December 18, 2020
Kueker's Keynote

How Will 2020 Be Remembered?

As 2020 winds down, I find myself looking to 2021 and reflecting quite a bit. This happens every year as the calendar turns from one year to the next, but I’m more reflective this year than in years past. I suppose that’s to be expected given that 2020 has been like no other year I’ve ever experienced. As I take in news and talk with friends and colleagues, so much of the sentiment toward 2020 is understandably negative. I, like most people, look forward to putting 2020 behind me to shift focus to 2021 and all it has to offer. However, does 2020 have to be a total loss? A year simply to be forgotten? Or is there goodness that can be gleaned from facing the tough challenges that arose?

After many months of quarantining, I formed a greater appreciation for the simple, but most important, things in my life. I feel deeply for those who lost loved ones to COVID-19, and I have learned to value health – my own, and that of my family, friends and colleagues. My family and I took advantage of the extra time we gained by commuting less, to exercise more. We learned to enjoy the time spent together preparing meals, as opposed to going out to eat so much. Spending way more time with my wife and daughter in quarantine, while simultaneously not being able to see so many other loved ones, I’ve learned how lucky I am to have such wonderful family and friends. I now have a greater appreciation for the most important people in my life, and will never again take even an hour of time with them for granted.

I’ve had similar epiphanies from a professional perspective. While being away from the office for so long, I have realized a greater appreciation for my Kenway and client colleagues. I’ve learned that I draw positive energy from these wonderful people, many of whom have become great friends. I’ve witnessed both Kenway and our clients go to great lengths to not only persevere during these tough times, but to improve. We’ve thought of so many creative ways to sustain our corporate cultures, to provide social outlets for employees, and to adapt amazingly well to remote work. While I can’t wait to collaborate in person again next year, I also trust that we will continue to think creatively about how to care for employees’ well-being, and sustain the benefits many have realized with increased flexibility and time with family that remote work has provided.

In addition to COVID-19, the gruesome public acts of violence this year against George Floyd and others forced us to face another, even worse, pandemic that has plagued our society for hundreds of years: the pandemic of institutional racism. I’m embarrassed to say that prior to 2020, I was part of the problem because I was not part of the solution. After looking in the mirror and better educating myself, I now know that I was falling woefully short. While my values did not allow me to knowingly tolerate biases that lead to injustice and discriminatory practices, I now realize that I have inevitably fallen prey to the traps of systemic racism by thinking that not propagating the problem was enough. I am personally committed to improving and, along with Kenway leadership, have committed to building a diverse, equitable and inclusive company that will positively impact the communities in which we live and do business. I think this newfound enlightenment and commitment to positive change is widespread, and I’m optimistic that after far too long, we can all band together to bring an end to social injustices that have plagued society for far too long.

So, how will 2020 be remembered? My opinion is that the jury is still out, and we will not be able to fully answer that question for many years. How we continue to react to these challenges will shape our future. We control our own destiny. Will 2020 be gladly forgotten, or will it be remembered as the year that catalyzed so much necessary and positive change? Will we forget all we learned about ourselves, our businesses, and our society once things improve a bit? Or will we hold these challenges with us and remain committed to not only improving ourselves, but also improving the lives of those around us?

Personally, I’m committed to continuing to take actions to become a better husband, father, friend, co-worker, CEO and, most importantly, a better citizen and person overall. I’m optimistic that many others feel similarly and that 2020 will not only be a year we remember, but also one for which we will be thankful.

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