Muddy Boots             
The Wear Muddy Boots Blog

Muddy Boots Blog

Leadership never comes from sitting behind a desk....you need to get your boots muddy and get in the field with your employees, customers, clients, vendors, and stakeholders. The more you listen the more you learn. The individual closest to the action generally knows the real story. 

I have been a manager for 40 years, starting with IBM and now leading a non-profit, Episcopal Community Services, in what I hope will be my last professional chapter.  I have a fair amount of scar tissue, which I have come to learn is the best teacher. Leadership can be about talk and vision, but it is way more about deeds. For what it's worth, here are some of my thoughts on the subject of leadership, muddy boots and other stuff I find interesting. 

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A Christmas Wish

Posted by Dave Griffith on December 11, 2017 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Across the region this month hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals will give time and treasure to assist individuals and families in need. As someone who works in social services in Philadelphia, I am thankful for these good and kind acts.

But an uncomfortable truth persists in this season of Peace, Hope, and Joy. Philadelphia has the highest poverty level of any major city in America, upwards of 25 percent. In nearby communities such as Camden, Trenton, Darby and Chester the rates are higher and largely unchanged since the 1960s. Despite billions of dollars, intergenerational poverty persists.

As a society we have been in the maintenance business with private and public spending and associated public policies. Still, pockets of excellence exist where individuals and organizations have initiated successful programs to lift individuals up and assist them on their journey out of poverty. But even with evidence of impact, a meaningful scale has not happened.

In this season of Peace, Hope, and Joy how can we move from acts of maintenance to actions that bring real change to individuals and families experiencing poverty?

Education: First, get educated. Understand the issues of poverty – not the myths. Understand that poverty robs individuals of opportunity many of us take for granted. No one wants to live in poverty. In fact, the participants we work with are some of the most resilient people I know. Understand how public policy impacts education, workforce development, housing, employment, wellness. Understand that race and gender are significant issues, uncomfortable as that may be. Understand the perpetual crisis caused by poverty makes it difficult to attend school, hold a job, live a productive life. Our goal should be to help individuals move permanently out of the crisis they experience.

Volunteer: Second, find a hands-on opportunity to volunteer and provide financial support. Look for an organization that focuses on impacts, not maintenance. Understand their approach and hold them accountable for results. Psychological science is evolving in this work and holds significant promise. Get involved throughout the year. Steady and consistent support move the needle. The work is complicated, and the private sector can move more quickly than the public sector on these issues.

Jobs: Third, if you are in a position to do so, make a conscious decision to hire individuals experiencing poverty, pay a living wage and offer consistent hours. Here the private sector can have a major impact. The way out of poverty is a job. Many agencies can help potential hires develop the hard and soft skills they need. Job creation and a healthy economy raise all boats. But we need to focus on the “all” part. Statistically, 10,000 hires a year at a living wage can halve poverty in the region in a generation. There is no more productive tool to address intergenerational poverty. Imagine the long-term impact that redirected dollars could have on improved education and infrastructure.

Advocacy: Finally, advocate. Hold the political process accountable and support candidates who will drive needed changes in government policy. Government programs need to match best practices and results and reflect the same quality standards of any well-run business. Support public/private partnerships. Support social impact investing. Understand that if we do not deal with poverty as a society, it will consume us as a society. Currently we are not driving meaningful change at scale. Poverty is not someone else's issue. It is not a right or a left matter. It’s a shared issue affecting all Americans, on many levels.

Let me be clear – individuals, families and children in poverty need our support (many just to get through the day, week or month). But it is only the start to a permanent solution. We need to do more than help people maintain their lives. We need to bring not just hope, but the tools and support necessary to change lives. We know that when we meet people where they are and offer coaching and support based on science and research, individuals can experience meaningful change. The numbers require that we do this at scale and scale requires that we all bring our gifts together to make the lift possible.

Isn’t that what Christmas is really about?

A Good Sermon

Posted by Dave Griffith on December 7, 2017 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

A few weeks ago I listened to a sermon, and one phrase has been rattling around in my brain since:

“There is right, and there is wrong, and there is no in-between.”

I will grant a combination perhaps of the Gospel and Yoda. I am good with that as I am an equal opportunity listener and enjoy a strong, solid sound bite regardless of source. Especially one that grows from a soundbite to a full meal.

The lesson here hits on a few levels.

One the simple, a conversation where the definition of right and wrong is understood, and both parties are in agreement. As in you tell the truth. You don’t steal. No middle ground.

The second not so much, where the definition of right and wrong is not so well defined or there is outright disagreement. Flows from my values are right, and yours are wrong. Think about equal rights based on gender or orientation. Who would have thought we would see a supreme court case where a business owner’s religious beliefs and a customers lifestyle would conflict to the level of a case before the highest court in the land. Easy to take a position on either side, but there are dangerous precedents either way in our system that values individual rights and freedoms. Whose rights and whose freedoms?

