First Words — 02 September 2016
A series of fortunate events

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

I was telling two-time Olympic gold medalist Carli Lloyd at dinner at the Broward Center last year that I don’t like to drop names. That I consider name-dropping a personal fault. That I always try to stop myself from name-dropping before I do.

Well, “No journey to the top is ever perfect,” the soccer midfielder reassured. “We move on and keep our heads up. The best is yet to come!”

Yes! Good advice, I thought. (Did I mention I was having dinner with two-time Olympic gold medalist Carli Lloyd, by the way? Well, technically, I was having dinner. She was in training for the Rio Olympics, so, you know, she wasn’t allowed to eat. At least not what I was eating. Which was not technically, you know, training food).

I was telling my story about having dinner with Carli Lloyd to political commentator James Carville a few weeks later, and he said Bill Clinton had once given him some good advice, too.

“Study hard and meet as many people as you can that are not like you,” he said.

Yes! Good advice again, I thought, even if it was, technically, secondhand. But what about him, I wondered – surely, in his line of work, he must be dropping names in politics all the time. (Like Bill Clinton’s).

“Politics!” Carville said. “You know that’s from the Latin word ‘poli’ – meaning many – and ‘tics’ – meaning blood-sucking animals.”

Ha! Another good one, I thought. (Although, I made a note to check if he might have been quoting Robin Williams).

I started wondering if name-dropping – maybe even forgetting exactly who said what? – might be a fault we all share as we get older.

Over dinner with Mo Rocca, the CBS Sunday Morning correspondent, I got keen insight.

“As you get older,’’ the pithy Rocca reassured, “you start to care less about what people think of you.”

Yes! No, wait, I thought. First, hey, I’m not that old! Did I mention I just had dinner with Carli Lloyd! And I do care what other people think.

I think we all do.

Which brings me to the Broward College Speaker Series, which afforded the encounters with all the people attached to the names I just dropped here, to a fault.

But I’m dropping their names because they’re all names worth dropping. They all were generous with their time, they all had good advice and they all took time out of their busy lives – which included Olympic non eating! – to spend time with all of us here.

Like a professor preparing coursework for the upcoming school session, Broward College President J. David Armstrong has been working on the syllabus for the 2016-17 speaker series, again at the Broward Center. This season’s lineup will begin with CNN and CNN en Español analyst Ana Navarro, speaking Jan. 23 on “The Political Landscape in Washington”; broadcast legend Ted Koppel, speaking Feb. 22 on “Breaking News: A Look around the Globe”; and author and MacArthur “genius grant” fellow Angela Duckworth will conclude the series April 5 with “True Grit: The Science of Success. Who succeeds in life?”

“There’s something uniquely powerful about being in the same room, 50 feet away from some of the most important thinkers, performers, athletes and hearing their unfiltered opinions and thoughts about important issues,” Armstrong said. “My experience with people who attend these events is that they come away inspired, or challenged in their thinking or their knowledge base; and that’s what we hope for.”

Some of the sessions have been well attended, some not so much, Armstrong conceded. Here’s hoping the series, now moving into its fourth season, continues to inspire, challenge – and grow.

I thought back to my dinner with Carli Lloyd, and remembered her words that seem fitting here, looking ahead to this year’s Broward College Speaker Series and, well, everything else in life:

“You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.’’

-— mgauert@cityandshore.com 

Above: Broward College President J. David Armstrong and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who spoke at the 2015 series.

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