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“To be a good mayor, you have to have the heart of a social worker and the head of chief executive officer.”
“Political consultants said, 'oh, don’t talk about compassion, it’ll make you appear weak, and politicians are supposed to appear strong,’” Fischer said during an event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. His response to that advice: “First off, I’m not a politician, I’m a public servant. And, what I’ve found is, it is more difficult for people to show compassion and kindness and love than it is to be a cynic from the couch, so we’re going to talk about compassion every day.”
He delivered his remarks on Wednesday during an event called TEDxPennsylvaniaAvenue, an independently organized affiliate of the widely viewed TED Talks. The morning segment of the daylong forum featured speakers who discussed local-level issues that have to do with government, nonprofits and media.
In addition to boosting compassion in Louisville, Fischer has identified improving public health and promoting “lifelong learning” as other top goals for his administration. He is also known for his emphasis on data-driven policymaking and his focus on upping government performance.
During his talk, Fischer shared a photo of himself with the Dalai Lama, and referenced the writings of Thomas Merton, a well-known Trappist monk. At a downtown Louisville street corner in 1958, Merton experienced an epiphany about his connection with other human beings.
A self-described businessman and entrepreneur, Fischer also explained the way performance data has helped improve emergency medical services in Louisville, and how the city is trying to guide policies related to air quality with information gathered from people’s asthma inhalers.
Additionally, the mayor outlined what, in his view, are the three key parts of any city job. One is doing day-to-day work, another is continuous improvement, and the third is innovation. And early on in his remarks he summed up his own job by saying: “To be a good mayor, you have to have the heart of a social worker and the head of chief executive officer.”
One of the hallmarks in Fischer’s push for greater compassion in Louisville is his Give a Day initiative, which takes place over the course of one week each year. Local residents and organizations are urged to “give a day” to volunteer work, or to carrying out other acts of kindness. This year, the initiative took place from April 18-26 and over 166,000 people participated.
“When you take a look at the balance sheet, or the budget, of a city, state, or federal government,” Fischer said, “there is no line item on there that says: ‘sense of community.’”
But he added: “It’s our most important asset.”