For the last few years, some of my favorite people in the world have been encouraging me to make the trip to Toronto to experience the Toronto Summer Institute on Inclusion. Candice and I were able to make it happen and WOAH! It was incredible.
In the spirit of giving full attention to my “return,” I am going to do a series of posts on the experience (this being the first).
I thought I’d start with giving you a feel for the backdrop for my experience: The lovely city of Toronto! It’s an amazing city. It starts as you drive into the city. We passed wind farms and solar panels galore. It’s funny to me how the debate on energy has been so narrow…either you are “drill baby drill” or you’re some kind of flower-child. Canada seems to be on the path to balance, which has to lead to good things.
Anyway, we arrived on Friday night, despite some delays at the border (yours truly accidentally ran the customs booth, touching off a minor international incident!) On Saturday, we spent some time exploring the city. We “got lost” in Kensington Market (Cincinnatians – Imagine Findlay market times 10), we took in some Rothko and Pollack at the AGO. Above is my fave Rothko. Candice made a snide offer to reproduce it for me herself. Lesson: Don’t take a philistine to a modern art gallery.
We travelled many miles on Saturday, all over Toronto….without a car! That was my favorite part of the city. You don’t have to own a car to get literally everywhere. There is a subway, streetcars and buses. (Psst, Cincinnati….After having experienced them, Ol’ Timmers is now firmly planted in the pro-streetcar faction. I was in favor of them before, but seeing how easily and quickly we got around the city, and how affordable they were – you can buy a day pas for $10 and it covers two adults and 4 children! – count me in the camp of people that are certain that it’s a wise investment in our future.)
There are even “Bixi” bike rentals all over town and can be returned at other stops!
We had one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever, made by a guy who one day decided to turn his garage into a grilled cheese restaurant! We could literally find any kind of goods or food we wanted within a few blocks. The downtown square was constantly bustling with people, buskers, and festivals of some shape or size. There are tons of parks and lots of public (formal and informal) art all over the place. Bonus: most of the public trash bins give you the option to recycle. It’s one of the coolest cities I’ve ever visited.
That evening, we had the welcome ceremony of the Institute and then enjoyed some drinks in the hospitality suite. One Tom Kohler was there, and he was surrounded by young people, who he was asking to describe their Toronto experiences. Lots of people mentioned the things that I’ve described, and everyone tried to describe the flow of people they saw…diverse, integrated, multicultural, etc. Then Tom said what we’d all danced around, but couldn’t find the words for: Is it possible that it doesn’t seem like there is any “them” here?
That’s the thing we couldn’t find words for, but he’s exactly right. There’s a feel to Toronto that everyone is everywhere together. I saw people of every stripe together and there are small shops for nearly everything you could want. Combine that with the accessible transportation, the embracing of environmental measures, and you get a sense of vibrancy, in-it-together-ness and progress….in a word: Inclusion.
It’s striking and beautiful and the city played its part perfectly in the weeklong learning and conversation, which I’ll get to in a subsequent post.