Rosalina Gomez is “just” a janitor. But she has executives from two of the largest banks in the country scrambling. More hopefully — so are the media.
The top story in today’s Star Tribune business section, by Neal St. Anthony, covers Gomez’s effort to get last-hope help from her company’s CEO. Her problem is her mortgage, which her employer US Bancorp, is trustee of. When US Bancorp’s CEO declined to meet with her, Gomez set out to deliver her request at a banquet where he was to receive an award.
Her audacious plan got attention — and quick. Company officials scrambled to divert her with a two-month extension for redeeming her foreclosure. This was after they bought back her home at an auction for $35,000. It was worth $200,000 when they lent her the mortgage. Both she and her husband have consistently stayed employed in-spite of layoffs, reduced hours and a costly medical setback.
Ms. Gomez is a vivid example of the power of a common citizen to get the attention when powerful leaders respond with little more than lip service and delays.
Relevant to the work of Nonpartisan Productive Dialogue is this that though she has only an elementary education and speaks little English, Gomez is being heard. Not for her expertise or position, but for her persistent and reasonable appeal. Which stands in stark contrast to numerous institutional bureaucracies and the finger-pointing manipulations their leaders have modeled to distract and overcome her attempt to resolve her problem.
Gomez did not throw her hands up in despair at the enormity of her task and the equally persistent but seemingly powerful forces obstructing it. Instead, she embraced her own power and personal responsibility to work hard to achieve an unimaginable goal. I doubt this we’ll be the last we hear of her. Regardless of her success, the lessons Ms. Gomez models for citizen leaders of NPD are critical.
We must go around external, institutional and cultural obstructions, as well as challenge any internal doubts we might have about our ability to catalyze change. Even if our personal assets seem outwardly humble, we must reconsider our self-assessment. By understanding our unique skills and styles — whatever they are — as uniquely important and employing them with others, we can create initiatives which lead to important changes in our region.
In the language of Ms. Gomez’ bankers: we are our own capital assets. The more “capital” we can harness in ourselves and others, the bigger “bankroll” we’ll have to support our work.
More specifically: if we want to do something about the destructive finger-pointing of our leaders, we need to look to point our fingers to our own abilities to solve this daunting problem. NPD leaders, if you are too humble to do this for yourself, I challenge you to consider this:
Nonpartisan Productive Dialogue’s work can indirectly, but importantly, support Rosalina Gomez’ courageous cause. By engaging our collective courage, we can join her voice for the institutional and cultural change we all wish for. I’d argue that’s something we all need.
Andrea Morisette Grazzini is the founder and co-leader of DynamicShift.