Clearly, we need core, fundamental, bedrock values to order one's life and frame a community legacy. Here I can see where there is no middle ground. You have integrity, or you don’t. You respect people, or you don’t. The rattle in my brain is the question of in the between issues. Is there not a middle ground on such complex topics as poverty, race, equality, economic mobility, security, opportunity?

So to quote Yoda, “ The balance where is ?”

Here, I think we turn to the core gospel teachings and covenants of many of our traditions.

“Will you respect the dignity of every human being?”

“Will you love your neighbor as yourself?”

And you turn to the lesson of muddy boots, where you go into the field and listen and learn and walk in another person's shoes and invite them to do the same. I suspect that we share universal values more than we think and that the real difference stems from places of fear, especially the fear of scarcity of power, wealth, choice, variations, and opportunity. Avoiding an issue, digging in, is not a way to solve the problem.

I love a good sermon.

Especially one that takes us to a new place.

A place we need to go.


Thanksgiving 2017

Posted by Dave Griffith on November 22, 2017 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

In America, we are about to enter into a time that in many parts of the world would be impossible to experience, let alone understand. This Friday will be black Friday, Monday will be Cyber Monday, and then it will be 25 days to Christmas. Billions, with a “B,” spending will be massive, and consumer debt will swell for the January credit card mailings.

As I reflect on what is undoubtedly ahead, I think about why this bothers me so. As we get ready to head to our daughter's house for Thanksgiving, I contrast my feeling for this November Thursday holiday with the season ahead. Why.

Well, there is the food and the football. There is the gathering of family and friends. There is a time to give thanks for what we have without the pressure of what we do not. For me, it is also the marker on the calendar that signals the start of winter. It is also a four-day break when I really need one.

I think my anxiousness also now comes from a different place than it might have five years ago when I started at the agency. The economic contrast between individuals in poverty and this season of commercial excess is now very sharp, very evident, on my radar. I would suggest that it needs to be on all our radars and not just now in this season and place.

Clearly, there is work to be done and long-term strategies to address poverty in America. I have written at length on this blog about the issues and what we and others are doing in this space. I want to call for a different action this season. Actually, I pray for it.

As you sit down at the table tomorrow and give thanks, I want you to contrast that experience with the thousands of individuals living on the streets in America, in shelters, in homes where this day is not marked with a large meal or family. I want you to think about the season ahead, and the contrast gets even more substantial. I want you to think about the middle of February and the difference of a warm home against one without heat.

From that contrast, I want you to do something about it. I want you to allocate some of what you will spend this holiday and send it to an organization, not necessarily ECS to be transparent, that you know works in this space, that stirs your soul, and has an impact. Give it directly and hold the agency accountable. Research a hands-on volunteer program and do it. Research a public policy issue that impacts the poor and advocate in the political process for positive change. Out of your abundance of time, treasure, and talent, you surely have some to give.

We can think about it, or we can do it. Surely we can afford it, and maybe, just maybe this season of peace, hope, and joy we can get back to the lessons of the carpenter from Bethlehem whose birth we celebrate.

“To whom much is given, much is expected. “ I agree.

Peace.Joy. And most of all, Hope.


Posted by Dave Griffith on October 31, 2017 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the core learnings in the Leadership research I have done and in the teaching that I do as well as in my experience is that the only real asset we have that we can control is time.

Someone will always be smarter; someone will always be better looking, someone will have more toys, and someone will have something you do not. Another lesson for another time is someone will also have less.

On reflection the only asset that is equal among all of us is time. Twenty-four hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute. No more, no less.

The question I have for you is how do you spend your time? Lots of great quotes here;

“ Do the important, not the urgent.”

“Time waits for no man.” “ Time, like an ever rolling stream.”

“ I will do it tomorrow.” “ I have no time.”

“ A hundred years from now no one will remember, except your children.”

The question I like to ask students is if you knew you had a limited amount of time left, whom would you call, what would you say, what regrets would you have. Some scoff at the question as childish, but I remind them of the 911 tapes from the air passenger’s cell phones. I ask them to be honest and reflective. I then suggest to them they have time and have just given themselves the gift of insight. Insights they can act on if they choose.

All of which leads to the question of what do you spend your time on? What are your priorities?

I suggest that what makes us unique is we have choices, and we have options of how and where we spend our time. Again another discussion when we get into the issues of poverty, as poverty and the associated trauma rob individuals of both time and choice.

Back to the limited time question and the associated insight. Do you have a passion for which you have not spent time? Do you love your job? Do you hate your job? Do you have someone you need to say I love you too? Is there a cause calling you? Are you spending time with family? Do you know your purpose? Is the time you spend on anything your decision, is it spent intentionally; meaning was time spent well and with a goal in mind? Do you set aside downtime, wellness time, prayer time? Are you honest and brave enough to know you have choices?

The people I admire and the leaders I would follow, spend their time intentionally and with a purpose. Rarely is it random, rarely is it without thought. Life comes at us with a myriad of options, how we spend our time defines us, shapes us and ultimately writes our legacy.

I would suggest that one’s priorities serve as guardrails for one’s journey. I love the question, “How do you roll?” An honest answer will define your values, your priorities, and I would hope where you spend your time. With whom and on what?

