Sustainable Business Leaders Program Launch Event with Mayor Menino

As a board member of the Sustainable Business Network, and the originator of the concept for the Sustainable Business Leader Program, I represented SBN at the launch event for the Sustainable Business Leaders Program (SBLP) today.

Here’s my speech:

On behalf of the SBN, I want to thank Mayor Menino, the Mayor’s Green Task Force, the Environment Department and the BRA for all their efforts to make Boston a more sustainable place to live and work. Working with the City of Boston has been an amazing experience for us. We are thrilled that the City sees the power and recognizes the value of working with committed small business owners. When we first started meeting with the City in January 2006, we did not imagine that our colleagues at City Hall would be so interested in our ideas. We were just a group of Boston business owners who wanted to help make a difference. We are happy to report that many of our proposals  have been met with incredible enthusiasm and interest on the part of the Mayor’s Office, the Environment Department, and the BRA.

The  SBN is proud to support the City of Boston’s Climate Action Plan. We hope that the Green Business Awards, the Green Business Roundtable, and now the Sustainable Business Leader’s Program are just the beginning of a meaningful partnership between small businesses and City Officials as we work together to make the City of Boston not just the greenest and most livable and workable city in the United States, but also true example of municipal leadership in the fight to stop global warming.

I must be dreaming

No, seriously. That’s how I was feeling last Thursday when I attended the SBN Annual Conference at the Hampshire House. What a beautiful venue! It was set up like a Victorian library with antique books lining the built-in bookshelves and squat little vases filled with roses scattered artfully around the room. But, I digress.

As I mentioned, it was a dreamlike atmosphere for me. So many of my ideas for SBN had come to fruition. From changing our name, to the Boston Green Business Awards, to the Sustainable Business Leaders Program… It had all happened in just 18 months.

And we’ve gone from a sleepy little non-profit with a $10,000 annual budget to a staff of 4! As Laury Hammel would say: “Rock on!”

The stars are watching you

St. Peter’s Church is not the kind of place you would expect to see people from Rwanda. But every year at this time, this Catholic church across from the Harvard Astronomy Observatory holds a Mass to commemorate the Rwandan genocide. This year was the fourteenth anniversary of the killings. It’s my fourth year at the memorial Mass, which is a record for me in Catholic church attendance, since I am not a Catholic. Sister Ann Fox from the Paraclete Center was there. Her project to build a middle school for girls in Rwanda was recently featured on the front page of the Boston Globe. The Maranyundo School for girls opened its doors in February 2008. Sister Augusta was also there. She came to the Paraclete Center on sabbatical from her convent in Rwanda. Her entire family was wiped out in the genocide, along with 77% of the entire Rwandan Tutsi population. Father Romaine officiated the Mass. He received his call to the priesthood when he was hiding in the forest during the genocide. His homily included a story about the stars, which I want to relate to you.

When I was a little boy, my grandmother would sit us children down under a clear night sky and say: “The stars are not just stars. They are the eyes of angels in heaven. When you are good, the angels are happy. When you are bad, the angels are sad.”He paused. “During the genocide, my parents were killed, my brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins were killed. My friends were killed. And my neighbors were killed. But you have to go on. You must figure out a way to gain the courage to keep living. So I looked up at those same stars. The angel eyes now had names. They were my parents, my uncles, my cousins and my friends and neighbors. And I have a responsibility to them to keep going and to make some good in my life.