Grassroots Movements Work!
There is a prominent person I have the good fortune of knowing; his influence extends deeply into many circles in this province and well beyond. His influence on my own life has been profound. He is one of those people who exemplifies the best of what Canadians have to offer, never forgetting where he came from, nor his promise to share his success with others. One day last summer I went to him with what seemed to me to be a mighty big problem. He listened patiently as I explained the difficult situation in which I found myself. Occasionally he asked a few questions, but mostly he just listened. My reason for contacting him then was to thank him for being such a good example, and to ask for some advice on how he might handle the situation if he were in my shoes. After bolstering my resolve with a few kind words, he pointed out that a large part of his success was due to the fact that he had a strategic plan for his life; he also gave full credit to the fact that his wife worked that plan along with him. There is something powerful about people working together on a plan even if the group begins with only two. He commented that each year he and his wife reflected on how closely their lives mirrored the plan they had devised. It’s not that they didn’t ever encounter challenges along the way, it’s just that when those obstacles arose they had strategies to deal with them; tackling problems prudently and strategically can yield some amazing results. If you have a plan and the conviction to do it, don’t be surprised to find that you get what you asked for. It might not be easy, but it can be as simple as: “Plan it.” “Do it.” “Get it”. If you didn’t get what you wanted, it is most often because you didn’t have a plan, or if you did, you didn’t do what it required.
Wisely, that summer day when I met with him, he didn’t jump in and solve my problems for me, instead he suggested that I write a strategic plan for my own life and see what might become of it. I wrote a simple plan am very glad I did. I’m not going to tell you that all of my problems have been solved by the plan, but a good many of them were and with remarkable speed. Others were put into perspective; some disappeared all together. With a better perspective and some new goals to focus on, I accomplished a lot of things in a very brief period of time, some of them with a good deal of ease. As if these points were not enough, I had fun and met some magnificent folks along the way. The things I still have to accomplish are getting done more or less on time. So, as far as I can tell, this planning stuff works quite well. www.boatingvancouver.wordpress.com was just one of the fruits to blossom from that plan.
Every so often I check in with this fellow to let him know that another milestone has been met, or to throw a new idea his way just to get his take on it. He always replies with speed and precision, often offering the sort of nuance and insight that could only be gained from someone with his position, influence and experience. He is not short on encouragement; perhaps because he knows I’m willing to put in the time and effort necessary to see my plan to fruition. I contacted him to let him know I was supporting the effort to keep the Kitsilano Coast Guard and he encouraged me in his typical fashion. So I thought I’d pass that encouragement on to others who might now be in need of it; perhaps if we all followed his advice, things would work in our favour. On the matter of striving toward the goal to keep the station open and the efforts we had made so far he said, “Remember with your talent and a plan anything is possible.”
A lot of very talented people are backing the Kits Coast Guard, what we need now is a plan to harness that talent so that lives will be saved. I believe it is possible to keep the station open; if I didn’t I would not be so committed to the cause. Perhaps the threat of closure is really just a sort of “felix culpa” moment that brought us all together to remind each other of the good the Coast Guard does and to demonstrate to Ottawa the impact Vancouverites can have when we work together toward a common goal, especially when that common goal involves saving human lives. If the station closes, Vancouver will have a very big problem. Remember though, a problem is only a problem until it is solved. When you have the solution you gain an asset you never have to lose; you gain the knowledge that you are capable of changing and capable of inspiring others to do same. You gain the understanding that you can prevent some bad things from happening by striving toward a better goal. You earn a story you can tell your children to inspire them on days when they too have something to overcome. The problems one generation solves become the inspiration for the generations which follow. We need to solve a few more problems if not for ourselves then for the little ones of tomorrow. With these thoughts in mind, I suggest we find a way to keep the Kits Station open one way or another. I suggest we take our talents and apply them to a plan.
What follows is the plan I am working on to save the Coast Guard; I’m not saying my plan is a good one; I’m not saying anyone else needs to follow it. What I am saying is that to achieve change you need some plan; good intention alone will not get you where you need to go. I suspect there are a few better plans floating around out there and I would love to hear about them. I’d also be happy to hear your thoughts on where my own plan might be improved or how it might evolve over time. It isn’t profound, but it is achievable; hopefully throwing it out to readers will at least get something on the drawing board to get us to the next level.
Preamble to the Plan to save Kitsilano Coast Guard Station:
- Keep your eyes on the prize! It might be tempting to be overwhelmed by obstacles or to get lost in the details, however maintaining focus on the vision of the Coast Guard being saved will do much more to keep us motivated and working toward our goal than anything else. Imagine the lives that will be saved in the future by the Kits Coast Guard; for that to happen they need to be there. For the station to be there for us tomorrow; we need to be there for them today. We need to show up with the same courage and conviction we would hope they would employ if we were the ones at risk.
- Be polite! When frustrations run high this point can be difficult to remember, but it is crucial to keeping us on track. Being polite is especially important when speaking to people who are unaware of the importance of this issue. People are more likely to listen to you if you are polite; the more people who listen to the issues, the more people who will support the Coast Guard. Polite does not mean wimpy; you can be tough as nails, stand your ground and still be polite. Saying “please” and “thank you” will find you currency you didn’t know you had. You will gain more influence with elected officials if you treat them with respect; regardless of their political stripes they are people too. Raise the bar on what you expect from them and you may be surprised to see them live up to your vision of what is possible. Besides, manners are a tradition which have served mariners well for centuries; let’s not forget what works. “If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, he shows he is a citizen of the world.” (Sir Francis Bacon)
- Put your plan in writing! Plans do not have to be complicated to be effective, in fact sometimes it’s the simplest plans well executed that make the difference in times like these. Whatever your plan, WRITE IT DOWN!
