Nothing’s easy.

Nothing’s easy.

What are parents’ ambitions for their children?

Success. Yes.
But the harbingers of their personal success are there for us parents to decipher early.
Very early.
Every one of them measured differently from the others.
Every one of them encouraged differently from the others.

children helping each other.png

But intertwined with their physical world preparedness is their spiritual development.
Values.
Less tangible than a grade.
Less easily measurable.

The Ten Commandments.
Works of mercy.
Kindness.

My son Dom, the oldest, found his spiritual success in a natural way, as a youth continuing into his manhood, shining his immense understanding and empathy on everyone who comes in contact with him. I’ve never met anyone to whom people are more drawn than Dom.
My son Mino found spiritual success by involving himself in the lives of people around him: friends and family. Helping significantly in many ways, on many occasions. In soup kitchens. In Joseph Campbell.
My only daughter, much younger than her brothers, carrying the spiritual tradition in her unique way, an activist Vice-President of the Swarthmore College student government.

But today’s post belongs to Chris, the youngest of the sons, the Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft, whose good works leave a trail from the Samaritans when he was in high school and college, to the Harvard College Ames Award given him on Graduation Day, while I, in the audience, crying for joy and pride, remembering the time I suggested to him he might be spending too much of his time helping others, now hoping he had forgotten that thought.
And today, Chris leading a giant technology company up the stony path of humanitarianism.

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Tagging Today
Saturday, December 8, 2018
My 240th consecutive posting, committed to 5,000.
Time is 12.01am.
Boston’s temperature will reach a high of  32* with a feels-like of 23. Full sun.
It appears that the next four days’ forecasts will be the same: temperature, sun, breeze, and dry. Easy to maintain a dressing rhythm.

Dinner today is a rack of baby back ribs with one hot Italian pork sausage.

Work of Mercy

Work of Mercy

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Short Takes
The Harvard Ames Award:
This very prestigious Senior Class honor granted to one man and one woman chosen by their classmates and awarded during the Class Day ceremonies, on the day before Commencement.

On June 19, 1935, Richard Glover Ames and Henry Russell Ames, brothers and Harvard students, gave their lives to save their father, who was washed overboard during a storm off the coast of Newfoundland.

Every year since, the Ames Award has been given in their memory to recognize
one man and one woman who have shown energy in helping others and who
exhibited the same heroic character and inspiring leadership of the Ames
brothers.
While many Harvard students are commended for their achievements, this award is unique in striving to identify individuals whose substantial contributions have not been acknowledged.
In effect, the goal of this award is to honor two unsung heroes of the Senior Class.

We welcome nominations of seniors whom you consider
worthy of such an honor, whether their service has impacted the community inside or outside of Harvard, on a large or small scale.
We ask for your help in bringing their stories, and the lesser-known facets of our classmates’ personalities, to light.

Bodies of three men lynched in Georgia, May 1892.

Bodies of three men lynched in Georgia, May 1892.

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Question of the Day:
What kind of battles are being fought to make our society more just?

An investigation, led by Bryan Stevenson, into the question of whether the death penalty and mass incarceration have replaced lynchings and slavery.

 

God Damn! Did we do this? Are we still doing it masked behind an abuse of the death penalty and mass incarceration? Are there some of us dedicating themselves and their power to combat this?

God Damn!
Did we do this?
Are we still doing it masked behind an abuse of the death penalty and mass incarceration?
Are there some of us dedicating themselves and their power to combat this?

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Bryan Stevenson initiated the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, which honors the names of each of the over 4,000 African Americans lynched in the twelve states of the South from 1877 to 1950.  He argues that the history of slavery and lynchings has influenced the subsequent high rate of death sentences in the South, where it has been disproportionately applied to minorities.  A related museum, From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, will offer interpretations to show the connection between the post-Reconstruction period of lynchings to the high rate of executions and incarceration of people of color in the United States.

Bryan Stevenson initiated the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, which honors the names of each of the over 4,000 African Americans lynched in the twelve states of the South from 1877 to 1950.
He argues that the history of slavery and lynchings has influenced the subsequent high rate of death sentences in the South, where it has been disproportionately applied to minorities.
A related museum, From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, will offer interpretations to show the connection between the post-Reconstruction period of lynchings to the high rate of executions and incarceration of people of color in the United States.

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Answer to Question:
My Inclusion Journey from Redmond to Montgomery
Published on December 5, 2018

Bryan A. Stevenson (born November 14, 1959) is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law.  Based in Montgomery, Alabama, Stevenson has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children.  He has helped achieve United States Supreme Court decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death or to life imprisonment without parole. Stevenson has assisted in cases that have saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty, advocated for poor people, and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.