Give yourself the gift of insight and the gift of acting on it.


Privilege and Poverty

Posted by Dave Griffith on October 17, 2017 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

“I know a few folks who were born on third base and think they hit a triple.”

“ People in poverty just don’t want to work.”

In the work that we do I hear the above all the time. The issue is the very uncomfortable topic of privilege. Privilege defined as a condition afforded to one set of individuals and not another. The news today holds up many examples with conditions rooted in gender, race, economic status at birth, or orientation to name a few.

Solutions to intergenerational poverty need to come from a place and perspective that recognizes that your experience may not be my experience or the experience of any other individual. When I started this work, one of our senior social workers pulled me into her office about two months into my start at the agency and brought me up short. I had been working with a young African-American man in our youth program and talking to him about careers. She pointed out a few errors in my approach. First I was talking and not listening. Second I was making assumptions not based on any inputs. Third, as she pointed out the young man had a few barriers that were not on my radar because of point one, issues such as homelessness, no drivers license, wellness, and a financial base to get started before a first paycheck. Problems I had never experienced, let alone understood the full impact. In fact, my approach was not helping the individual, and for me, it was a wake-up call.

If you are honest, I suspect many of you would have had the same experience. Mainly because of background, culture, awareness, or privilege. In the months that followed, I spent a lot more time listening and doing what I am teaching in the leadership class I participate in, that is putting on my muddy boots and going into the field and talking to the people who do this work. Learning to coach on a whole new level by meeting people where they are and listening to their story. At its core, this is what social workers do every day, and as I have learned, I have a deep respect for the MSW degree.

What the research and direct experience will tell you is people in poverty have experienced trauma, and trauma the science informs us impacts the brain and in turn behavior. How useful would you be if you had to deal with a personal or family crisis every day and all day? Also, the issues of economic status at birth, gender, and race set a higher hurdle in accessing opportunity that leads to getting out of the crisis. Opportunity that many of us take for granted. My direct experience is no one in poverty wants to be in poverty, and some of the most resilient individuals I have met are the individuals we work directly with as participants at ECS.

So what I ask is that when the issue of poverty is brought to your attention, and you hear the staggering numbers of 15% National and 25% Philadelphia rates of poverty, you pause and you consider your experience and the privileges that have impacted your trajectory and not judge individuals or groups of individuals. Instead look at the broader picture not just your experiences, the impacts of poverty, the science, the data, your call to service, and become part of the solution from a place of perspective and understanding and not from a place of political ideology. Poverty is a real bipartisan issue. It is not comfortable, but necessary if we are to deal with the challenges of poverty honestly. We either deal with poverty or it will consume us as a society. It is here that maintenance agendas need to give way to real change.

Look Up, Challenge Poverty.



Posted by Dave Griffith on September 29, 2017 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Over the last several years much has been written about values. To the point where one could grow numb. Perhaps this is a function of individuals giving speeches about their values and then living a life inconsistent with their words. Substitute the word faith for values, and the same comments are accurate.

I am not saying, in fact, few of us would say, that our own accountability to our values is perfect. However, it strikes me that the gap between words and actions in this age of Twitter and social media has grown sharply and shrilly. All of which has got me to thinking about values, both my own and the organizations I associate with on a daily basis.

What are your bedrock values? What beliefs do you have to which your actions are always consistent? What line will you not cross, regardless of the consequence? What do you stand for, what do you teach your children, how do you roll? To steal a phrase, what is your North Star?

Values are not priorities. They shape your priorities. Rather they are the core foundational principles on which you build your life, your relationships, your work, and your legacy. Time spent on reflecting on your values is well spent, matching your real actions and behaviors is even better time spent.

At Episcopal Community Services where I work, we have spent the last 14 months in a strategic planning process. Much of that time was spent defining our mission, vision, and values. The clarity that has come from this process is both informative and remarkable. The agency has pivoted with both precision and alignment, and we have established guardrails for all of our work. It will not be perfect, but the focus has given us energy and direction. Energy and direction, absolutely built on core values.

In the spirit of muddy boots our four values are:


We honor the inherent worth of every human being.

A fundamental value of both the Episcopal tradition and the social work code of ethics, dignity is at the core of our work, shaping program design, operations, and advocacy. We foster confidence, trust, and resourcefulness, and we believe that all individuals have the courage, capacity, and will to create a personal measure of self-sustainability and fulfillment.


We confront systems and policies that deprive our participants and their communities of choice and opportunity.

We know that working towards a more just world is a responsibility we all share and we are committed to meaningful change.


We integrate the ideas and perspectives of participants, staff, the board of trustees, peer agencies, and stakeholders.

We accomplish more together, and we know that collaborative and inclusive relationships strengthen programming and advocacy.


We make a measurable difference in people’s lives.

Using research and data to confirm our impact, we seek out the people and partnerships that increase positive outcomes for those we serve. When we are successful, our actions are replicable and scalable. When we are successful with our economic mobility model and approach, people in poverty move out of poverty and permanent change occurs in lives.

For what do you stand? How do you roll? What is your legacy?

