Growing up, I didn’t have any well-thought-out ideas of what I would do with my life. All I knew was that it should be important. I had read about the labor movement, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights… I wanted to be a part of that—part of something bigger, to elevate the oppressed and give a voice to the voiceless. I think these are the dreams of most college kids, and they were mine, too. As the late Minor Myers put it, “Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”
It was a nice goal, but finding a job as a changemaker began to feel less and less realistic, especially when competing with the droves of other idealists who came to DC after college or grad school, many willing to work for free in the ever-shrinking job market following the economic collapse of 2008. Working three part-time jobs and barely scraping by, I reprioritized. I needed to learn how to get by and then figure out how to make a difference. Take a break from trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes and be able to afford a pair of my own every once in a while. After all, rent in DC is high—too damn high, according to some—and how much good could I do, anyhow?
Then I landed a temporary job as an administrative assistant at Neimand Collaborative and, suddenly, it clicked. Doing well and doing good. The two actually go hand in hand—or at least they can if you’re lucky enough.
My boss, Rich, started this business after 27 years in electoral politics. He realized you couldn’t affect anything through politics anymore because everything was based on polls, and polls were based on market perceptions. So he changed his approach and recruited some of the most talented people he knew to join him in his new venture. For the last 7 years, Neimand Collaborative has worked at the intersection of politics, policy and popularism. We work to condition the market, remove cultural and ideological barriers, and generate political and popular support to create a climate in which change is possible.
What struck me right away was how uncynical my new colleagues were (and are still). They’re strategic, and smart as hell, but also committed—to our clients, to the causes we work to advance, and to each other. And, because of that, we do good business. It’s the same thing I see in all our clients. Doing good business for the public good. They see the change that is needed—in their communities, for the environment, the sick, the struggling, the next generation—and work tirelessly on smart solutions to see it through.
Finally, I’d like to close out my first post with a story that a new friend told me last week––not because it’s particularly relevant, but just because I think it’s a good story.
On December 6, 1941, I dropped off a pair of shoes––brown, leather––with the shoemaker around the corner. Mr. Lu-? Lit-? What was his name? His daughter worked there, too. Do you even know what a shoemaker is? Yeah, like that. Someone who soles the shoes. Good. Anyway, I dropped off the shoes. The next day was Pearl Harbor and I was called. The day after that I went down to the board office to report for duty. I was gone four years. France. Germany. France. I forgot all about the shoes. When I returned home after the war, I put on my old coat and in the pocket was the ticket––the receipt––from the shoemaker. So, I went down to see him, gave him the ticket and asked if he still had the shoes. He looked at the ticket, looked at me, and went into the back to have a look. A few minutes went by, then he came out and said, “We still have them. They’ll be ready in a week.”