Puget Sound’s most courageous leaders of 2016

By: Crosscut Editors - Sep 19, 2016
Source: Crosscut

A veteran public servant who has spent decades in government and philanthropy. A banker who has worked to give immigrants a foot in the door to citizenship. A nonprofit leader who works to better the lot of Native Americans. And a thousands-strong community group that came together to save a beloved public radio station. These are the winners of the 2016 Crosscut Courage Awards.

What do they all have in common? When faced with the choice between dialog and rhetoric, they chose the former.

The winners will be honored at the Crosscut Courage Awards Breakfast on October 14, an event that brings together civic, business and cultural leaders each year to honor those that make Washington an exceptional place to call home. Individual tickets as well as tables are available now for reservations (we made it easy with the ticket form below).

The breakfast will include a keynote by author and Harvard visiting fellow Qasim Rashid about the power of dialogue to overcome racism, xenophobia, intolerance and violence. That will be followed by a conversation with former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper on the role of trust, community and communication in Seattle police reform.

Lifetime Achievement Honoree: Martha Choe

As she sits on the bus in the morning, with her low-key, unassuming manner and neatly parted hair, you might not guess that Margaret Choe is one of the most influential people in Washington’s recent history. But Choe has been a trailblazer for both women and people of color in Washington, and her remarkably accomplished career spans the state’s corridors of power.

From her terms on the Seattle City Council to leadership positions in the banking sector and state government and her global influence as the chief administrative officer of the Gates Foundation for over a decade, Choe has embraced a leadership style that prioritizes compromise and getting things done over popularity and easy point-scoring.

Leadership — which Choe has called “hard and lonely work” — requires both “vision and reality,” she said in a recent talk at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation. “Leadership involves people, not just org charts and boxes. Learn, listen and understand different perspectives.”

Choe used this approach to get Asian at-risk youth off the streets by investing in community centers, to revive Seattle’s downtown by re-opening Pine Street to cars and bringing more than 1 million square feet of retail space to downtown Seattle between 1996 and 1998, and to build the Gates Foundation into its present form. As someone who has dedicated her lifetime to public service and steady leadership, Choe exemplifies what it means to be an involved, courageous citizen of the Pacific Northwest.

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