What is your North Star?



Posted by Dave Griffith on September 21, 2017 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Values Matter.





Wear Muddy Boots.

Go into the field and listen.

You can be in the maintenance business or the change business.

Choose change

It is all about talent.

Your goal as a leader should be to be the dumbest person in your organization.

Scar Tissue is the best teacher.

Just make sure it is not repetitive.

The sun will come up tomorrow.

Important to know, as life goes on.

Do the important not the urgent.

Time is all you got, how are you going to spend it? 


God, family, employees, customers. Think about it. Does your day match up?


Because it works.


Because Hate will consume you.

Have a cause.

Life is too short not to have something in your life that matters to you.

Look up. Challenge Poverty

Labor Day

Posted by Dave Griffith on September 4, 2017 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Labor Day

I have long viewed Labor Day as a significant annual marker. Two-thirds of the year is gone, a third to go. Summer ends and the school year begins. The first days of fall give rise to the change of colors, the days grow darker, and soon the V’s of geese will be forming for the migration south.

This year it also marks a rise in my anxiety in the way I have not felt in some time.

Harvey has sent a major wake-up call that Global warming is real and that urban growth needs to be more thoughtful and intentional. Irma is churning towards the east coast least we think we are over natures wake up calls, and wild fires burn in Los Angeles. There is the recent civil unrest in Charlottesville, and one could argue the same tension is all across America. Congress is at loggerheads, and the Commander in Chief is learning, we hope, on the job that Twitter is not the way to respond to a rogue regional nuclear threat, let alone issues of trade, education, healthcare, or the environment. This labor day with employment near record lows, wage growth is flat, and for many, the ability to make reasonable ends meet is nonexistent, one has to wonder is the American dream that we once marched towards no longer a realistic goal for many of our citizens? Indeed I am anxious as our polarity of thought has not been this far apart in a long time. As the possibility of grandkids becomes real, I worry about the America and the World they and their parents will see and experience. I wonder does our generation share a legacy with others throughout history that grew too comfortable and self-centered that they could not see and anticipate the challenges of the times. Are we like Rome with the barbarians at the gate?

It is relatively easy and fashionable to blame leadership and call for change. It is an entirely different challenge to look in the mirror and hold one’s self accountable. Consider the following. Are you active in the political process? Are you an advocate for the issues that matter? Are you willing to give financial support for the changes necessary? Are you prepared to do the hands on work to drive change? Are you ready to listen to a stranger and walk in their shoes? Are you willing to put your community and communities you do not know ahead of your interests? Are you prepared to do the uncomfortable? Are you ready to take on risk to drive change? To do hard, but good work, with perhaps personal cost?

My overwhelming sense is most of us would answer Yes. Followed by the reasonable question of how?

My suggestion would be to join with other like minded individuals and families. To pray, to commit time to work on and in social justice, to become informed of the facts and not the rhetoric, to get active in your faith community and not just on Sundays, to pick a cause and to focus on an issue bigger than you. To vote, to ask questions, to support a free press, to learn compromise is a way forward. To understand your values and teach them. That diversity is a strength, and we are stronger together than apart. That talk is better than torches. In short to do, rather than accept the way it is. To find best practices and drive real change, not maintain the status quo.

It is on this Labor Day, a marker in our year and journey, natural to fear the darkness. To grow anxious in the face of evil.

To answer that fear I hold that one can walk the path of the carpenter from Bethlehem and actively and intentionally, seek the light.

In doing so, you might just find that in the doing, you also bring the light not only to yourself but also to an anxious stranger who will remember your example and be better.

Real change, the backbreaking labor this Labor Day, starts in the mirror.

How about you? Reflections on Charlottesville.

Posted by Dave Griffith on August 15, 2017 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (1)

I have read and listened with interest the commentary of events in Charlottesville this weekend. I have done so through the lens of being an old white guy working at a faith based social service agency after a 38 year run in the private sector. First violence is unacceptable; hate is unacceptable; but what provokes it?

Four years ago I did not understand the term privileged when it was used to describe my standing in society. The idea that my access to opportunity and the associated economic benefits is an attribute, in part, to my race, my parents economic level, and gender was not one on my radar. My successes in my mind were a function of my education, hard work, and intelligence. The reality is, in fact, for me both are true, and it is a very uncomfortable tension for me, and I suspect others, as I look at the events in Charlottesville and the work we are now involved with in Philadelphia. Clearly, I am not alone.

Are we prepared to look critically at the issue of race and gender in America? It is my firm belief that individuals, all individuals, seek opportunity and the resulting stability and safety that economic well being brings. The hard issue here, the elephant in the room, is that white men historically have had better access to opportunity than women and individuals of color. The loss of that privileged access, or perhaps better said the fear of the loss of that access, is at the core of the white supremacy movement. Could it be that elements of white male America fear the inability to compete on a level playing field?

