Soaring to Greatness!
‘Jay and Karen share insights on the meaning of greatness and how we each have the opportunity to achieve greatness in our own personal lives.'
Every once in a while, we get the opportunity to witness an historic moment. Such was the case this past weekend when we saw the first civilian journey into outer space. Richard Branson and Virgin Galactica. While perhaps it didn’t quite rise to the level of the Wright Brothers, it was thrilling nonetheless, as we witnessed in awe yet another remarkable human achievement. In a sense, it was an achievement of greatness. There is much to learn here and much to admire.
From the time he started primary school at the age of 5 and through the moment he dropped out of high school at the age of 16, Richard Branson was often told he’d be unlikely to amount to much of anything. Having grown up with a severe case of dyslexia that went undiagnosed for years, his teachers considered him “lazy and not very clever,” as one of them put it. Another even said he’d likely end up in prison. It’s fair to say that he’d been given little in the way of confidence from those meant to help nurture his development. Yet this past week, after an incredible entrepreneurial career, Sir Richard Branson made a childhood dream come true by flying above earth in space on the inaugural commercial passenger voyage of his Virgin Galactic.
“I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars and now, I’m an adult in a spaceship.” he said while 53 miles above the Earth’s surface. I’m not sure if you watched any of the coverage, but it was truly awe inspiring to see the first commercial space flight exactly 60 years after the man first traveled beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. What this feat embodies more importantly is the importance of continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible. It’s a symbolic event that challenges us to never stop believing in the power of achieving greatness. Richard Branson himself being a perfect example of this as dyslexic high school dropout. What he accomplished and what the world witnessed his team achieve reminds us that each of us can overcome the odds to accomplish great things, things that we may be nervous to tackle because we’re told we can’t or because we fear the possibility of failure.
It’s important to remind ourselves that the incredible progress that mankind has made throughout the course of time has been due to individuals willing to challenge the status quo. So, whether it’s changing what is possible with space flight in the case of Richard Branson or fighting for the equality of all men and women in the case of someone like Martin Luther King Jr., progress for all is only built through an audacious belief that we can in fact achieve things that are larger than ourselves. The next time you find yourself glancing up into the sky and seeing the stars, I hope they remind you that the great things you want to achieve in your life are worth believing in and not beyond your reach.
The Phoenix – Reshaping Recovery
The pandemic certainly changed so many things in our lives. How we teach our kids, where we do our work and even how we communicate with loved ones. But one thing that hasn’t changed is impact of addiction and its crippling effect on so many people throughout our country. If anything, the pandemic has made the problem even more acute. According to reports online from the US Government, in 2019, over 70,000 Americans died due to a drug related overdose, and the figures for this past year have been even more severe.
While these numbers are alarming, there are rays of hope – as numerous organizations and volunteers attempt to address the problem. And, one of the most exciting of these organizations is known as The Phoenix.
I’m particularly excited about the unique approach of this innovative organization. The Phoenix’ philosophy is grounded in a conviction that physical fitness can play a decisive role in recovery. As such, the organization offers free access to fitness classes, gyms and a variety of exercise activities to anyone who is suffering from addiction and intent on recovery. The Phoenix approach blends the physical health benefits of exercise with a positive, uplifting and supportive environment designed to build interpersonal connection and help in the recovery process.
Interestingly, the organization also has roots in New Hampshire. Scott Strode who founded The Phoenix in 2006, was recovering from addiction at the time and discovered the liberating experience of strenuous physical activity while ice climbing in our beautiful White Mountains. Today, the organization has an impressive 11,000 square foot CrossFit style gym located in Boston, as well as a wide variety of virtual and live streamed classes, enjoyed by more than 60,000 people in recovery from all across America.
