From the CEO of Stifel
This summer, the summer of the pandemic, will be forever carved into my memory – because this was the summer that my youngest daughter was married in a jubilant – but carefully choreographed – ceremony. From a thousand feet, things would have seemed about as we imagined them a year ago, except on a much smaller scale. Yet if the wedding planner had fallen asleep in February and awakened the day of the wedding, like a quarantined Rip Van Winkle, she would have lost it.
The details had become demented: Why masks as party favors? Why the chasm between chairs? Why is that aunt live-streaming like a paparazzo? And why the plexiglass prison – is the band free to leave, or what?
It took a moment, but only a moment, to refocus on what really mattered and did not change. The bride, my daughter, was still stunning; she still stood close to the groom, and their vows easily carried, on the breeze, over the last row and beyond. The grandkids, all under age five, still danced. They hardly knew the difference.
Because of the precautions we took, the wedding was in no way a denial of the situation we still face. But neither was it a hostage to it. We must find ways to carry on with our ceremonies and traditions, with our duties and responsibilities, however much they must adapt and change. These are the moments that give us perspective on life, the moments in which we step back and see things in the sweep of a lifetime – and a legacy. One tragedy of the pandemic is that our best response, which includes a healthy dose of isolation, inflicts so much unexpected collateral damage. Each new season brings new sacrifices as the ambit widens over the economy, into a new school year, and beyond. I fear that if we lose these moments of perspective and reflection, it will become even more difficult to solve the problems we face. We will see only the immediate conflict; we will forget that on the other end of a tweet there are, in fact, the tapping fingers of another human being.
If the hope for creative compromise and coordination withers, all our other problems will be out of reach. Despite all our institutional strength, our system still depends fundamentally on good faith to resolve our differences – faith in the moral character of others; faith in our ability to compromise and change; faith that springs from what we can share, which usually includes our common ceremonies and traditions, breathing life into stadiums, schools, and places of worship, but which, right now, does not include much.
Instead, in this election year, we must find common ground. Let us keep the faith however we can. Focus on the essence of our traditions and ceremonies, even if the execution must be drastically adapted. Carve out a place for harmony, even if it must remain behind plexiglass, or in a shared stream. Find the space to connect, even via an awkward, extemporaneous livestream.
On the day of my daughter’s wedding, away from the cacophony if only for a moment, I found the space to reflect. It is not about the material things in life but instead about the memories we create. I will forever remember Kelly’s wedding, along with the most cherished of my life’s milestones – the solemn memories that center, that soften, that settle. My eternal hope is that Kelly will always remember me on her special day.
Chairman and CEO of Stifel Financial Corp