Your Personal Connection
We've all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity had an impact on your life and your view of the community?
Creativity is a kind of risk-taking. It is driven by a unique conviction of truth, and a passionate desire to express that truth through actions or words. It is, above all, a reflection of the aspiration to be free, to connect with others, to question accepted norms, and to live life on your own terms. It may be expressed through arts or culture, and it may be expressed simply in the way you live your life.
I grew up surrounded by a family that was imbued with this kind of spirit. Storytelling as a way of not just recounting life experiences but as a way to find meaning in them was – and is – a central part of my family life. This spirit has always has been a core element of my personality and soul.
My father’s father, Solomon, was born in Ukraine in 1905. When he was 14, much of his family was murdered because they were Jews. He escaped, and made his way across Europe, looking for passage to America. He ended up in Cuba, alone and penniless. He lived on the beach for a time, and ate mangoes that grew nearby. He worked odd jobs, and eventually was able to move to Venezuela, where he started a business. Over time, he saved enough money to reach his goal – making sure his sons were educated in the U.S. And so, when my father was, in turn, 14 years old, my grandfather sent my dad to live with relatives in New York.
I was so lucky that my grandfather lived to be 101; he passed away in Venezuela in 2006. His story and his personality were enormous influences on my life. For hundreds of years, Jews had been subjected to these kinds of murderous events in Europe, and for hundreds of years, so many of them decided that they had no alternative but to stay and rebuild and be resilient in the face of tragedy. My grandfather, even as a 14-year-old, determined he would not be a victim of circumstance and would live life on his own terms. I am deeply aware of the reality that I am able to fill out a questionnaire like this one because of his ability to see a different, better future, and his dedication to making it a reality.
My mother’s father, Murray, grew up in New York City, the son of a Polish immigrant and tailor. As a young man, Murray worked in his father’s business, making and selling men’s clothing. By the time he was 30, he was running the business with his father, and quickly began to transform a traditional clothing manufacturer into a creative, forward-thinking custom clothing designer and manufacturer. Murray traveled the world in search of unique fabrics and designs, and developed a whimsical and imaginative brand and marketing approach. Murray always questioned conventional wisdom, and it meant his customers would wear beautiful and meticulously designed clothing, apparel that others would recognize as being uniquely interesting and noticeable.
Given these creative, problem-solving role models, it should be no surprise that so many people in my family have chosen career paths outside the “norm,” or which have involved seeking out challenges to take on. My father became a doctor and a professor, but also started a highly successful business based on a visionary understanding of medical care. My mother was a nurse, but also became the President of a global charitable organization called Hadassah, leveraging her talent for inspiring others through stories. My brother, as the co-creator of Glee and American Horror Story, has poured his creative spirit into the creation of stories that speak to deep – and for some, uncomfortable – truths.
In my case, I spent the first few years of my career as a lawyer doing work that was enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfying. What became so clear to me during those years was the absolute importance of doing work that was inspiring, about which I could feel passion and meaning, and hopefully have an impact on the lives of others. I learned that my own creative spirit was driven by a desire to be part of building and organizing people around ideas and purpose and meaning – particularly ideas that call into question widely held preconceptions, that force people to think for themselves about a problem.
In my 13 years as on the executive team of Best Doctors, most recently as President, I traveled all around the world speaking to audiences, employees, sales prospects, government groups and others about the importance of seeing health care from a completely different perspective. While most people want to think about health care in terms of dollars and cents, I challenged people to consider a much more fundamental issue – getting the right diagnosis. The very best way to connect with skeptical or even hostile audiences is, on the one hand, to present data, but a much more effective approach is the ability to share stories about real people. It makes all the difference in the world to connect with people on a personal and emotional level. That is, in my view, the clearest path to a shared understanding of a larger truth, to build consensus on difficult subjects, and to compel action.
This spirit, above all, is what has motivated me to found the United Independent Party in Massachusetts, and it is the rationale for my seeking to serve as governor. I believe the political process is not set up to generate or breed leadership that seeks out these shared understandings, that is brave enough to take on our most difficult challenges, or to take meaningful action to solve them. I also believe that there are many, many people in our Commonwealth who share this view, and who together form the basis of a coalition of those who feel the current system no longer represents their interests. It is a coalition of people who feel their issues are not taken seriously, or who feel, as people, that they too often are not treated seriously by the very people they elect to serve. I’m a voter – and I’ve felt this exact way myself, for some time now.
In many ways, the level of importance that the arts community is afforded by our state government is a reflection of a deeper problem with American culture in the early 21st century. There is a mentality of needing to manage scarcity, and to divert those limited resources preferentially to politically connected, money-making activities. While it is clear that the arts community generates money and jobs, it is also clear that so much of the value of the arts is not directly measurable in dollars and cents, and, I would argue, should not need to be. What is required is leadership that has a fundamental understanding of the importance of creativity to the development of thriving communities, to attracting and retaining innovative and dynamic people of all ages from all around the world, and building on the strengths of Massachusetts.