January 2016: FSM CEO’s annual meeting address

Thank you, Farrah.  And thanks to all of our board members, all of our staff, and all of our supporters.  You are the brains, the heart, and the muscle of this agency.
As one of the newer additions to the family, I’d like to say it’s an honor to work among such genuinely remarkable people.  If there is a higher calling than what we do at FSM, I can’t think of what it might be, and I feel blessed to be a part of that, too.
At most annual meetings, this is the moment when CEOs get up and say “We had a great year!” and “This year will be even better.” If it’s OK with you, I’d rather not.  I’ve never felt comfortable telling fibs.
The truth is, our 105th year was a hard one at FSM. Adjusting to new leadership is hard.  The anxiety of not knowing what changes may follow is hard.  Having the way things have always been done questioned is hard.  As if that wasn’t hard enough, we learned that we would, in 2016, lose a massive county contract that FSM has enjoyed for decades.  The adjustments we had to make in response were painfully hard.
The truth is also that our 106th year is going to be hard.  It’s not possible to cut your way out of loss that size without gutting the organization, so we’re cutting as we can while putting our energy into growing our way out of the loss. That will not be easy, especially because it requires we add new ways of thinking and new tasks to our already full work lives.
As my kids are tired of hearing me say: The bad news is, it’s all on us; the good news is, it’s all on us.
If ever there was a collection of people caring enough, smart enough, and creative enough to meet these challenges and emerge even stronger, it is you.
Over the recent holidays, I enjoyed a personal tradition of watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  In it, Charlie buys a small tree that’s rejected by all others, that proves too weak to hold even a single ornament.  He walks away feeling defeated.
But then his friends arrive.  Linus says, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree…. Maybe it just needs a little love.”  He gives up his cherished blanket, wrapping it around the base of the tree for support, and the other friends join in, decorating and transforming the weakened, damaged tree into a thing of beauty.  When Charlie returns, he’s stunned by what has been achieved by the love and work of his friends.
At that moment, I realized:  That’s us!  That’s FSM!
Every day, through your hard work, through your love, and through the work and love of your friends at FSM, the rejected, the weakened, and the damaged are given the opportunity to renew, to grow, and to bloom. It is true both for direct care givers, and those of us who toil in support.  And it is no exaggeration to say that is a thing of beauty.  Just as you do for the people you serve, so you will do for this organization. I’m sure of it.
Thank you for that.  Thank you for coming today.  And thank God I’m done talking!  We are adjourned.