Bryan A. Stevenson (born November 14, 1959) is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law.
Based in Montgomery, Alabama, Stevenson has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children.
He has helped achieve United States Supreme Court decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death or to life imprisonment without parole.
Stevenson has assisted in cases that have saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty, advocated for poor people, and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.

In March 2017 my wife took me on a date night to a Seattle Arts and Lectures series. The speaker was a social justice activist, lawyer, and author named Bryan Stevenson, and he blew the audience away. I was moved and inspired as he talked about his work helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. I went home that night and started reading his book, Just Mercy.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.  Just Mercy is an upcoming biographical drama film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, based on the memoir by Bryan Stevenson and stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

Just Mercy is an upcoming biographical drama film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, based on the memoir by Bryan Stevenson and stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson.

As I was absorbing the lessons in Bryan’s book, I was also on a personal journey at Microsoft working to make our team (and our company) more inclusive. We were starting to have necessary but sometimes uncomfortable conversations across various forums to try to learn from each other. In June, I shared the five most important lessons I learned that fiscal year and proximity powers empathy topped my list and was inspired by Bryan’s book. In July, I gave a speech dedicated to inclusive marketing to our sales force, which was a major personal step for me. In August, my leadership team decided to make inclusion one of just three core priorities, signaling an even deeper commitment. Bryan's stories helped me think beyond the halls of Microsoft and provided historical context that gave more power to the small steps we were taking each day.

What I didn’t know back then was that I was about to plunge headfirst (with my leadership team) on an experience that pushed me far outside of my comfort zone and ultimately lead to an incredible journey of learning and listening.

In April 2018, I read a slew of press coverage about the opening of The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. These are two new sites in Montgomery, Alabama created by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), which is Bryan Stevenson's non-profit organization. EJI built these sites as part of its mission to have an honest conversation about our shared history of racial injustice in America and its enduring and damaging effect on African Americans. When I read the press coverage, I knew I wanted to visit these sites in person one day and I started wondering if I could do this as a leadership offsite focused on inclusion.

Chris Capossela and his HR partner follow up an early conversation with a team visit to the museum.

Chris Capossela and his HR partner follow up an early conversation with a team visit to the museum.

The notion of taking the team from Redmond, Washington to Montgomery, Alabama felt unorthodox to say the least. It wasn't until I finally suggested the idea to my business manager that I realized how much I really wanted to make it happen. I wanted us to “get proximate,” as Bryan says, to our country's painful history, and to have a shared experience that could impact us as individuals and maybe as a leadership team too. I felt excited and unsure. People might question why we’d travel across the country for an offsite. What did studying slavery, segregation, and mass incarceration have to do with Microsoft and cloud computing?

After a big Microsoft customer event in Orlando, I flew to Montgomery with my business manager and HR partner to visit the museum and the memorial. We were quickly convinced that this unorthodox idea could be a powerful experience for my leadership team. We were all in.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the highest per-capita incarceration rate.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the highest per-capita incarceration rate.

After months of planning, November 5th was finally here. It was mid-term election day in the United States, which made the day feel more poignant, with voters across the country hoping their leaders would be elected. Leading up to the trip, everyone read Just Mercy, and watched Bryan’s Ted Talk, as a way to be more prepared for what we would experience together.

Kiara, Elliot, and Bre from EJI were our excellent hosts that day making the experience unique. Everyone in our group had the time to make their way through the museum at their own pace. Although the museum has a relatively small footprint, it’s packed with history, interactive experiences, powerful stories, animations, videos, and pictures that were both beautiful and heartbreaking. The main room is anchored by a timeline mural that starts with slavery then moves to segregation and finishes with mass incarceration. Everyone was quiet as they read and listened. Since it was my second time through the museum, I was able to see details I missed the first time. I also observed that even though we were a group, each person was having their own individual experience.

The Microsoft team drawn closer by the shared experience. How will the experience affect their thinking?

The Microsoft team drawn closer by the shared experience.
How will the experience affect their thinking?

After three hours in the museum, we made our way to lunch. For some people this was a time to process by interacting with each other. Others sat quietly, preferring to process by reflecting alone. Seeing the impact the museum had on the team made me feel incredibly relieved but also eager to compare observations and find some level of a shared understanding of what we witnessed in the morning. It became clear to me that this was going to take a lot more time and conversations than I had anticipated.

After lunch we walked up to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It was good to get some fresh air, and the Alabama sun did not disappoint. We stopped at many of the historical markers that EJI has erected across the city.