As I think about our Sunshine Initiative and our core mission of helping every individual in our country achieve their full potential, I could not possibly be more excited about the Phoenix approach. Working closely with The Phoenix, we have an opportunity to help so very many people throughout our communities rise above their addiction and have the opportunity to achieve their own individual vision of greatness. What could be better than that? With this in mind, we are now in the early stages of making this program widely available throughout New Hampshire. The Sunshine Initiative is committed to partnering with the Phoenix organization to make our state a leader in addiction recovery through the Phoenix model. In so doing, we will be in a position to provide a ‘best practice example’ and recovery playbook that can be shared and enable this marvelous program to be rolled out across our country.
Honoring History – While Building for the Future
I love our historic buildings in New Hampshire and all across our country. In addition, I get excited whenever a community comes together to ensure that a historic building is restored and put to good use, a downtown is revitalized and reborn, and a landmark is preserved. Our historic buildings that can be modernized while retaining their unique character have a timeless impact on our communities and are valued for their role today, tomorrow and importantly, for how their presence has been intertwined with our lives over the course of many years past.
One shining example is the Newport Opera House. Located in the center of downtown Newport, the Opera House was built in 1886, and at the time was generally recognized as having the ‘best stage north of Boston.’ A pretty big statement and a venue that attracted plays, entertainment and cultural excitement. However, over the course of many years, the building had fallen into some measure of disrepair and in need of substantial improvement. Thanks to innovation, creativity, and determination, the Newport community rallied. With inspired leadership and an imaginative combination of funding from a variety of sources, the Newport Opera House has just recently finished the job! A busy schedule of events organized by the Newport Opera House Association is set to ‘kick off’ now, and I encourage you to take a close look at www.newportoperahouse.org
Likewise, in downtown Laconia, the historic Colonial Theatre is undergoing a massive restoration program and is slated to be completed shortly. The 1914 vintage theatre will transition back to its roots as a live in-person venue allowing for 750 fans to cheer on their favorite bands, performances, and programs.
The majestic architecture and design will once again be on full display in downtown Laconia and I cannot wait to buy tickets to an upcoming event. Actually, the first Colonial show is in the books for Aug. 13-15. A ‘soft opening’ featuring the Neil Simon play, The Dinner Party.
In addition to Newport and Laconia, I know so many other towns are in the midst of awesome restoration projects. I invite you to send me stories about your community’s initiatives, and we will post then on our social media platforms. However, one last bright spot I want to mention is the city of Rochester and the work being done by the all-volunteer Rochester Main Street group. This non-profit comprised of Rochester citizens organizes downtown clean ups, has installed planter boxes along the downtown, promotes local businesses and programs, and every fall organizes the annual Downtown Scarecrows program that brings the community together for fun and entertainment.
You see, there is so much good we can do for our communities when we revere the history, inspire positive energy and bring forth creativity and local spirit!
Positive Profile of the Week: Shannon McGinley
A long-time resident of the state, Shannon McGinley is a fighter who never gives up and is passionate about the causes near and dear to her heart. A Bedford resident, she embodies an optimism and a persistence that has allowed her to succeed in supporting families and citizens throughout the Granite State.
As Executive Director of Cornerstone Action, the public advocacy arm of Cornerstone Policy Research, Shannon has been a leader, working with our legislators, public officials, faith-based community and others to inform and advocate on important matters of policy, especially those issues that encourage and support the family.
Never discouraged, she has pushed and pushed and this year, after two decades of fighting, she saw arguably her biggest win ever for the issues she cares about when the state legislature voted to ban medically unnecessary late-term abortions. Shannon’s fight and willingness to keep trying and trying despite years of struggle shows us just how important it is to never give up when we are passionate about causes that inspire us. There is much to learn from Shannon’s drive and determination!
Outside of the political arena, Shannon sits on the Board of Trustees of the Derryfield School in Manchester and has been a champion for opening up quality education to the children of the Greater Manchester area where she has had impact and success! Importantly, Shannon and her husband Doug are the proud and very busy parents of five wonderful sons.
Quotes of the Week: Greatness
“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
“The price of greatness is responsibility.”