Tayer: Distressing times call out for core values

Disgusting. Frightening. Distressing.

I could go on. I’m sure most of you who are reading this piece in the wake of Wednesday’s horrific mob attack on our citadel of democracy heard and/or uttered similar sentiments. It was disturbing.

As BizWest Publisher Chris Wood mentioned in his opening comments during an event he emceed the next morning, we can also take heart in the forward progress of our electoral process and the preservation of our democratic institutions, as we witnessed the evening’s final declaration of President-elect Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. I’m hopeful this is the nadir — or near nadir — in the current political climate . . . I’m an optimist, so that is the vision I hold.

Still, the bedlam we witnessed Wednesday was horrific and leaves many of us shaken.

Like many other organizations, the Boulder Chamber staff team has been operating primarily in a virtual setting over the course of the past year. Even in that condition, there was a need we had as a group to connect throughout Wednesday afternoon. There is a very human desire to reach out to friends, colleagues and family during incidents like this, to provide assurances of personal security and to grasp a firm foundation in our own familiar relationships. I know I enjoy that benefit from the workplace ties our team has sustained, even in a remote setting, and I hope that’s the same for all of you.

One source of the strength to endure Wednesday’s calamity that I draw from our Boulder Chamber staff team is the shared foundation for our work together — our Core Values. The process of developing our Boulder Chamber Core Values, entailing extensive stakeholder, staff and board engagement, wasn’t for the faint of heart and seemed to test everyone’s patience. The effort — the soul-searching and the wordsmithing — made it just that much more deeply meaningful when we landed on the following Core Values as the filter for all our work: Leadership, Integrity, Collaboration, Innovation and Community.

I know many who read this will have similar themes in their own organization values. And, yes, these words are so common that they might appear trite. Not for our organization. We remind ourselves of them repeatedly, as they sit on our desks and are a regular source of conversation. We invite all our stakeholders to hold us accountable to these Core Values.

I mention this because of how far the events leading up to the storming of our nation’s Capitol, and all we witnessed on Wednesday seemed to stray from core values. There are no established American values, and a quick Google search will tell you that there is no precise consensus on what they should be. Personally, though, I like to think that “unity” stands at the core of all we work to achieve through our democratic institutions, in our respect for diversity and through the rule of law. We put it another way in the Boulder Chamber’s Core Values: “Building community is at the core of everything we do.” That means doing everything we can to lift our community. That also means bringing our community together, despite our differences, despite difficult policy debates, despite different visions for our future. That means respect for our own local public processes and democratic institutions.

Coincidentally, I filmed one of my Chamber Chat videos with Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver on Wednesday afternoon, after we both absorbed much of what had occurred that day in Washington. Sam and I have been engaged in debating public policy through all his years in public service. Sam and I have really gone at it sometimes. Regardless of any differences, there always is a note of respect for each other’s views and the commitment to revisit our differences and/or to tackle the next policy conundrum.

As Sam and I greeted each other over Zoom, with the day’s occurrences fresh on both our minds, thoughts of all the ground we’ve covered — both the times we’ve disagreed and the opportunities we’ve had for joint advocacy — washed over me. Through all that, it was a relief to greet Sam as a partner in achieving that Core Value of Community and to call him, “my friend.” Let that be a core value for all of us as we stare down at the dark abyss that Wednesday’s actions in Washington represented and work to rebuild the foundation of unity that is the strength of our United States.

John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 303-442-1044, ext 110 or john.tayer@boulderchamber.com.