For some reason, I thought it was Mick Jagger who coined the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” It wasn’t him. It was a fellow named Mark Weinberg from Buffalo, NY. Mark found himself at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in mathematics with an interest in free speech on the side. It was the beginning of the free speech movement, and on a summer day in 1964 the Berkeley campus police, a little twitchy about campus demonstrations on various topics, including “civil rights,” demanded Mark show his identification. He refused.
Shortly thereafter, thousands of students surrounded the campus police car and wouldn’t let it move. As the crowds grew and people began making speeches atop the police car, the administration thought better of their position and negotiated a deal not to charge Mark. He emerged from the police car some 32 hours later, was booked and released.
It was a Pyrrhic victory.
A week later, the Alameda County District Attorney laid charges. It was a while later, when being interviewed by an obstreperous reporter for the San Francisco Chronical, that he came out with the remark “In the movement we don’t trust anyone over 30,” which became a lightning rod for a generation. Actually, my generation.
Of course, this generation of self-styled civil rights activists, anti-war protestors, drug imbibers and free love experimenters morphed over time into hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, and marketing gurus, generally after their 30th birthday.
I’ve been thinking about being 30 lately. It is related to the sobering realization that this fall we shall celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Northern Ontario Business Awards. It has been an improbable and exhilarating adventure.
Thirty years ago, David Peterson was the newly minted Liberal premier of the province. He was supported by, yes, NDP leader Bob Rae. They made a deal to run the province for two years without an election. That’s how they toppled the Big Blue Machine and more than 40 years of Tory rule. Peterson took a particular interest in Northern Ontario and put considerable effort into trying to move jobs north to support economic development. Among other things, he moved the Ontario Geological Survey operations to Sudbury and the Ontario Lottery Corporation to Sault St. Marie. This bold transfer of jobs (decentralizing the civil service across Ontario) was unheard of at the time, and successive governments have been trying to sneak back to the Big Smoke ever since.
David Peterson supported our dream to hold an annual celebration of business excellence in Northern Ontario. We had been operating Northern Ontario Business newspaper for about six years and we knew if we could get a little help we could bring Northerners together, from the Quebec border in the east to the Manitoba border in the west, to celebrate the pain and the joy of doing business in this fabulous part of the world.
It was our opinion Northerners had no idea how good they were.
Since 1986, we have celebrated more than 260 companies and individuals who have made our communities stronger and sustainable. More than 13,000 people have come together to honour the best among us across the North. It was hard to imagine back then. We think it has helped us see ourselves differently.
If you are reading this column, you know whereof I speak.
I hope you’ll consider coming to celebrate with us this year on Oct. 6 in Sudbury. It will be our 30th celebration of the Northern Ontario Business Awards program and, as best we can figure, you can still go hunting the following week.
A lot of water goes under the bridge in 30 years. What doesn’t change is the joy of the chase, the thrill of creating wealth in this extraordinary land and meeting the very special people who would have it no other way.
We are going to be 30. You can trust us.