Founder and CEO of Aegis Living Dwayne Clark (center) walks with his employees and thousands of others during the March for Civility event in Washington D.C. on Sept. 23. Photo courtesy of Meeghan Black/Aegis Living

I was a dreamer too | Guest Column

  • Wednesday, October 11, 2017 1:00pm
  • Opinion

By Dwayne Clark

Special to the Reporter

Ever look back on your childhood and recall an indelible moment that shaped your life path? I do. As a boy in the 1970s, an encounter in a nursing home left a lasting impression. As I meandered down white-tiled hallways, braving unpleasant smells, I heard an elderly gentleman crying. He was alone and uncomfortable. What I witnessed next was — nothing. No one responded to his cries. There seemed to be an absence of empathy for this vulnerable human being.

Fast forward and I found myself following an unlikely career path working for senior housing companies. Day to day, I dreamed of building a more compassionate and innovative company. The memory of that lonely old man continued to haunt me.

To an outside observer, it seemed unlikely that this low-income kid from Idaho would amount to much. But my family’s struggles and my life path have taught me anything is possible. My mother taught me that the American Dream was real. I seized every opportunity.

But I sit back now and watch the dreams of hundreds of thousands in this country fade. It pains me to see the divisiveness tear us apart. As the founder and CEO of Aegis Living, I have 2,200 employees from 50 different countries. Some are fearful, distressed and anxiety ridden — thinking they, their friends or relatives could be tossed out of this country of dreams and dreamers.

As a symbol of solidarity with my team, I joined peace activist Ken Nwadike, known as the Free Hugs Guy, to “Restore Civility.” Ken enters fiery protests promoting peace by offering free hugs. I joined him in the March for Civility in Washington D.C. on Sept. 23 with nearly 100 of my employees and thousands of others to unite in peace and love. It was a non-partisan and inclusive demonstration. Why is this important?

Today’s caustic political discourse creates radical separation between people. It’s so toxic we can no longer civilly disagree. Our differences are dividing us. I strongly feel our culture will be poisoned if we make our differences a barrier. Where has our civility gone? We need to get it back, cherish it and share it.

The word civility means many things — but is most importantly it’s about listening to understand and mediating differences with an open mind.

No matter what your age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political affiliation or homeland, we have a lot in common as one human race. I recently commissioned a series of short stories called “Wisdom Diaries” to explore that notion. Part one captures real emotion from Aegis Living employees and residents sharing their diverse life experiences. The stories exemplify how we are more alike than different. When you know some of a person’s story, you open the door to empathy, which leads to civility.

Please, join the cause to restore civility. Treat everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of their point of view. Join the movement at www.RestoreCivility.org.

Dwayne Clark is founder and CEO of Bellevue-based Aegis Living.

More in Opinion

KCLS unveils its Best Books of 2017

And the envelope, please. Continuing an end-of-year tradition that dates back more… Continue reading

Displaced by a hurricane: The quest for housing | Guest Column

Woman describes challenges of helping family move from Puerto Rico to Bellevue

Firearms banned from state Senate gallery during sessions | The Petri Dish

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib calls for prohibiting overcoats, large bags

Tax overhaul plan does not add up, Democrats insist | The Petri Dish

A tax overhaul plan drawn up by Republicans in Congress will be… Continue reading

To my sea sisters — and all families of veterans | Editor’s Note

As my Navy recruiter waited in his car with the engine running… Continue reading

Drowsy driving is a national health and safety problem | Guest column

Eleven years ago, a drowsy-driving car wreck left me with injuries that… Continue reading

Initial returns point to a power shift in the state Senate

Democrats went to bed Tuesday night confidently declaring their party will control… Continue reading

Politicians, media won’t switch gears now | Letter

After looking at a dozen or so news sources this morning only… Continue reading

One way to address homeless shelter issue | Letter

All the concerns about the location of the Bellevue homeless shelter ignores… Continue reading

Expect a circus | Letter

Former President George W. Bush recently gave a “spot-on” speech. We haven’t… Continue reading

Real estate taxes rising in Bellevue | Letter

Average real estate taxes for Bellevue homeowners will rise about $600 on… Continue reading

Comments on education out of touch with reality | Letter

In her column published in the Oct. 13 edition, Liv Finne as… Continue reading