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2017 luncheon: Denver South adopts a global perspective.

Speaker Katty Kay calls for objectivity and optimism.

A line has formed outside the Denver Marriott South at Park Meadows. Inside, it’s a packed, cheery house. Aside from a smattering of elected officials (including a surprise appearance by U.S. State Senator Cory Gardner), the ballroom teems with business and civic leaders from the City of Lone Tree and RTD to Xcel Energy, Sky Ridge Medical Center, and countless others.

It’s Friday, November 17th, and the annual Denver South Economic Development Partnership (DSEDP) luncheon is underway. After we find our tables and eye the chocolate cake at each place setting, Lynn Myers, SVP at DSEDP, welcomes us. She also boasts, rightfully, about this year’s attendance: Nearly 600 people have gathered to hear the afternoon’s speaker.

Denver South has international exposure.

Earl L. Wright, co-founder and chairman of the board for AMG Bank takes the mic. AMG chose to be the luncheon’s presenting sponsor because he’s grateful they have “built a business environment for AMG’s headquarters to thrive.”

Earl then succinctly steers us toward the luncheon’s focus: globalization. As Earl says, “Like so many businesses in Denver South, [AMG] has international exposure.” Heads nod around the room, because what business doesn’t? Even a robust economy like Denver South’s can never be fully insulated from events taking place a half a world away. And, of course, we [c]wouldn’t want it to be. A global economy presents as many opportunities as it does pitfalls.

Our decisions have reverberating consequences.

A round of applause follows recognition of platinum sponsor John Madden Company’s pioneering efforts to build net-zero-energy buildings throughout Denver South. In this context, it’s clear John Madden Company’s vision isn’t singularly local. It’s global. Sustainability improves lives here, yes, but it also quite literally improves our entire planet.

American values define us.

Earl then introduces the afternoon’s much-anticipated speaker, lead anchor for BBC World News America, published author and advocate for women, Katty Kay. Katty’s background gives her unique ability to speak about globalization, current events, and the profound optimism still motivating American voters – despite the division we see on the news.

Katty takes us, first, through her vision of the world. “The last century was clearly the American century,” Katty says. “My question is whether this century will also be the American century.” Katty looks unflinching on the challenges facing the entire country, from changes in the balance of power to populism and nationalism to the growing pains we’re all experiencing in the new, global economy. She invites us to question whether this global economic model will endure through the century in the face of major threats such as China’s increasing power, Russia’s subterfuge, and instability in the Middle East.

All these threats, Katty implores, put stress on our American values.

Of course, everyone in the room gets it. We are not just building powerful businesses, we’re taking part in the larger American experience – an experience affected, for better or worse, by global events, politics, economies, and conflicts.

Pursue policy guided by principles.

Katty’s message, though, is positive. Those American values, she believes, are strong enough to weather these changes. She asserts America’s foreign policy has been so effective over the last century because it is driven by principles, not by transactional relationships. And she encourages everyone in the room to lean into objectivity, to avoid retreating from the world, and to allow facts to drive the conversation.

She also applauds Denver South. She’s spoken at many business organization events, but she’s never seen more women in the room than she sees here today. It’s these choices, made by Denver South every day, that can positively shape our future as citizens – of Denver South, of America, and of the world at large.

Colorado as a model for compromise.

Katty ends her speech with a Q&A, and we laugh as she shares with us emails or tweets ala Jimmy Kimmel’s popular late-night segment, “Celebrities Reading Mean Tweets.” She also encourages us to pursue compromise and to look to Colorado’s history of centrist politicians reaching across the aisle as a model for government and politics.

Every year, Denver South Economic Development Partnership puts out a call: Join us for lunch, take time to connect with the leaders doing business next door, and hear a new perspective. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, and this year was no different. Katty Kay’s powerful message will surely have Denver South thinking about its own role in the world for time to come.

DSEDP staff and BBC World News anchor, Katty Kay.

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