Happy birthday, Ray. Today would have been his 87th lap around the sun, which I realize isn’t a particularly noteworthy occasion. After all, we humans like our 5s and 10s when it comes to anniversaries. And in two weeks, we’ll have one of those - August 8th will mark the 10th year since his passing. If you ask me, I’d say these milestones offer the perfect bookends for a series of blogs on the past, present, and future.
I’ll kick it off with a look backward, and my, what a decade it has been. For me personally, I was taking Georgia’s bar exam almost exactly ten years ago. Since successfully navigating those two nerve-wracking days, I have started a job, moved to a new neighborhood, met a super cool lady, started working for the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, got married to said super cool lady, moved again, had a kid, adopted another kid, wrote a book, and took a turn at teaching preschool from home for those two kids because of that pandemic thing. All along the way, I’ve come to realize how incredibly blessed I am - blessed by my family and friends, blessed by meaningful work, blessed by my health, and blessed by a faith that has kept me grounded through the highs and the lows.
At a global level, it’s been a remarkable decade as well. There are so many noteworthy historical events, from Gangnam Style being the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views to the creation of the Ice Bucket Challenge. If you want meaningful historical events to go along with such silliness, we’ve seen the #MeToo movement come to life, Britain leave the European Union, the first photograph of a black hole, the groundbreaking Paris Climate Accord, and the worst pandemic in 100 years. That’s also just scratching the surface of these past ten years.
What I really want to lift up is my family though, because I think it’s what Ray would be most proud of. I want to start with his daughters, because both my mother and aunt have wholeheartedly embraced their father’s legacy. They are the heartbeat of all of the Foundation’s grantmaking, but their service to the sustainability community goes well beyond the checks we write.
My mother, Mary Anne Lanier, has engaged deeply through her board service with the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership, the latter of which she expertly chaired through all of the disruption that COVID-19 wrought. She is known in our local environmental community as thoughtful, reliable, and invested in the organizations with which she works.
My aunt, Harriet Langford, found her own environmental epiphany and brought it fully to life. As many of you know, she is the founder and visionary for The Ray, a living laboratory in west Georgia for the technologies and policies that can make our highway system sustainable, if not regenerative. Her passion for this work is as vibrant as her father’s was, and I think she has even surprised herself with how much The Ray has accomplished in a few short years.
Then you have my father, Jaime Lanier, and my uncle, Phil Langford. I know how honored they are to serve alongside their spouses as the trustees of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, and they have been constant supporters of Mary Anne and Harriet (and of me and my staff). Ray Anderson was not just a father-in-law to them, but also an inspiration, and Jaime and Phil have become sustainability advocates in their own right.
Lastly, I know Ray would be proud of his five grandchildren and our spouses. First and foremost, we know how important it is to teach our own children to love this planet and the people on it. We are raising Ray Anderson’s great-grandchildren, and we take that responsibility very seriously! We also have found our own voices through the Foundation’s NextGen Committee, and it has given us valuable experience in environmentalism. Ours is a family that is fully invested in working to heal the planet.
Ray, I know you’re looking down on us from above, and I hope we are making you proud. Thank you for the gifts you have given to us as a family, and for the legacy you have entrusted to us. I know you aren’t with us physically, but your spirit most certainly is. I can almost hear you saying what I heard from you so many times as a child - “Good job; now keep working!” We will keep working, because this is a critical time of change for our world. More on that next week….
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