Over the course of 10 talks from 10 amazing speakers, it became clear that knowledge alone won’t carry the day. It takes visionaries with wild ideas and the resolve to carry them out — but also the leadership and passion required to bring others along. As Metro Atlanta Chamber president Sam Williams said in describing the role of urban statesmen, “A leader with vision will always be joined by other people.”
The Coca-Cola Company’s David Butler told the crowd, “Wicked problems can only be solved by design.” But “Darius Goes West” director Logan Smalley made the case that solutions come from turning stories into movements — and that even a low-budget documentary can tackle big issues.
Ryan Gravel, the visionary behind the Atlanta BeltLine, explained how the nation’s largest urban renewal project survives political cycles because it first found neighborhood support. It was a theme echoed by Anne Milling, leader of Women of the Storm, as she charmed the record crowd with stories of how her community group has brought congressional attention to restoring post-Katrina New Orleans, and now to restoring America’s Gulf Coast wetlands.
Daron “Farmer D” Joffe brought to life the example of one person’s ability to share solutions with others. And InterfaceRAISE’s Jim Hartzfeld shared how the influence of one company’s actions can change the course of industry. Mills Snowden of Team HyPower reinforced the common thread that solutions don’t follow a linear course and require flexibility and perseverance.
Tad Leithead, the first citizen chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, provided the takeaway idea of the day. His grandfather, Leithead explained, gave him the courage to jump horses by telling him to “throw his heart over the fence, and the horse will follow.” Leithead encouraged the crowd of 200+ to throw their hearts over the fence and then watch as the Atlanta region clears the hurdles of the next 50 years.