As Director of Finance & Operations at Saatchi & Saatchi New York, I have a special interest in diversity in our workplace. I was asked to make some opening remarks to a forum presented by the New York Times, Monster.com and Disability Solutions’ on “The Changing World of Diversity & Inclusion Recruitment.”
In preparing my remarks, stories about two people came immediately to mind: the late actor Christopher Reeve – we have shared language in “Nothing Is Impossible”; and Saatchi & Saatchi senior copywriter Ken Opalsky, whose office is about three doors away from me (we’re the ultimate left-right brain combination). Read the full text of the remarks below to see how this all came together.
Also speaking was Commissioner Matthew Sapolin from the NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, followed by a panel incorporating Stephen Pemberton – Chief Diversity Officer, VP Diversity and Inclusion, Monster.com; Candi Castleberry-Singleton – Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, UPMC, Eugene Kelly, Worldwide Director, Global Workplace Initiatives, Colgate Palmolive; and Joseph Bendas, Executive Office, Wawa.
It was an inspiring forum. Learnings included: 70% of disabled people are ready and willing to work – “wear us out, exhaust us!”; “compliance drives diversity – culture drives inclusion”; “what’s the business case?” is not the question!; and “we’re not in the “hope business” – this is about smart business decisions.”
Full Speech (600 words)
Distinguished guests. Our Sponsors Hire Disability Solutions, Monster, The New York Times. Good morning to you all.
I have three words to offer you today. They are not my words; I am simply passing them on to you. I know that when you hear them, you will all get their meaning, instantly and viscerally.
These words are the foundation of our company worldwide, and they have inspired thousands of our people to go beyond their comfort zones, to push beyond the safe and secure, and to take a risk on life.
At Saatchi & Saatchi we want our people not just to have ideas but to have world-changing ideas. Because we want our people to create brands that people love, not merely like. We’re told by neuroscientists that reason leads to conclusions; but that emotion leads to action. Therefore, being emotional about something is more likely to lead you achieving the impossible, than not.
Our three words are “Nothing Is Impossible.”
Some years ago we were very fortunate at Saatchi & Saatchi to have an association with the late Christopher Reeve. He participated at some events at our agency and contributed to a special occasion we were celebrating. He too believed that “Nothing Is Impossible.” So much so that he called his book about his new life “Nothing Is Impossible.”
I quote from the back cover – “Christopher Reeve challenges us not to accept limitations. He shows that we are all capable of overcoming seemingly insurmountable hardships.
“He teaches us that for able-bodied people, paralysis is a choice: to live with self-doubt and a fear of taking risks, or to live fully with zeal, curiosity, and gratitude.”
This is my way of introducing to you my colleague Ken Opalsky, a senior copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi on our Procter & Gamble and General Mills creative teams. He writes wonderful scripts, screenplays and social media ideas for our great clients such as Cheerios, Tide, and Iams. Ken has been recognized by clients for the outstanding commercial outcomes his ideas and scripts have achieved.
When Ken was at college his life changed in an instant. He had an accident while at the beach one day, diving into a part of the ocean that turned out to be just too shallow. And so his life in a chair began. He finished college as an advertising major and came to Saatchi & Saatchi for an interview.
The great thing for both of us is that 20 years ago our building had ramps – he could actually get into the building. This was not the case with every agency he visited at the time.
Life in a chair was new for both Ken and Saatchi. There was a lot we didn’t know, but we both had the attitude “we’ll work it out.” And we did. One of the great things about being a writer in advertising is that you travel to film shoots – and Ken has been all over America, to London, to Barcelona. He’s been up mountains, and he’s been down dry river beds. And he goes to Austin Texas for music festivals, and to the Caribbean to scuba dive.
Ken says that in the early days he was sometimes left at airports after planes took off without him, or worse, left on the planes when they landed. And in the spirit of doing what is right and reasonable, Ken joined a number of class action suits to bring airlines and hotels and car rental companies into the real world of diversity. He deserves our acclaim for this alone. Ken is with us today. Give us a shout out Ken.
To Ken, “Nothing Is Impossible” is about the desire to do it; to figure out a way to do anything; to show people the possibilities. To Saatchi & Saatchi employees and clients, it is a spirit that resides in our hallways each and everyday. It is what makes brands Lovemarks.
To echo the words of Christopher Reeve, “live fully with zeal, curiosity, and gratitude.”
Nothing Is Impossible.