June MB Chairman Letter

I always think about the month of June as a time for looking forward to the future but also a time to reflect on the past.  It may be because growing up June was the end of my grammar school year, and soon-to-be graduates, while excited for the next challenge, always seemed to look back wistfully at the same time.  (And point of pride, two of my children graduated this year -- one from a graduate program and one from high school magnum cum laude -- and Heidi and I cannot be prouder.)  It may be because June is sandwiched between Memorial Day and July 4th, both national holidays that ask us to honor the past, appreciate the sacrifices made by others that allows us to enjoy certain freedoms and possibilities and to recommit to certain ideals, even if we sometimes fall short as individuals and as a society.  

During our May Chamber Chat, Mayor Gelber reflected on Miami Beach’s significant role in training members of the armed forces during World War II out on our beaches.  (Chamber Chat, a monthly Zoom call that allows chamber members the opportunity to interact directly with the Mayor and his staff sponsored by First Horizon Bank, was the brainchild of incoming chair-elect Richard Segal and spearheaded by immediate past chair Robin Jacobs.  I invite all of you to join us as we have immediate access and a chance to question Mayor Gelber on topics important to chamber members.)  During that Chamber Chat, Mayor Gelber suggested that we form an exploratory committee to raise funds for an installation to honor those men and women who made sacrifices (for some the ultimate sacrifice) for our enjoyment of liberty and equality and as a reminder of the connection our community had to those training efforts.  I think this is a fitting time to have this discussion and undertake this effort.  Memories fade over time, as they are wont to do, and such an installation will serve as a reminder to future generations of the fidelity to country and human rights undertaken by those brave individuals.

We will have an opportunity to honor our own local heroes in June at the Chamber’s Heroes Breakfast on June 29th at the Loews Miami Beach where our Pillar Board will recognize individuals from our police, fire, and ocean rescue professionals, all of whom have been nominated for their bravery and accomplishments in keeping our local community safe and secure.  Please plan to join us that morning to honor some truly remarkable individuals and to give thanks for their vigilance in protecting our residents, guests and visitors from harm and danger.

In addition to Memorial Day and July 4th, today we have another holiday midway between the two – Juneteenth – the federal holiday President Biden signed into law in 2021 through the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.  Juneteenth is designated as a national holiday to not only to commemorate the emancipation of the enslaved population of the United States, but also as an opportunity to celebrate the contributions and culture of African Americans to society, arts, education, technology, both here and in other countries.  Like other holidays, it is a chance to pause to reflect on the past and look to the future.

When then President Barack Obama gave his remarks about Independence Day in 2016, he could have been speaking about all three holidays in saying:  

“And that story of independence is not something that happens and then we just put away.  It’s something that we have to fight for every single day.  It’s something we have to nurture, and we have to spread the word, and we have to work on.  And it involves us recognizing that there are still people in this country who are going hungry – and they’re not free because of that.  There are still people in this country who can’t find work – and freedom without the ability to contribute to society and put a roof over your head or look after your family, that’s not yet what we aim for.  And so on a day like this, we celebrate, we have fun, we marvel at everything that’s been done before, but we also have to recommit ourselves to making sure that everybody in this country is free; that everybody has opportunity; that everybody gets a fair shot . . .That is what we should be striving for on [these holidays].”

Like President Obama, the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce has in our past resolutions, in our present actions and in future conduct to unequivocally condemns all forms of racism and discrimination; support education programs that increase awareness and counter prejudice; and promote universal lessons of inclusiveness and openness.  This year, during the month of June, let us reflect on our blessings, give thanks for our families, and recommit ourselves to helping to lift our entire community to be one of bounty and tolerance for all.