Last week I had the privilege of introducing Jeannette Mare as Grand Marshal of the 2017 Tucson Rodeo Parade. This is the parade's 92nd year. It is the oldest and largest non-motorized parade in America. Her selection was top secret, and it was so much fun presenting the "kindness lady" to a full house of rodeo professionals, community leaders, and cowboys and cowgirls. They loved her -- and Jeannette received a well-deserved standing ovation! I gave a special thanks to award-winning editorial cartoonist and humorist David Fitzimmons who was kind enough to prepare a special piece of art for the occasion.
Here is what I had to say about this year's honoree:
Two things are quintessentially Tucson –
La Fiesta Do Los Vaqueros
I suppose three, if you count Eegees on a summer day.
I am a city slicker. So it's a great joy to be with you today and soak up the rich history of the Tucson Rodeo.
It's a great honor to introduce my dear friend, Jeannette Mare to you.
What makes my job easy is that you all know her. Many of you know her personally or by sight. But you all know who she is because she is our community. Her work – focused on the power and importance of intentional kindness has become deeply woven into the fabric of Tucson. It is as much a part of who we are as our frontier, western spirit and the Rodeo, itself.
You know her because you see the reflection of her spirit and work in your everyday interactions around Tucson. Our children go to schools that are Ben's Bells inspired kind campuses. We are treated in hospitals like Tucson Medical Center that work with Jeanette and Ben's Bells to be kind workplaces and do deliver care with kindness. We drive by public art that reminds us to be kind. We get stuck in traffic behind cars with Be Kind bumper stickers, and that lowers the tension in our day. And each week we read about our Belled community members who are stand out examples of kindness, themselves.
Tucson is kind. As our Mayor has proclaimed, we are the Kindest City in America! And we have Jeanette Mare to thank for leading us there.
Ben's Bells, the organization she started and continues to lead, is beloved by children – much like the Rodeo Break you all have inspired. Bens' Bells has had more success exporting its work beyond Tucson than we have had exporting Rodeo Break. But it's only been 92 on the break, so there is still time.
Jeannette's story is one she tells best. But I want to share my version. It is has some interesting parallels with the cowboy lifestyle – respect for the environment you are in, respect for others and their journey, and an understanding that just like it takes a lot of hands to build a barn, we must understand that we are all in this together. Kindness it not easy. It is tough – sometimes exceptionally tough – and it takes courage and intention. Concepts that are familiar to every weathered cowboy.
Out of the unimaginable – the loss of her sweet son, Ben, more than a decade ago – Jeannette has nurtured Ben's Bells. Ben's legacy is that where there is intentional kindness great things are possible. And as 2017 gets rolling, after a bruising election and with talk of all sorts of divides, a kindness is just the thing we need. She is the perfect choice at the perfect time.
Jeannette joins a long and distinguished list of Grand Marshals whose names are synonymous with Tucson – Harvill and Blacklidge, Castro and Ronstadt, Murphy, Smallhouse, Drachman, Olson, Candrea, Sons of the Pioneers, Rex Allen. These are the names of the history of not just the Rodeo Parade but of our community.
You have done well to select Jeannette. And in talking with her about this, I know she is honored. She follows a powerful – if short – line up of women who have served as Grand Marshal before. Rose Mofford, Cele Peterson, Louise Sherpa, and Gabby Giffords.
Congratulations Jeannette. I can't wait to wave to you from the grandstand.