That same fear blinds individuals to the historical challenges faced by women and people of color and to the power of diversity. Poverty has many roots causes. The lack of access to opportunity and in turn meaningful employment certainly has roots in the issues of the education system, housing, and wellness, but at the core is the lack of a level playing field for all Americans. Success begets Success, but so does failure generate failure. It is the extraordinary resilient individual in the face of our current societal norms and conditions which can lift themselves out of poverty. Are we as Americans, specifically white male Americans, prepared to acknowledge that race and gender are real issues and that creating a different America requires an extraordinary historical shift in attitudes, social norms, and behaviors? Are we prepared to come together and create a bigger America or just hunker down a protect what is ours? Are we as Americans willing to level the field for all Americans, note that poverty in America is a more major issue in rural white America than urban America? Like it or not we are in a global economy, and we are stronger when we all participate.

I suspect the events in Charlottesville do not occur in an America where the private and public sector provide through any number of tools and incentives meaningful jobs with benefits, quality education, and training for the 21st-century realities, for all Americans. Economic well being reduces fear. Economic well being for all Americans requires leadership and courage and political will. It demands that we deal with our differences as a strength. It demands that we look forward with prayer and hope and not seek refuge in the past. If we are to grow and lead as a nation then we need to make the hard decision to create an equal opportunity for all Americans. What one does with that opportunity is still an individual choice. I am not calling for hand outs, I am calling for a thoughtful hand up. If we do not, then we are to be consumed as a nation. The challenge of this is daunting, but the cost of doing nothing is difficult to imagine.

As a person of faith, I know we are stronger when we stand as one and care for each other as one.

I call for change, I call for courage, for innovation, for freedom of choice in the true sense, I pray for all of these, and I commit to being part of the future. How about you?

No more Tweets

Posted by Dave Griffith on August 2, 2017 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

As I write this posting, the world has changed a bit since the first Muddy Boots Blog in November of 2013. As is our family practice, I am sitting on the porch of a house in Codfish Park in Sconset Nantucket overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I am about as far away from Philadelphia, and our work at Episcopal Community Services as one can be. Perhaps it is the contrast that sharpens my thoughts, and more precisely my concerns.

Politically I am an independent. Watching the news this week on the Affordable Care Act and the so called debate I am saddened by the rancor and the inability of our government to lead on such a critical issue as health care. I take comfort that both sides of the aisle have been quietly meeting and that some leadership can emerge from a consensus rather than a strident caucus.

The President scares me. What reading of the Constitution informs him that it is permissible to rough up a suspect, that women occupy a different standing than men, that the behavior of one’s staff can sink to the level of vulgarity that even Lenny Bruce would be embarrassed. How about a tweet on the rule of law, homelessness, poverty, employment, US competitiveness, national nuclear security, real national issues that impact Americans and the rest of the world. Perhaps his new Chief of Staff can bring a sense of order, proper priorities, and direction to this administration.

What has changed the most for me in these four years since I started writing, is my views of poverty and the efforts of many to address the associated issues. When one looks at the data and the funds spent on poverty, one has to conclude that ending poverty is no further along than it was in the 1960’s. One finds that we spend millions to maintains individuals and families, but little if any on programs and approaches to changing peoples lives and providing a path to prosperity. If we are to deliver real impact and lower the number of individuals in poverty, then our efforts need to shift from maintenance to programs that drive sustainable change.

The way out of poverty is employment. The issue is that meaningful work is a function of meaningful jobs. We can provide education, wellness, housing, work force readiness, and other fundamental tools, all at significant expense, but in the absence of real jobs that are available, the results do not move the needle on poverty very much.

It is here we need political leadership and the private sector to come together and drive the creation of jobs that give the opportunity to lift individuals, and in turn families, out of poverty and break this cycle that grips so many in our society. Social services can help people get ready, but jobs need to come from our economy. I suspect a new flavor of social work is in the offering concerning job creation.

I suggest on the matter of poverty; we are a generation or less away from chaos in our country. History tells us that a strong middle class is a basis for a strong nation. Sustainable change can only come from employment at a level that brings individuals and families into the middle class and out of poverty.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that we need to hold our political and business leaders accountable to the issue of job creation and fundamentally addressing poverty in our country. I care about global warming; I care about infrastructure, I care about housing, I care about energy, and all of these require attention, and all could create meaningful jobs along the way. As a country, we need to hold ourselves and our leaders to a higher standard, both at the ballot box and with our wallets.

Run the math on a country where poverty is significantly lower; tax revenues are in aggerate larger, but individual rates lower, and we are addressing core national and international issues with the additional funding. Poverty levels at 5% vs. the current 15% drive the algebra. Even my dog could get elected on that platform.

Our differences need to get set aside, and we focus on real issues, in real time. This is what leaders do. It is what we are called to do.

America needs to be great for all Americans.


July 4, 2017 Mr. President

Posted by Dave Griffith on July 4, 2017 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Age and Citizenship requirements - US Constitution, Article II, Section 1

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.

