A Dinner With David Suzuki
“Each person must live their life as a model for others” – Rosa Parks
What if you could have dinner with one of your personal heroes? Who would it be and why?
Last fall, I returned to Toronto due to a personal health problem. I had left my law job in Vancouver, packed up my life there, and moved back to the city I grew up in; Toronto.
My health issue was serious and made me ask the question, “What I would do if I had limited time to live on this planet?”
It is a question that I often ask of others in my leadership development work, but this time, it became meaningful and real for me. My answer to this question was undoubtedly that I would work for David Suzuki and his foundation.
My passion for people, health, and the environment has been with me since an early age.
I remember being inspired by watching episodes of The Nature Of Things with David Suzuki and wanting to be just like him. In elementary school, a few amazing teachers instilled in me a deep value of nature; they helped me appreciate the outdoors through class walks in the park behind our school, neighbourhood clean ups, and the winter ski trips we took. This was the start of my passion for environmentalism, as I began advocating for litter less lunches, volunteered to help build the school garden, and encouraged my family to recycle and become eco-conscious.
I then became involved in my high school environmental club, helped start a composting program from food scraps of our cafeteria, took many environmental classes and received an award in environmental science, and even put together advocacy videos to educate students & parents on things like carpooling. More recently, I took environmental courses at law school, and worked in environmental law organizations.
Knowing I wanted to work for the David Suzuki Foundation, I arranged to meet with the staff, and after a week or so, I was thrilled to be hired to coordinate their first ever Camp Suzuki community leadership program. It involved recruiting teams of four from across the eastern Greater Toronto Area to put on community sustainability projects, and it was very successful.
In September of this year, I was invited back to attend the wrap up celebration event for the program, and was so proud of the teams and their accomplishments. My two bosses at the DSF, who hugged me every day I came into work and every day I left, have become older sisters I’ve never had. They surprised me at the event and told me that they wanted me to join them and a few other staff for a dinner with David Suzuki himself when he was visiting town later that month.
So there we were, myself and my colleagues from the DSF, at a nice restaurant in Toronto’s Chinatown. David was running late because he was getting in his daily workout. Even with his busy schedule of events, speaking engagements, and leading the foundation, I was humbled to hear how dedicated he is to living his values of health and the environment. He is over 75 years old, and still works out regularly which just goes to show how much energy and motivation he still has for the work he does.
Over the course of the evening, we all spoke as friends, not colleagues. David took interest in each of us personally, and remembered details of each of the staff members’ lives to ask about. He cracked jokes, shared stories, and most of all, spoke to us as if we inspired him as much as he inspired us. He radiates positive energy and passion for this work, and you could tell he loves his staff and believes in building a great organizational culture.
I was really inspired by our dinner with David, not necessarily by the content of the evening conversation, but because it reinforced why I believe in him, why I have looked up to him since a young age, and why I want to be someone who lives in line with my values through my own words, actions, and choices.
I have known David Suzuki as an environmentalist, an activist, and a national icon in Canada.
However, this dinner with David Suzuki made me realize what it takes to be a leader of his caliber and reinforced for me the importance of how we interact with others, whether in our personal or professional lives.
He took time to listen to others, treated them as having the same status and spoke to them at the same level, accepted and built on their ideas, and created a space for others to share comfortably and openly; all traits of an exceptional leader. His ability to inspire others to achieve great things starts with how he shows up, him living in line with his values, his ability to earn the trust of others, and his ability to foster a sense of solidarity in the environmental community as well as within his Foundation.
I am so grateful to have been a part of the David Suzuki Foundation, and to have had a chance to meet one my personal heroes. I started off as a 10 year old boy wanting to be like David Suzuki. But now, I realize that I am being my best because I had someone to look up to.
I believe everyone needs a hero in order to be and remain inspired in our journeys. David Suzuki has been mine.
Who is your hero, and how could you connect with them or support what they are doing? Alternatively, who could you act as a role model for and inspire to be great?
P.S. Join me for this week’s episode of Reconnectfully Yours on Thursday at 11am EST, featuring Shawna MacDonald on “Breaking the silence & stigma of suicide” http://sprc.st/of5w