Thursday, August 27, 2009

Authentic Reflection - My Brush With a Kennedy

With death of Senator Edward Kennedy this week and the death of his older sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver earlier this month , I could not help but think of this iconic American family and all they have meant to our country.

Regardless your politics, you cannot say that this family did not make numerous contributions to American history and culture. Personally, I have always been a fan of the mythical family. Especially the generation that's on the verge of being lost with the Senator's passing.

Do I love most of the demonstrated positions on marriage and fidelity from the Kennedy men? No

Do I agree with every political policy they championed? Pretty close.

Do I love their tight-knit loyal family unit? Absolutely.

I actually dreamed of building a "Kennedy" like clan of my own. There was so much support and love to go around as they faced tragedy after tragedy. They banded together when necessary to defend their own in a way that we rarely see in families anymore. My favorite thing about them is their humanness and sense of responsibility out of extreme privilege. Humanitarians and public servants they were and they championed causes that rarely actually touched their lives or the circles with which they were associated.

My quick but powerful brush with the Kennedy legend was in August 1996 - when I was working the Democratic National Convention for MTV News and I had the pleasure to meet and talk to John F. Kennedy Jr. His magazine GEORGE was at the height of its popularity and he was on the verge of marrying his love Carolyn Bessette that fall, unbeknownst to us that hot August afternoon when he walked into the MTV News trailer.

John was as handsome in person as any picture you ever saw. He was humble and gentle as he came by to deliver his new magazine's latest issue and chat with the MTV brass about his big GEORGE party at the Art Institute the next day. I remember like it was yesterday. He opened the door and in khaki shorts and a black t-shirt, he entered the air conditioned trailer with a big smile and a joke about us having the life for being able to sit in the trailer. The girl who was there with me audibly squealed and I kept my cool and walked over to shake his hand and thank him for the delivery

He looked right into my eyes and asked, "Do you read GEORGE? Be honest."

"I'm a subscriber, " I proudly answered so glad I could actually tell John F. Kennedy, Jr. I supported his venture.

"God bless you, what's your name?" he asked

"Denise Wilmer, " I blurted.

"Thank you Denise Wilmer for supporting GEORGE, " he said.

We went on to have a quick conversation about my contract with MTV and how I was a Chicago native and I don't even remember all the topics. But I do remember this.

He was 100% engaged in our conversation.

He did not rush our interaction nor did he look distracted or hurried.

He seemed genuinely delighted to have met me and wished me luck in my career.

I have never forgot that afternoon.

Funny, I had to drive some of the MTV brass to the GEORGE party and of course, I could not go. As I dropped them off - I imagined that someday, I'd be at a party with John F. Kennedy, Jr, not dropping off bratty VJs like I was that night.

I held that dream until July 16, 1999 when I heard the news that his self-piloted plane had gone missing. I watched with earnest every piece of news praying it was all a nightmare and that this man would be found alive and it was all a big scare.

I even "accidently" permitted my stylist, Dany to color my hair plum that next day while I clamored for the stream of news from CNN in his shop during my regular visit.

Alas - it was true. He was gone. So was my dream.

Honestly my view is that John was going to lead the next generation of the Kennedy clan in politics. He was going to help continue the story started by his dad and uncles so many years ago. Upon his death, it was really the beginning of the end of the Kennedy legend for me.

Today, with only Jean Kennedy Smith alive, the Kennedy myth fades a bit more.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Authentic Discovery

It is done.

I have landed on my mission.

Strengthening marriages. There are lots of ideas and a skeletal plan on paper already.

Essentially, I am convinced that marriage is an institution that needs support.

Think about it.

What license do we get that is never renewed?

What certification do we receive that never requires updated education?

What other institution is created without built-in processes to ensure its stability and success?

If someone chooses to enter this institution -wouldn't it be great to have a support system in place to enable them to be successful?

Let's face it - there is usually no action or formal education on marriage skills until there is a crisis.

I plan to change that. Starting now.

In the spirit of applying what I learned at the Leadership Summit two weeks ago at Willowcreek, I am launching my project in an effort to be opportunity driven vs. crisis driven (Gary Hamel, visiting professor at the London Business School) for families across the United States. Possibly the world.

I am also going to take Wess Stafford's advice and leverage my past to propel me and my vision for my project. Wess is the current president of Compassion International. Amazing leader.

I am going to start small but start something. (Jessica Jackley - founder of

I am not going to attempt to solve a big problem with a grand solution. I am going to "shrink the change" and start one city, county or state at a time. (Chip and Dan Heath - authors of Made To Stick)

Interestingly, I have fluxuated on where to best leverage my talents and energy for more than a year.

There has been lots of prayer.


Stops and Starts.



Now, it's on.

Dictionary says - discover (root word for discovery) is to obtain sight or knowledge for the first time.

Strenthening marriages is my cause.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Authentic Peace With Others

Yesterday, in the frenzy to finish up all the last minute errand running - a pair of earrings caught my eye.

Not just your normal peace sign earrings - but underneath you can see there are many different religious symbols dangling from it - there is a cross, a star of David and a few I don't even recognize.

The clearance price of $7 for these sterling beauties had me at the red tag. But for one minute  I hesitated.

What do those symbols I don't recognize mean?

What would I say if someone asked?

How would I explain?

Am I endorsing those other religions?

Then an overwhelming calm fell upon me - right there in the TJ Maxx store on Rt. 59 - I actually thought I heard singing. No lie.

I am lover of Christ and all his precepts. I read the bible daily and pray that the Word saturates my being and transforms me to be a better human being. THEREFORE...

I love the idea of wearing peace earrings that call out many religions in the process. Why?

Because I strive to be at peace with others - 

Dictionary says peace is a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations.

In today's,  "You're an idiot" environment - we need to learn to respectfully disagree with those who think differently than we do. We need to peaceful co-exist with people who are different than we are.

Right now,  there is a huge fashion trend with the peace symbol. My prayer is that with folks seeing the peace sign so much - maybe we'll start to live as if we really want peace in our lives.

What better way to get the movement going than to have a Jesus freak wear these cool earrings?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Try Something Different

I am going to follow my own advice today.

I have been tackling an "opportunity" in my life many different ways over the last year.

Some days, even with lots of introspection, careful consideration of plan and many strategy adaptations  - I feel like no progress is made and that I am in the same spot. FRUSTRATED.

Now, in this day and age, in the United States of America there are not many folks who would continue to persevere after so many tries at something.

Sure, there are glimpses of change but large scale progress is still a distant objective.

So today, I assert that when the objective is not negotiable and you have already invested lots of time, energy, sweat, tears and more tears - 


Take a breath. 

Perhaps, pick yourself off the floor.

But by all means, keep going. 

Try something different.

Keep trying something different until you get the result you want.