Term limit amendment - US Constitution, Amendment XXII, Section 1 - ratified February 27, 1951

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

While not in the Constitution I think a few other attributes are in order. Respect for the office, capacity for the office, experienced leadership and proven judgement, the ability to take the heat and stay calm and in command, a commitment to represent all Americans, a commitment to thoughtfully represent American's interest on the world stage, a commander in chief that uses American military in a disciplined and proper manner, uphold American values and above all defend the constitution and laws of the land. To drive change in our government that respond to citizens needs and interests, i.e. environment, healthcare, gun laws, employment, free enterprise, equity, etc. To put the nation’s interests ahead of their own and in doing so do what is right and just and not necessarily popular. To recognize while we are a nation we are also global citizens. Finally, to speak the truth and to lead with transparency and candor.

All of our great Presidents have been called by history to respond to history. With time they have earned the respect of a grateful nation while at the same time not always garnering agreement. With time, one can reflect that the nation under their leadership was moved. The debate is always in which direction.

One can note a few issues on the nation’s plate. Poverty, Race, Employment, Health Care, National Defense, Education, Energy, Environment, Global Terrorism, Nuclear Weapons, Regional Conflict, Gun Control, the Economy, Cyber Security, and the list grows. I am certain that the status of Morning Joe hosts is not high on the list.

We elect our leaders to lead, not tweet. Clearly, the clock is ticking on so many issues. I urge our elected leadership, not just the President, to come together and lead and if they can’t to step down and if they won’t, I call on us as a nation to hold them accountable. Our challenges are too great to sit on the sideline. The founding fathers established a government to work, not pass 8, soon to be 9, continuing budget resolutions.

On our nation’s birthday there is no better time to raise you voice, you pen, your pocketbook and your vote and hold our President accountable. It is our job as a citizen to do so. Our differences are the fuel of our democracy. Red or Blue we agree on the need for leadership on the major issues of our day and the need for collective combined action.

As a nation we are craving you to lead, not just your base, but all of us.

And yes, that starts by acting Presidential.

Put down your damn phone and lead.


All Rise

Posted by Dave Griffith on June 7, 2017 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (1)

I went to a New England boarding school in that late 1960’s. Part of that experience is the instilling of traditions that become imprinted. Class room dress, Chapel dress, mandatory sports, mandatory study hall, and lights out. One that has a particular memory for me is the tradition of standing when the headmaster and his wife entered the dining room for family style dinner. A prefect would call out “All Rise” and as one, the 300 of us would rise and stand until the headmaster instructed us to be seated. It was years before I understood the common bonding moment of that experience.

Fast forward forty four years to a very different time and place. The work I do now is leading a faith based social service agency in the City of Philadelphia focused on the issues of intergenerational poverty. To be clear it is not me leading, rather it is the call to service issued by my Episcopal faith found in our baptismal covenant. To respect the dignity of every human being. To love our neighbor as ourselves. To follow the call issued in Matthew:” For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes”

I am often asked about the work we do at Episcopal Community Services and the role that our faith plays in our work. I am very much one to draft off of the words attributed to St Francis. “Preach the gospel and sometimes use words” I think the best example one can give others is to try an lead a life that delivers positive impact on others and serves as an example of a life dedicated to service. To walk as Jesus would have us walk. Let me be clear, I fall short every day. Words written and spoken can inspire, words written and spoken can direct, but impact, actions, and deeds, have to be the currency in one’s life and a measurement of an individual’s legacy. It is against this standard I choose to measure myself.

What is true for the individual, is also true for the organization and in turn the wider community. It is here that I reach back to my boarding school days. The work that one does in answering the call to services is that of one. The work that occurs when we “All Rise” and stand as one is transformational.

Now more than ever we need to rise as one. When we rise, when we look up and challenge poverty, when through actions that create positive impacts in individual’s lives, when individuals once in poverty are no longer, then we have done work that lives into the call to services laid out in the gospel. That in my mind is the work we are all called to do.

All Rise.....and when we do, we rise.


Posted by Dave Griffith on May 29, 2017 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)

For 22 years our church Trinity Episcopal Solebury has been hosting Lobsterfest. Originally created as a fund raiser for our youth group, it has evolved into a fundraiser for Mission Philadelphia and other outreach efforts of the parish. I have cooked lobsters for 21 of the 22 years the event has been held and have done so with many of the same individuals. Traditions have taken hold, friendships have been created or strengthened, and along the way we have annually produced 800 to 1000 cooked crustaceans aptly known by their scientific name as “Homarus Americanus”. With pride we have never had one sent back.

In heat and cold, rain or shine, we gather, this band of brothers and sisters working alongside another 100 plus volunteers to raise funds for mission. We do this, as many churches do with many of our volunteer efforts, to answer a call to service. Each in our own way and time. As a community of faith we are called by our baptismal covenant to love our neighbors as ourselves and to respect the dignity of every human being. Not just our neighbors in need down the street, but our brothers and sisters in Philadelphia, in Chester, in Darby, and Bristol and a 1000 other communities where there is need.

There is great power in scale. Especially when people of faith come together and focus on a common call to service. In the work I do now, I see the power of scale happen every day. We serve some 2000 individuals annually with a range of programs, which in combination challenge poverty. Our work could not occur unless our 150 employees, hundreds of volunteers and 1000 plus donors and foundations all answer the common call to service, and each of us in our own way focus on the work to bring justice, dignity, community, and impact to our work.

