When the big 4-0 closes in on you (and you make the realization that you’re more than half way to being 80), it’s a good time to pause and reassess. One thing that I’ve learned is that people are really rotten. I’m not exempting myself from this, but it’s an interesting footnote on the human condition that we are, really, still animals. Often, our primal behaviour betrays our rationality and reminds us of this fact.
I was thrilled to find out a few weeks back that my friend, Adam Giambrone was running for mayor of Toronto. Adam is 32 and is one of the most accomplished people I know, and plus, he’s a nice guy. I met Adam a few years ago at an envisioning session for the TTC at the Design Exchange in Toronto (which is lead in a seemingly effortless fashion by another good friend, Samantha Sanella). Adam struck me instantly because of his age, younger than me, he had done a lot of interesting stuff. He speaks more languages than I do, and he managed to get elected in a tough riding (read: district for U.S. readers) running as NDP, the 3rd place (or arguably 4th place, if you’re in Quebec) political party in Canada.
After getting elected, Adam—a public transit aficionado—had the audacity to envision a Southern Ontario with plentiful public transit that stretched out from Toronto to the edges of the peninsula. His more senior colleagues laughed at his plan to develop “Transit City” and very publically denounced his energy and efforts. Adam, however, pushed forward and secured nearly $20 billion (yes billion) in provincial and federal funding for the project. All of a sudden, folks weren’t laughing any more. This guy had the energy and the can-do attitude to get things done.
Adam also took the position as TTC chair, that is, the leader of one of the largest public transit systems in the world. He didn’t take the position, collect a paycheck, and go on vacation. Instead, he became a tireless and vocal advocate for public transit and the expansion of it.
In the US, we don’t have many leaders by that. Many of us “south of the border” have been watching Adam and his accomplishments with amazement. His enthusiasm is contagious, whether through his constant Twitter posts, or his on-the-fly Facebook updates. However, despite his incredibly busy schedule, Adam remained accessible. He’d bounce an e-mail back in a moment or two, and was always cheerful and polite.
He really earned my respect.
I was thrilled earlier this year to learn that he was planning a run for mayor of Toronto. I could only begin to imagine what he had in store for the city.
But, I digress. This week was a rough week for Adam. He made a mistake, and it was called out in the press. What’s shocking, is that the interwebs lit up with nasty comments about his inability to manage his work, fueled by spiteful anger about a TTC fare hike that happened a while back.
These comments struck me. Adam is a good guy, and he’s an authentic, hard working visionary. Good, right? Probably not. He, like many hard working, diligent, young professionals become targets for lazy, disenfranchised, armchair grumps. I’ve been there, and I know how it is. It’s way easier for folks to take aim than it is for them to take action. It’s easier to call Adam a loser than it is to get involved in a neighborhood association. It’s more interesting to read about his relationship that it is to think about your own. The ugly side of the human spirit comes in many flavors, and never more does it shine than when someone is down. It seems kicking a man when he’s down has become a Canadian pastime, and the tweets and posts have been nothing less than shocking. My only explanation for this vitriol can be that people are jealous of him… which given his record, seems to make sense.
I might remind my Canadian readers, that your friends south of the border would be very happy to have a politician like Adam who—might not be perfect—but is committed to doing the hard work of governing and planning for the future. Adam has still accomplished more at 32 than many people accomplish at 52. So those who take aim should be careful what they wish for. Politicians that care come along once in a generation. Adam is one of those, and while it make make interesting water cooler conversation for bored and lonely 30-somethings, or twitter tweeting for lazy 20-somethings, it’s important to remember that Adam isn’t a character, he is human. What I can imagine has been a tough time can only have been made tougher by the consistent onslaught of negative comments and barbs thrown his way over the past few days. It is truly shameful.
Despite the recent media reports, it is still my true pleasure to count Adam as a friend, and I am proud to very publicly say that I respect him tremendously. He made a mistake, and that doesn’t make him a monster, it makes him human, just like me, and just like you. He was honourable enough to publicly confess his misdoings, which is something that many of us would never be able to do. As a fellow human, he deserves our understanding and support, and despite any misdeeds in his personal life, he has done a lot for our bi-national region, and he—at the very least—has earned our respect.
Hang in there, Adam.