Philadelphia's future hinges on true diversity of its workforce
Unless the CEOs of this town take it to heart, the dream of turning Philadelphia into a “Global City” will be considerably delayed.
It is my personal fantasy to think of Philadelphia as a city that was born with a calling to be a “Global City,” ever since its founder, Mr. William Penn, imagined it, branding it from the beginning, in 1682, a “Holy Experiment."
He was just dreaming, wildly, as only dreamers do.
However, enabling with those dreams investors, architects and builders to turn his patient rectangular drawings, made by him on a ordinary piece of paper, first into a village of tiny houses and modest buildings, squarely built in between the Delaware River and a creek the local Indians used to call the Schuylkill River.
A village sitting in between 2 rivers, turned by others dreamers who followed into the capital of a new and mighty nation.
Human beings of the most diverse backgrounds gathered here, first as settlers, then as entrepreneurs and intellectuals— as Benjamin Franklin did in 1723, moving from Massachusetts, or Thomas Paine did in 1774, moving from Scotland.
Other visionaries, adventurers and risk takers followed them and converged here in the sweltering Summer of 1776 to turn 13 British colonies into a new nation, again imagined on a piece of paper, this time called “The Declaration of Independence," which triggered revolutions against European powers from Philadelphia, throughout the Americas, to the farthest Southern tips of Argentina and Chile.
What made our local historic event possible?
I strongly believe it was because of dozens of enlightened leaders from the most contrasting backgrounds, sometimes in open contradiction —like John Adams fiercely opposing Thomas Jefferson, the South always fighting the North— no one ever losing the secular faith that, out of the opposing and diverse views, the best ideas would bubble up to the surface to enact the common good.
A civil society was born in the process after intense debates and a long revolutionary war, and a new nation —the mightiest in economic, cultural and military powers in the history of Western Civilization— was eventually established.
All imagined here, in the half acre space where Independence Mall is standing.
We are sometimes oblivious to this extraordinary past, no matter the abundance of historic evidence to witness here every day in own our backyard.
Every time I walked by the graveyard of Benjamin Franklin, on the corner of Arch Street and Fifth Street, and the House where that Virginian named Thomas Jefferson wrote his Declaration of Independence, a few blocks away, on Market Street and Seventh Street, I wonder when the city will get inspired again on that wondrous past, born in an instant of brilliance by the most diverse minds we were lucky to host here 243 years ago.
This is the simple inspiration of the upcoming AL DÍA News Media LIVE event, we have called “PHL_DIVERSECity Career Fair.”
After 70 years of a devastating population loss, and 18 years of AL DÍA tirelessly and against all odds doing this event, Philadelphia is gradually coming back, and its recovery has been labeled “a boom” by he Philadelphia Magazine and its newly-found appeal being branded as "a world destination to visit" by the prestigious New York Times.
I would say not so much because of the substantial capital investments being made, East and West of the Schuylkill River, as it is a result of the blessing of its diverse Human Capital (Latinos, Asians, India, Hindus, Africans, Europeans, Arabs, Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americans, Millennials of all kinds, etc.), all immigrants coming to our city for their own opportunity under the sun.
As Marek Gootman, from the Brookings Institution, put it recently, for Philadelphia to continue strong on this path of recovery, “Business Leaders need to step up”, and support the inclusion of the diverse and very capable people we don't have here yet, the very diverse Human Capital needed to propel Philadelphia fast forward.
Or, more importantly, tap into the new Diversity already visible here in almost all of our Zip Codes.
These existing Human Resources, properly educated and equipped over time in the 16 colleges and world-class universities existing in our immediate region, can turn our city again into a shining star on the Eastern seaboard in the twenty first century.
Philadelphia, thank God, is a “DIVERSECity” again, as it was in 1776, but the truth of the matter is that the current workforce, as it's its leadership at the highest political and corporate levels, is yet to reflect the diverse faces visible now in our neighborhoods.
How can that vital transformation happen?
That "is the job of the CEO”, the Brookings Institution expert squarely stated.