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Archive for May, 2012

Louis Zamperini in person

I am a big believer in “The Synchronicity of Life”… events, circumstances, random meetings of people one hasn’t seen in years, etc.  Such is the recent unexpected meeting of Louis Zamperini, the American WWII survivor whose story is beautifully told in Laura Hillenbrand’s book “Unbroken: A WWII story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption”.

I was attending the International Conference of Shopping Centers (ICSC) in Vegas.  A group called Chainlinks of which Flake & Kelley is a member was hosting speakers … speakers on the Economy, on the Retail Market, on ICSC.  The surprise came to me as  the featured speaker, a lively 95 years young man, Louis Zamperini, took the stage and held an audience of 400 spellbound with his unbelievable story.

If you have not read “Unbroken”, do it now.  If you’ve ever felt like the world weighs heavy on you, or you feel you can’t go on,  read this book and I promise you will stand up, dust yourself off and face any adversity that comes along with a renewed energy

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I have been blessed to travel a great deal during my life.  What I remember most about cities are vibrant downtowns.  Makes no difference,  be it small or big city,  American or foreign city  …  it’s  that beating heart, that sense of place, that something special  that downtowns deliver.  In general, when we talk about our impression of cities we are talking about the central core, the downtown … this is the reason a favorable downtown experience is  absolutely critical.

In my own city, Little Rock, when I was growing up, downtown was “the place” … then we lost it.  We tried to fix it but nothing worked , nothing until the early nineties, when we embarked on a two year long community visioning exercise involving hundreds of citizens.  This effort called “Future Little Rock”, in addition to many other goals, emphatically recommended a commitment to the revitalization of our downtown.  Out of this came the River Market, the farmer’s market pavilions,  the reuse of old warehouses for the Central Arkansas Library and the Museum of Discovery, the expansion of our Convention Center, a River Rail Trolley, shops, restaurants, parks improvements, bike trails, railroad bridges given to pedestrians, etc… etc… etc…  all total, since then, over Two Billion Dollars in Public and Private dollars in a relatively small area of our city.   Had we not had this commitment, we would not today have the Clinton Library, Heifer International and Acxiom office tower downtown. We would not have reached the tipping point where, once again, downtown is the place to be, the place to play, shop, be entertained, live, exercise, be culturally enriched and, of course, go to work.  All this because a few hundred of our two hundred thousand citizens decided “the time is now”.

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Stanley Ski Team …. SST

Here is the note I sent to my ski buddies after the 2012 ski trip.  We have been going on a trip each year for over 30 years. Stanley is the last name of the original founding father of SST.

 Once again, it was a special treat to be with the best friends in the world.  In a very small way, I miss skiing with the group but in a very big way I enjoy our time together and will do all I can to attend for as long as the Good Lord allows.  I certainly don’t wish to be maudlin, but John made a prophetic and profound statement when he said “we will probably not be doing this ten years from now”.

 The evening discussions, especially the evening discussing family histories was a highlight for me … as different as we may be, there is a common thread we all share.  We are family oriented, we obviously value true friendships, for the most part we are fairly conservative (a couple maybe more than “fairly conservative”), we are self starting, entrepreneurial guys … in most cases from self starting entrepreneurial roots, we are fundamentally Christian, God fearing men with strong work ethics and, by golly, strong play ethics… I repeat, Strong Play Ethics!!!  Who would ever have thought for 31 or 32 or 33 years, a group like ours would click, stay together, take a trip each year together, schedule lunch every Friday together and for all these years keep this exercise right at the top of our priority lists.  Who would have thought?  Who would have thought a Dermatologist, Ad guy, a coffin salesman, a funeral director,  an asbestos tester, an architect, a refrigeration/electric supplier, a jeweler and a politician could find enough in common to embark on this adventure, and even more significant, to continue it for so many years.  Ours truly is a unique story..a meaningful, enriching celebration of friendship.  I thank each of you. 

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