Ambassador Andrew Young draws hundreds to a Richmond community dinner

on October 24, 2014

In the second visit by a national political figure in a week, Richmond was host to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young. The dinner, sponsored by the Chevron backed nonprofit, For Richmond, drew about 450 people to the Lavonya DeJean Middle School.

Last week potential 2016 presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I) visited Richmond to warn about growing economic inequality.

This week Young focused on how cooperation, diversity and responsibility can have an outsized effect on a city’s fortunes.

Drawing on his fifty years of public service going back to the early days of the Civil Rights Movement alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., Young used humor, story-telling and pointed political remarks to offer lessons on how community engagement can grow Richmond’s economy and enrich its’ public life.

The former Ambassador repeatedly touched on the themes of diversity and transparency in civic life as keys to municipal success. Young, whose long, multi-faceted career also included being an ordained minister, as a U.S. Congressman, and Mayor of Atlanta shared his personal career successes, and used his work as mayor as a model for growing a community’s economy to join the mainstream global economy.

The diversity of Atlanta was one of the major driving points for the city’s fast economic development, Young said, diversity similar to that of Richmond. Atlanta is now home to 1500 German companies, he said. “They realized that there were smart black folks, smart white folks,” said Young. “You can’t do it white, or black or brown or whatever color, it’s got to be rainbow,” he said as the audience applauded. “It’s got to be gay and straight, and anything else.”

Young joked that he lured German companies to do business in Atlanta by highlighting the city’s assets. “The best place to be in the U.S. market is Atlanta, Georgia… we got nice climate, you know it never gets too hot,” he said as the audience broke out in laughter “[and] it never gets too cold, there’s plenty of options.”

In a piece of not so veiled advice to Richmond, Young shared that in order to bring more money into a city, the city had to operate in a safe, honest and efficient manner.

“You got to be honest because you can make more money honestly in a growing economy than you can steal in a dying economy. It’s not morale. It’s economics. If you want to make more money, create an honest environment and people will trust you with your money and they’ll bring more,” he said.

“All I’m saying is that everything you consider a problem in this city, flip it, and flip your attitude toward it and it becomes an opportunity, a profitable opportunity,” Young said.

Young also took a shot at Republicans who devote themselves to blocking the current president of the United States. “I love my president, he’s cool amidst all of the chaos, [and] the confusion around him but he’s an intellectual and he’s not used to dealing with thugs.” Young paused and said; “they don’t teach thuggery at Harvard or in Hawaii.”

According to For Richmond’s Executive Director Kyra Worthy, the event was successful and she hopes that Young inspired attendees to be more involved and to become leaders in the Richmond community.

“I want people to feel that Richmond is a safe place to live and work, but also to be engaged and volunteer…that was the main goal,” said Worthy.

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