I would like to think that whether it is tending the lobster pots or working alongside the good men and women of Episcopal Community Services our motivation is the same. This call to service, this common work as I have come to understand it, is based on the understanding that the carpenter from Bethlehem showed us the way. Matthew 25: “I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

I love the dismal at the end of service that informs us that the worship has ended, but the service is beginning. I would like to think that at the end of the day that is what a community of faith is all about. At this time in our history, and in this place, there has never been a better time to answer the call. Nor has there been a greater need.

If not us…..who?


Four Year's In

Posted by Dave Griffith on May 3, 2017 at 8:30 AM Comments comments (1)

May 1st marked my 4th year as Head Coach at Episcopal Community Services after a 38 year run in the for profit world. I thought I would share a few observations and top 10 thoughts:

1. Poverty if not addressed will consume us as a society.

2. That for many, the way out of Poverty is a real job.

3. That the current and historical methodology of dealing with Poverty is one of maintenance, not one of change. The data is very clear on this.

4. That Social Work as a profession is undervalued and not recognized for the career that it is.

5. Given the choice of an MBA or an MSW I would take the MSW every time.

6. Talent matters. Always has and always will. Hence the power of inclusion and diversity.

7. Listening is way more important that telling.

8. You participants will tell you what they need. See 7. Same with employees.

9. That the baptismal covenant and the Social Work Code of ethics, share the same values.

10. Powerful and truthful advocacy and witness, with the associated political will and vote is the most powerful tool in the tool kit to drive change.

So as individuals leading a faith based social service agency we call for you and us to Look Up and Challenge Poverty. We envision a world where access to prosperity is available to all. We hold in all we do the bedrock values of Justice, Community, Dignity, and Impact.

Our board has approved our strategic plan for 2018-2020 and backed it with investment. The three goals of this plan are:

1. Service delivery in alignment with economic mobility outcomes.

2. Infrastructure, operations, and human and financial capacity exemplify core values, organizational excellence, and position the agency for strategic growth.

3. Positioned as a leader in issue of economic mobility in the region.

Said another way we are moving away from the maintenance model to the change model in our current programs and new programs that are in the planning stage. Our work is about addressing individuals in poverty through mobility mentoring and coaching and the five fundamentals of family stability, health and well-being, financial management, education and training, and employment and careers. This model is backed by research and the most current brain science. I am grateful for our friends at EMPath for sharing their research as we pivot as an agency.

The next four years ought to be interesting.

Join us. Look Up. Challenge Poverty.

Easter in Waders

Posted by Dave Griffith on April 15, 2017 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Tomorrow is the end of lent. By tradition and practice one gives up something for lent. I tried something different this year. I decided that I would give up sitting on my backside and try things that I have wanted to do and had put off. Given the season and on reflection, I wanted them to be events or activities that would lead to changes, and with focus, positive change.

So every day of lent I reached out to one individual I knew, but had not talked too and reconnected. Had some awkward, uncomfortable conversations, but also, some really good ones. By far the most powerful, a friend whom I find is dying of cancer and I did not know, we have reconnected and together we have talked about bucket lists, quality of life, planning, and the nature of events we don’t control. In this season of the resurrection, it takes on a very different promise for both of us.

Another conversation was with a mentee whom I had not spoken with in some time. We connected and as luck would have it we were able to meet for lunch. While I thought I knew her well, in the course of the conversation she mentioned her involvement with a retreat center and helping to raise funds for its operation. Turns out she has a practice of going on spiritual retreat on a regular basis and part of that are long periods of silence and reflection. Something I am not very good at, and the conversation nudged me to find a way to make that part of my practice.

So today I put the plan into play. I have not fly-fished in 25 years. Christmas my wife gave me a new fly rod and reel with the wisdom that comes from 40 years of relationship. She knew that I needed down time and the chance to reflect away from email and that fishing would combine my love of gadgets with an opportunity to get away from the cell phone.

It turns out the last day of lent is the first day of trout season in Pennsylvania. Sunrise on the Delaware, knee deep in my waders, casting and taking in the water, mist, ducks and thinking about the need to do more of this, and that a caught fish is a bonus. Thinking about my family and friends, thinking about my work, thinking about a world that grows more complex, thinking about an Easter empty tomb and how that makes the world simpler. Understanding a little better why we need the message and hope of Easter.

We give up things in Lent, with the intended result to drive change.

The majesty of Easter is that it occurs.




Long into the Night

Posted by Dave Griffith on March 18, 2017 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Long into the night I look out the kitchen window, the glass acting as a dark mirror, sitting at the table with a cooling cup of coffee, the phone in my ear, listening, trying to be present when I cannot physically be.

In my work words matter, but so does the ability to listen. Tonight the person on the phone just needs to talk to a trusting ear. Some nights they just need an assurance, others advice, sometimes just to hear a friendly voice, a laugh, and sometimes even an “I love you man”.

