We are going through a tumultuous period and traumatic time. First COVID-19 and a spring for some spent sheltering at home. Just when we were beginning to see a faint light at the end of the Corona tunnel, the nation looked in horror at the brutal killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, while in police custody.
Only months earlier Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in Georgia while jogging and Breonna Taylor, an EMT, was shot and killed in her own home in the middle of the night. The list sadly goes on—Eric Garner in New York, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Why does history keep repeating itself? Why do pleas of “I can’t breathe” keep echoing? Why has so little changed? When will the pain and sadness end? When will mothers and fathers stop fearing day and night whether their black sons and daughters will come home safely? We must not just remember these names as hashtags.
I sincerely hope this tragedy will galvanize Americans—black, brown, white, Democrat, Independent, Republican, male, female or however one identifies—to come together to acknowledge and reject racism and discrimination of any kind. As Americans, we need to proactively address aspects of our society in which discrimination and racism are systemic and root them out. We need to open our hearts and truly believe that every one of us is equal, not succumb to tawdry stereotypes or allow the insidious hand of unconscious bias to seep deep into our souls.
As a sign of our commitment to address racism and discrimination, the Newell Brands Charitable Foundation will make a donation to The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice, founded in 1940.
As I ponder this difficult issue, I wonder can we really change the world? Maybe not. But each one of us can do our part to make a difference. Hopefully, the collective efforts of the whole will become exponentially greater than the sum of its parts. I am encouraged that people are speaking out, be they captains of industry or athletes or celebrities. I was struck by this particular quote in which Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow remarked, “The black community needs our help. They have been unheard for far too long. Open your ears, listen and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.”
Let us keep listening at Newell. Build a bridge to your colleagues at our internal black employee resource group, BEACON. Open your hearts, keep an open mind and look at the world from their lens.
Let us strive to make the world of the Newell family a better place. During this time of uncertainty and discord, let’s work extra hard to educate ourselves, change our paradigms and not be blinded by stereotypes. Let us demonstrate empathy, show tolerance and understanding. Let us be careful with emails and avoid words that are daggers to the heart. Let us channel our indignation into positive energy and actions that drive excellent outcomes. Let us be guided by the immortal words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I ask you to join hands in creating the 5C Culture I mentioned at the Global Meeting. The 5 C’s stand for:
- Caring and Compassion for others
- Connect and Collaborate
- Communicate, Communicate constantly
- Captivate with Creativity
- Champions of Courage
I wish to add two more C’s in light of current events:
- Call on your Conscience
- Celebrate diversity, eliminate unconscious bias
Team Newell, it is inspirational to see the marches across over 100 cities represented by people of diverse backgrounds and races coming together in solidarity to bring awareness to a powerful issue. I was also heartened to see Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields in dialogue with the protesters as Sheriff Chris Swanson marched with protesters in Flint, Michigan. Unfortunately, it is very disappointing to see that some bad elements hijacked these peaceful protests and resorted to looting and vandalism. Even so, the majority of protestors have been peaceful and have purpose, likewise, many in the police force are good, hardworking people committed to guard the safety of citizens. Let’s not fall into the trap of focusing only on the extremes.
It would be tragic if the narrative that the general public remembers is property damage and violent acts instead of focusing on the real issues at hand, namely justice, equality and ending systemic discrimination. Let us pray for peace.
I am sure you, like me, are asking when do we get back to normal? What is the new normal? All of us yearn for normalcy from a health stand point when we are not living in eternal fear of COVID-19. However, the new normal must include dramatic changes for Black Americans. We have to collectively work on eradicating the fear in their everyday lives. We need to create an America that is not only inclusive but one where everyone feels safe, feels they belong. We cannot revert to the Old Normal of “Us versus Them” and perpetuate senseless killings of people of color. Let us welcome the New Normal where the American dream is not reserved for a few but is attainable by all who are willing to work hard and fulfill their potential.
I am the eternal optimist. I continue to have great faith in the idea of America, the American ideal and the generosity of its people. I am a big believer in the American dream and have been fortunate to be able to experience it. At the same time, I have noticed that in my 42 years living in America that this dream is eluding many and the disparities in our society are widening. As we pay homage to the memories of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and thousands of others, let us commit to reimagining and rebuilding America to make the American dream available to all and not a select few.
Let the Newell family become an example of the American spirit, of resilience and generosity. Let us unify, not divide. We can be civil to each other even if we do not agree. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Let us truly commit to not only diversity based on gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation but also diversity of thought. Let us be inclusive of disparate views and allow free discourse but ultimately align and unify to make Newell a truly great company.
Let us be obsessively diligent in making sure that everyone at Newell has equal opportunity to advance, flourish and prosper based on their merit, talent and performance and not based on their skin color, religion, age, gender, political views or sexual preference.
I am here for you. So is the Leadership Team. We shall prevail.
Be good, do good.
Onwards and Upwards,
President & Chief Executive Officer