‘Service above self’: learning from Rotary

Brian Hubbell speaking at MDI Rotary lunchFounded on the understanding that businesses prosper when they ethically support each other and give back to their communities with ‘service above self’, Rotary models the success and ideals of local enlightened self-interest.

After being invited to speak at the MDI Rotary lunch this past Wednesday, I was struck by how the Rotary’s own “four-way test” for decision-making effectively parallels John Rawls‘ theories of public reason and overlapping consensus, both of which underpin conventional liberal philosophy.

In essence, as an ethical criterion of speech and action, the test asks:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it fair?
  • Does it build goodwill?
  • Is it beneficial to all?

To me this seems a remarkably good test for public policy decisions as well.

 


What I’ve learned this week…

…few people can make a good point as succinctly as a fisherman.


What I learned this week…

Ethics at the boundaries of expanding science handled best by democracy and educated citizens

Yesterday afternoon, I had the privilege to attend a lecture at the Jackson Lab by their new CEO Edison Liu.

The program was sponsored by Acadia Senior College so, appropriately, Liu deftly presented in detail some of the technical wonder of current genetic research as well as the greater hope and excitement about pending frontiers in better understanding of human disease.

The practical applications of this research are, of course, vitally important.  But Liu also conveyed the marvel and beauty that underpins pure research, comparing moments of scientific insight to those of artistic revelation.

But, this is in fact life science,  revealing both our most fundamental individual flaws and potentially differentiating our prospects for repair, and so the consequences touch upon us as humans in many dimensions.

So I asked Dr. Liu, given the volumetric expansion of our knowledge about who we are and the resulting specific opportunities for tailored medical intervention, how he thought we’d best negotiate the new issues of ethics at these expanding boundaries. I added that I meant it not as a hostile question.

Dr. Liu answered that applied research should not push beyond the boundaries more rapidly than ethics allows.  But he has confidence that more knowledge leads to better understanding and that, in a democracy, educated citizens are capable of making good decisions.

Knowledge and empowerment.  It’s easy to like this guy.

 


Palm card

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Hubbell declares candidacy for House

February 10, 2012

Four term Bar Harbor school board member Brian Hubbell has joined the race for the Maine State Legislature as a Democratic candidate for House District 35 which includes Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Cranberry Isles, and a portion of the town of Mount Desert.

Hubbell’s candidacy follows Wednesday’s announcement by two-term Democratic Representative Elsie Flemings that she is not standing for reelection.

In his most public role on the school board, Hubbell led a long campaign to shield MDI’s schools from an unpopular state consolidation mandate.  After negotiating personally with Governor Baldacci and Education Commissioner Gendron, Hubbell ultimately succeeded in broadening the law to allow school districts across the state to reform in a structure similar to MDI’s.

“We prevailed because our communities deeply value their connections to our schools,” Hubbell said, ”and because we were able to articulate a compelling vision of how durable community connections were in fact a necessary basis for both educational vitality and economic prosperity.

“Elsewhere, divisive politics has increasingly left citizens alienated from their own public institutions, suspicious of the motives of neighbors, and bereft of belief that we can, as a community, work together to achieve greater prosperity.

“In such politically corrosive weather, communities that can sustain those mutual relationships are increasingly rare and valuable.  Fortunately, in Maine at least and certainly on MDI, I think people still understand what it means to roll up their sleeves and work together for mutual benefit and understand that their individual livelihoods are bound fundamentally to those of their neighbors.

“To me,” Hubbell adds, “nothing is more important than cultivating that vital idea of common prosperity.  We know collectively that we have the circumstances, the resources, and the individual abilities for our communities to thrive.  Beyond those, we need only the belief, the will, …and modest leadership that discerns what it is that unites rather than divides us.

“And, certainly this, exactly, is the long-standing vision of shared commitment to common purpose that underlies the success of this area’s schools.”

Hubbell says he doesn’t expect the District 35 campaign with Bar Harbor Republican Paul Paradis to be polarizing.

“At heart, I don’t believe this area is defined by ideological division,” Hubbell says.  “Rather, I think there’s a common respect for hard work and lean living, confidence in the mutual benefits of cooperation, and a resultant respect and compassion for one’s neighbors. With that all intact, great things ought to be possible.

“So far, as I’ve spoken with many local people whose opinions I respect and trust to learn what they see as the most pressing local challenges, I’ve been struck by how many different ways they represent this theme – that we’re all in this together, that we’re competent and resourceful, and that one person’s effort can build  improvement.”

With a degree in architecture from MIT, Hubbell worked for years in Massachusetts managing large construction projects, including the $250 million Rowes Wharf on the Boston waterfront.  He credits those projects for developing a certain skill in diplomacy and team building that’s later proved useful in politics.

“There were two models for successful construction managers,” Hubbell says, “the ranting bullies and those who practiced facilitation and empathy.  The bullies lasted about three years and died of heart attacks.  I lasted longer and ended up getting more done on time and on budget.  To survive and prosper, you have to understand that everyone wants essentially the same thing — to get the job done right and not waste a lot of profit on stupid inefficient things along the way.”

In 1990, Hubbell and his wife Liddy, also an MIT-educated architect, moved from Boston to eastern Hancock County where they continued an architecture and contracting business, later moving to Bar Harbor when their daughter came of school age.  Hubbell joined the board of the Downeast Resource Conservation and Development Area to work on economic development projects and forestry practices.  It was here that he met Angus King shortly before King announced his 1994 gubernatorial campaign.

“I immediately hit it off with Angus,” Hubbell says.  “It was obvious he was intelligent and articulate.  But what struck me was that he was also refreshingly honest about his principles, whether he was agreeing in a discussion with you or disagreeing.  So I joined his campaign as county co-chair along with Jill Goldthwait.”

Hubbell says his core values are Democratic, presuming the value of the social contract of fairness, equity of opportunity, the multiplying benefits from investing in public goods such as education, public transit, clean water, and caring for the helpless and disabled.  But he’s no ideologue.

“One of the things I’ve loved about both municipal policy and education is that discussions, while frequently heated and thorny, are typically free of partisanship,” he says.  “Like many education debates, the school consolidation fight cut across all party lines.  We made strong allies on both sides of the aisles in both chambers and in the Education Committee.  I’m grateful for those hard won relationships and I hope to keep them productive through all sorts of shifts in political climate.

“I’m not sure this Governor really has figured that out yet.  But it’s something that many of the legislators I’ve worked with understand and appreciate — that if we can just stipulate the facts and what we want to accomplish, we ought in fact to be able also to reach common consensus about the best vehicle to reach the goal..”

Specifically on educational issues, Hubbell says he is looking forward to continuing to work with the Governor’s Commissioner of Education, Stephen Bowen, another veteran of Augusta’s school consolidation wars.

“Nobody worked harder than Steve did, reporting and drafting alternative policy papers,” Hubbell says.  “He’s a thoughtful guy who has earned his position as Commissioner.  He and I will never agree on some things — like the Governor’s proposal to divert public tax dollars from public schools to religious groups — but we agree a lot more on some very important essential improvements for Maine education such as allowing local schools more autonomy and flexibility for students to progress through school at different rates on alternative pathways with greater personal responsibility over their own learning.”

“I’m eager to move forward in that spirit of progressive pragmatism and to continue to learn from the citizens of this district about their individual vision for what we can accomplish together.”

Hubbell lives at 66 Park Street in Bar Harbor with his wife Liddy, an artist, and their daughter Nora, a sophomore at MDI High School.

He can be reached by email at Brian@Hubbell2012.com and by phone at 288-3947.