While I love the written word, our email, text, snap chat, is just not the same as that voice on the line, and even better is that voice face to face. Crucial conversations are best in person. We have gotten out of the habit of face to face communications; we hide behind technology when the message is uncomfortable. We lose the emotion, the meaning, the nuance and dignity that comes from direct interaction and the ability to speak directly and in real time.

As a leader, how well do you listen? Do you make the time, create the safe environment, and make it a priority to listen to your employees, your customers, and stake holders? I believe that the individual closest to the work knows the most about the work. Look as leaders you need to communicate and communicate well the vision, the mission and what you expect from your people and hold yourself and the organization accountable. Clear and precise communications across all the platforms is essential, but meaningful communications start with listening and feedback and listening and feedback needs to be a habit. You can’t walk in someone’s shoes unless you listen to their story and you need to be present when they are ready to talk.

Sometimes even long into the night.


We all come to look for America

Posted by Dave Griffith on February 21, 2017 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

The iconic final to verses of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America”

So I looked at the scenery,

She read her magazine;

And the moon rose over an open field.

"Kathy, I'm lost", I said,

Though I knew she was sleeping.

"I'm empty and aching and

I don't know why."


Counting the cars

On the New Jersey Turnpike

They've all come

To look for America,

All come to look for America,

All come to look for America


Recent events give this song a different meaning than when I heard it the first time. The lines “I’m empty and aching” describe many of us these days. As a nation of immigrants, as a nation of citizens, don’t we all come to look for America? Isn’t the America dream that opportunity is available to all?


Who’s America one might ask? It is not like the American experience is the same for everyone. In fact, based on race, gender, parents, geography, education, religion, mentors, access to opportunity, and a hundred other attributes our experience of America is very different.


I am OK with that reality as long as we acknowledge it and as long as we don’t assume our experience of America is the same for everyone else. In reality, equal access to opportunity, the basis of the American dream, is very much a myth. Public policy and political leadership framed on this stereotype, especially one so clearly a myth, is not good policy. It is this policy we look to change, both through advocacy and through the impact of our programs.


At Episcopal Community Services where I work, we deal with the issues of poverty in the Philadelphia region. We clearly know the American experience is not the same for all Americans, let alone immigrants. Our America is one where access to opportunity, to prosperity, is available to all. That is not a reality now, but it is a vision we aspire to for the individuals we serve and we hope all individuals. With access, and all of the related skills to realize opportunity, we hope the individuals we serve can break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Through economic mobility we hope individuals can achieve their version of the American dream. For more on our work see www.ecsphilly.org


Too many people are empty and aching. Too many of our citizens are looking for America.


We all come to look for America. Let us focus on the “we”.


A Change Pivot

Posted by Dave Griffith on February 10, 2017 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

I remember clearly the first time I was told that change is constant and that if you don’t adapt, you die, and that change is what happens. On reflection that was harsh advice for a 5 year old on the passing of his dog, but setting that aside, the observation has, as we all know, proved out. The evidence is overwhelming. No comment on the parenting skills.

So why do we fight it?

For some it is because if you are currently comfortable, change could make you uncomfortable. For some it is fear, as anything new is unknown and therefore we see the worst case as the most likely. For some, change is seen as a challenge to individual values and beliefs and for the most part we do not like to rock these boats.

If history teaches us nothing else, it is that stability is fleeting. It also teaches us that the ability to anticipate, adapt, renew, and grow is essential. It also tells us that fundamental core values can provide the foundations on which we can thrive in a complex and ever changing environment.

So let me bring this conversation back to Episcopal Community Services where I work. We have looked at ourselves as a staff and board and we have looked at the region and the people we serve and we have concluded our 145 year old agency needs to pivot.

We went off and asked what are our core mission, vision and values. We concluded that our mission is to “Look up and to challenge poverty”. We do not accept that 28 percent of the region living in poverty is acceptable. Our vision, albeit aspirational, is we “envision a world where access to prosperity is available to all” To steal a phrase, a hand up, not a hand out. We identified 4 core values of, impact, justice, dignity, and community; each with a bedrock definition to all of our stakeholders. We then, with research and thought, identified the best science to deliver results and inform our work, and we concluded that a model of economic mobility and mentoring is the best available and we are in the process of training ourselves in the “Empath model” out of Boston with the intent to both integrate the science into current programs and create new ones focused specifically on economic mobility. At the same time we have rebranded our agency, see www.ecsphilly.org, and we have added resources in the advocacy, talent development, and data analytics areas. In addition we are looking at our funding streams, governance, and partnership with our diocese and parishes as to current and future best practices. All why keeping the lights on with our current well regarded programs that serve over 2000 individuals and families today.

I am proud of our staff, our board, our partners and the people we serve. We have chosen not to fear change, but to embrace it, name it, and act on it, and in doing so improve the work we do and drive positive impact in our community. We do so with our Episcopal traditions in place and serving as a guide in all that we do. We believe that the combination of our faith tradition and solid social work values gives us a unique capability, one that we can leverage in our work.

We choose to lead. We do not fear change.

Join us,” Look Up, Challenge Poverty”.