The memorial was stunning. The first glimpse of it as you walk through the entrance has an incredible visual impact. As we made our way through the memorial, we looked at the hanging, rusted blocks that resemble coffins and read the names of the people who were lynched and the counties and states where they were lynched. There are small signs describing the events that led to a person or a family being lynched. It’s a somber and evocative space. Our group was once again quiet and introspective.

I became more acutely aware, not just of the terrible acts carried out in many counties across the country, but also of the larger-scale systems failures that created the environment where these atrocities could go on for years. Often our efforts to be more inclusive focus on the small personal interactions we have with one another many times a day. But leaders also have a responsibility to improve the systems that an organization (or even a country) has in place as well.

When we finished at the memorial, we were met by the charming and effervescent Michelle Browder, our Montgomery tour guide for the next 90 minutes. With hugs, smiles, and laughs, Michelle gathered us onto her bus. Michelle's family has a rich history in the area, and she brought a personal perspective to our tour, which included her hopefulness about the future. She brought us to the Dexter Avenue Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor, and then we visited the house where he lived. It was special to realize the importance of this one church and one house in the history of civil rights in America.

After Michelle’s tour, we headed to the Equal Justice Initiative offices to meet with Bryan. I felt honored that he would take time out of his schedule to meet with us. Bryan shared his journey and experiences along the way. He talked about how he handles a bad day, why he doesn’t think he’d pursue life as a politician, how he stays open to new ideas despite having so much on his plate already, and how Microsoft could help with his mission.

It was a phenomenal day of learning and an emotional rollercoaster. I’m still processing what the day will mean for the team and for me. I think I’ll be processing for a while, but some learnings are already very clear.

First, taking my entire leadership team from Redmond to Montgomery was a great decision. While it pushed me outside my comfort zone, I'm thrilled we did it. I need to keep pushing myself to do unorthodox things because that’s where the best learning takes place and that’s probably where the best ideas for change come from.

Second, having a shared learning experience about our country's history leads to very different kinds of conversations than traditional business discussions. In talking to my team members, they each had their own personal learnings, but the trip also gave us a shared experience that we can use to make progress on inclusion.

The Microsoft team that will digest their shared experiences and use them to develop ideas going forward. Chris is fourth from right. Bryan Stevenson is the only African American in the picture. That might give the team something to think about. The jars that are in the background contain soil from the counties in which lynchings have occurred.

The Microsoft team that will digest their shared experiences and use them to develop ideas going forward.
Chris is fourth from right.
Bryan Stevenson is the only African American in the picture.
That might give the team something to think about.
The jars that are in the background contain soil from the counties in which lynchings have occurred.

Third, getting close to people who inspire and challenge you is amazingly motivating, and it can be a great change agent for yourself and your team. Team leadership experiences are often short-lived in their impact. But this one feels different. Bryan and his team gave us a great gift in sharing their work, their passion, and their perspective. They helped me think more about the systems of our organizations, and my opportunity and responsibility to make them more inclusive.

Finally, I’ve learned that there is value in bearing witness to someone else’s reality even if you don’t know exactly what actions you’ll take next. It’s so easy to want to jump in, to try to make a difference, to create some new program that will change our diversity metrics or make us feel better by doing something. Believe me, I’ve got a long list of ideas now, in large part because of this trip. But I also think it’s valuable to not rush to action. There’s richness in taking the time to listen and learn from people who have committed their life’s work to something very distant from your area of expertise. This trip, at its core, was about us bearing witness to someone else’s painful and inspiring journey and reflecting on how it can and should impact each of our own journeys to come. Who would have thought a simple date night could lead to that?

Chris Capossela

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Andrea McGonigle, National Managing Director, Health & Life Sciences Industry at Microsoft

Fabulous and insightful post Chris! Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is so important, You have inspired me to think about how I can do more of this myself and with my team. Thank you

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Jeremy Hall, Business Development and Marketing. Continuous Learner.

Amazing. Thank you for sharing Chris! There is magic in seemingly ordinary moments.

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Sarah J. Haggard, Compete Strategist @ Microsoft // Tribute Founder & CEO

I read Just Mercy years ago, and like you felt called to action and inspired to be part of the change. Love Bryan’s work and am so excited for you and the team that you have an appreciation for it too. Inclusion starts with a humble understanding of our different paths.

What can I do to help?

What can I do to help?

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Good morning on this Saturday, December 8, Christmas now 17 days away.

Today we talked about parents hopes for their children.The Harvard Ames Award. We talked about slavery and lynchings and their modern counterparts. And we heard from Chris and his efforts to make Microsoft a more inclusive company.

Che vuoi? Le pocketbook?

See you soon.

Love

Dom