Legacy-building is important to Delaware business leaders

Sam Waltz
Sam Waltz
Founding Publisher

One of the great things about this job — really more of an opportunity — is the vehicle it creates to recognize the great things that business leaders are doing to make a difference in our community and society.

The Guinea Worm caused me to think about that. Why such an obscure reference?

The New York Times reported recently that the Carter Center, founded by President Jimmy Carter, has identified only 22 cases of Guinea Worm Disease in Africa in 2015, a drop from 126 cases in 2014. When the Carter Center started its work to fight this horrible disease in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases annually.

I heard about that campaign directly from President Carter in the late 1980s, about 1989, perhaps 1990, when he came to DuPont to recognize DuPont’s contribution in providing a product that helped eliminate the disease. (It was my second meeting with him, having traveled with him throughout Delaware for a day in November 1975 when he campaigned for the Democratic nomination.)

Guinea Worm, if I recall correctly from 25 years ago, is a parasite that finds its way into village wells in rural Africa, where it makes human contact in drinking water drawn from the well, washing and even other more antiseptic purposes. Once it enters the body, it simply lives and feeds, causing particularly grotesque and painful disabling swelling, and sometimes leading to early death.

It was not rocket science to beat it, but it simply took focus and effort, which it’s done in just 30 years!

Here at home, Bob Elder, a business developer and marketing guru for Santora CPA Group, who once headed both Christiana Bank & Trust Company as well as Delaware Sterling Bank, told me about his work in helping find employment for a generation of the city’s African-American population, many of whom disenfranchised themselves with acts that led to prison time.

On Feb. 25, Elder and Gov. Jack Markell will host a play on the problem at the Grand Opera House’s Baby Grand on Market Street, followed by a panel discussion. It’s not a play for the traditional theatre-goer, but rather for people interested in our community, and what they can do. Contact Elder at Santora for more info.

Similarly, Robert “Mac” Sommerlatte, who is self-employed in health care, and David Fleming, who works for the Delaware Community Foundation, have “run point” on an effort from the Rotary Club of Wilmington in tackling the dismal miasma of social pathology issues that converged to create so many city issues, among them, single-mother homes, drugs, unemployment, absent male role models, poverty, despair. They have helped lead a commitment of the Rotary Club of Wilmington beginning this Rotary Year to make Wilmington “a world class city.”

Tom Hall, principal in CardioKinetics, similarly has devoted himself in his leadership at the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington to helping so many families who are in painful dislocation — often from the economy, sometimes from substance abuse issues.

A variety of business leaders, from Brian DiSabatino at EDiS to Gary Stockbridge at Delmarva Power, have pitched in on the issues of our veterans, and they’ve worked particularly hard on veterans’ employment issues.

John Moore, CEO of Acorn Energy, and Clint Laird, a self-employed entrepreneur, among others, have reached out to work hard on the Delaware education issues, using the Caesar Rodney Institute as a vehicle to advance discussions on what can be done to improve Delaware education.

I wanted to take some time to review this, and to invite people to send me others.

Those who preach class divisions and class hate — and who benefit from creating victims and class victimization — often set out to exacerbate the problem, to paint business leaders as about greed and exploitation.

In Delaware, the Delaware Way often has featured successful business leaders who are doing much, like these I’ve just mentioned, to spread the opportunity, to address and fix problems, and to make life better for all.

We need to acknowledge these efforts, and thank the people. “Think Globally, Act Locally” became an operative phrase a generation ago for people doing good things. Much good is being done.

Drop me a note at SamWaltz@SamWaltz.com and let me know of other examples. In a few months, I’d like to take a more systematic comprehensive look at the efforts — such as the ones I’ve described — that are being led from Delaware’s business and civic leader community. 

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