ArtsWestchester CEO Laments Losses Of Leaders In 2013

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Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England, was of many important people who died in 2013. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Every new year, I try to take stock, checking out gains and losses.  For me, this is not about finance, but about people who have crossed my path during their lifetime, but sadly have left us in 2013. 

First, of course, is the incomparable Nelson Mandela, my model for graceful compromise, inclusiveness and patience.  He showed us that embracing differences strengthens leadership. Oh, to be more like him. 

Thank heavens for Margaret Thatcher for being both formidable and a woman.  Then there was Ed Koch, the quotable Mayor of my beloved New York City, who made “How’m I doing?” a question I ask myself regularly. 

Muriel Siebert .. what pluck.  She decided to work for herself and was the first woman to secure a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

Yes, pluck is very important.  NY Times critic Ada Louise Huxtable taught me, and the rest of the world, to love architecture and preservation.

Movie star Esther Williams left us in 2013.  I was never a good swimmer, but as a chubby kid, I learned to visualize myself in a swim suit as a way of “thinking thin”.

Film critic Roger Ebert left us with the notion that it’s possible to have an outer body experience at the movies. Isn’t that why film is so much a part of our lives?

Musician George Jones, who influenced artists from Johnny Cash to Frank Sinatra made country music to my ears. Tom Clancy passed in 2013 leaving a legacy of intrigue, reminding me at the turn of a page why I love to read.  Peter Lewis, the power and brains behind Progressive Insurance, was a major supporter of the arts, bolstering its importance around the world, but always giving back to his hometown of Cleveland.  “Never forget where you come from,” is how I interpret his activism. 

Speaking of which, Edgar M. Bronfman Sr., as head of the World Jewish Congress, led the effort to restore Nazi-looted artwork to rightful owners.

Finally, we all said goodbye to Edith Bunker nee Jean Stapleton.  What a role model she was gently, sweetly guiding Archie Bunker to do the right thing. Norman Lear said about her, “No one gave more profound ‘how to be a human being’ lessons than Jean Stapleton.

And those are my debits and credits for 2013.  Who do you remember with passion and gratitude?

Janet Langsman is chief executive officer of ArtsWestchester. Her blog is published with permission of ArtsWestchester and is also posted online.

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