Be and be

better. For they existed.

Maya Angelou

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