Photo:  Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, a Walk to Respect

Why would Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass be part of The Patterson Foundation's Honoring & Onward 10th Anniversary?

Posted on March 01, 2020 by Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation
It was January 6, 2010, when The Patterson Foundation (TPF) announced its approach to making an impact. After ten years of living its values, TPF is poised to continue strengthening the efforts of people, organizations, and communities by focusing on issues that address mutual aspirations, foster wide participation, and encourage learning and sharing. Since 2010, with a unique staffing approach, TPF has undertaken nine legacy initiatives plus 25 other initiatives, some of which are complete, and some still evolving.

Honoring & Onward is a multi-faceted engagement to celebrate TPF’s impact through people, organizations, and communities as it continues to connect, learn, share, evolve, and strengthen people, organizations, and communities to realize shared aspirations.

Honoring & Onward objectives:
Celebrate how TPF’s work with communities is making a difference
Engage people, organizations, and community in various endeavors
Demonstrate how the past informs the future
Heighten understanding of TPF’s approach and focus
Inspire onward actions to realize community aspirations

So why would TPF commission and present a play about Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass? The threads are many, but to name a few:
  • The wealth that created TPF can be traced back to the mid-1800s when Joseph Medill bought the Chicago Tribune for two reasons: to make money and to secure Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. Their relationship is evidenced by letters and even Lincoln’s hand-written subscription to the Chicago Tribune.

  • One of TPF’s Legacy Initiatives resulted in the creation of EdExploreSRQ, where community cultural organizations provide experiential learning for K-12 students because of Dorothy Patterson’s joy in taking her ten nieces and nephews to theatre performances.

  • Through its Aspirations to Actions initiative, TPF engages in relationship-building that begins with connecting, learning, and sharing to discover shared aspirations.
With Beth Duda, TPF’s director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, being an award-winning playwright, the idea of how two very different men could find respect for each other that would benefit the nation far beyond what either of them could do alone… percolated with possibilities to bring TPF’s Honoring & Onward to life.

Just a few excerpts from TPF’s Values added to the weaving of this endeavor:
  • Being accessible and engaged with others
  • Embracing new ideas
  • Undertaking philanthropic work in ways others aren’t
  • Focusing on shared aspirations 
In addition to Beth writing this play, rehearsing the actors, designing the set and lighting, selecting the music, and conducting the post-performance talkbacks, she worked with Booker Middle and Booker High School so students would see the same performances that others experienced at Bay Village, the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, and Manatee Community Foundation.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troup was an engaged partner. The Patterson Foundation staff coordinated invitations, promotion, set design, reservations, and participant surveys. With more than 1,000 people experiencing the moving dialog about how two disparate leaders formed a friendship of respect with the spoken words that resonate in modern times, feedback and interest have been extraordinary.

A few comments:
  • “This was a fabulously scripted and performed play with an abundance of meaning and depth”
  • “How relevant the example of respectful communication is so desperately needed today in all areas of life”
  • The importance of respect and friendship even when we don’t see eye to eye or agree on those ideas we are passionate about.” 

TPF is now exploring how to optimize this theatrical jewel to further strengthen individuals, organizations, and communities…. Stay tuned!


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