So here is the plan:
- Reach out to the citizens of Vancouver via social media to ask what plans are already in place to save the Coast Guard ( Deadline: complete this task by June 15);
- Where appropriate support existing plans and share them with others who might get involved; use www.boatingvancouver.wordpress.com to keep this issue in front of readers; employ other social media including facebook, twitter, and linked in to ensure that the issue is also kept in front of people beyond the boating community (Deadline: Ongoing until Coast Guard is saved);
- Join forces with at least two other people to organize a letter writing campaign to send letters to every MP in Canada. (Deadline: June 17th);
- Write a letter to the editor and send it to at least 5 newspapers (Deadline June 18th);
- Envision the finest dock party this city has ever seen, bringing citizens together to celebrate the success of this plan and others which contribute to saving the Coast Guard. (Deadline: Ongoing until Coast Guard is Saved);
- Make an effort to thank people who have gone out of their way to save the Coast Guard (Ongoing);
- Review plan daily and provide regular updates to readers on significant milestones as they are completed (Deadline: Ongoing until Coast Guard is Saved).
That’s my plan in a nutshell. Now is the time to DO IT! (Delta-Oscar India-Tango)
My family has lived in the Lower Mainland since 1874, and in other parts of Canada since before that. There is a park, at least one street, numerous plaques and a host of archival material which document the contributions certain family members made to the city of Vancouver and to other municipalities, to industry and to politics. There is a certain plaque I pass quite frequently and when I do I always run my finger across one particular name to remind myself of where I have come from and of where I am going. It reminds me I have a duty to live my life honourably and to take the punches gracefully when they come; it is a reminder that my Irish temper on occasion has had difficulty obeying. It is a reminder that power when given comes not for our own gain but always instead must be used for the good of others who depend on those to whom the power has been conferred. No matter how many times I touch that plaque its impact on me is the same. It reminds me that we are not alone in this world and that humanity is connected to each other from one generation to the next, and that my time on this earth had better be spent in a way that leaves a positive impact for those who may depend on me now and in the future. This life is a gift which we need to respect and use wisely. At some times, and in certain arenas, it is a difficult lesson to practice. The instinct of self-preservation can be stronger than the call to put others first. Yet, to do so, and to behave honourably is something I think we as Canadians are always called to do. Our decisions impact others. None of these sentiments are written on that plaque; it’s just the name of my family member written there which brings all these thoughts to mind.
That plaque reminds me too that at times the life of a politician is a difficult one; there are sacrifices to privacy and family commitments, compromises to be made, rules to follow, nuances to consider and agendas to be weighed with every decision. I think if Canadians actually understood the tightrope which honourable politicians must walk, they would do more to become involved in politics and do more to support those who are trying to do a good job in service to our country; yes, there are such men and women in public office. I have worked on political campaigns at every level of government and proudly so from coast to coast; despite its flaws I still have some faith in democracy and the parliamentary system. Because of my family heritage and those representatives I know personally in Victoria and in Ottawa, I tend to cut politicians a fair bit of slack when I hear stories of them in the media; often what is not reported in the media is the piece of the story that was most crucial to the decisions they make. Frequently decisions have political, ethical, cultural, economic and environmental points which must be considered simultaneously; on occasion these points conflict with each other creating shades of grey that do not show up in the black and white ink of media.
Besides my career as a writer and my involvement in the yachting industry, I occasionally get called upon to teach Business Ethics at the college level. Weighing shades of grey and ethical dilemmas which cut across political, moral and industrial divides is a hobby I take great pleasure in pursuing. These sorts of dilemmas in Canada are many and complex; our ability and willingness to navigate these concerns and stay united despite our differences somehow defines us as Canadians. However, I assure you wholeheartedly, my fellow Canadians, that the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station is not a decision that falls into this category. There is no political, economic, social, moral, or nautical justification which would warrant the closing of this base; not one. Any politician suggesting there is has misunderstood grossly some or all of the reasons which compel this location to remain open. If this station is closed lives will be lost, full stop. Any politician suggesting otherwise is in grave error and in gross neglect of their duty as a public servant. At no point were they elected to put human lives at risk; at no point will the sea bow down and say, “I will quell my force in obedience to Ottawa”. At no point will one human life lost at sea be forgotten conveniently in order to make this issue go away.
So to my friends in Ottawa, Victoria and Vancouver, to my friends in the Canadian Armed Forces, in academia and in industry; to my friends who live, work and play on the waters of this coast and the other; to every Canadian who understands the power of the sea and the requirement to respect its force; to every Canadian who values human life more than political convenience, now is our time to step up and support the Canadian Coast Guard to ensure that the Kitsilano Base remains open. Now is our time, for any life, in any vessel is worthy of preservation. The men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard valiantly put themselves in situations which threaten their own lives in order to preserve another; these people deserve our support; human lives depend on it.
Katrina Boguski M.A.
Proud Supporter of the Canadian Coast Guard