Andy Arends is a self-professed “intrapreneurial” executive and servant leader. He has significant healthcare strategy and operations experience, and his experience includes health plan strategy, care management, digital transformation, core administration systems / operations, and Business Process as a Service (BPaaS). Past public speaking engagements and webinars include CHIME, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the California Association of Health Plans (CAHP), the Association of Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP), and multiple private webinars and workshops focused on healthcare strategy. Contact Andy by email at Andy_Arends@post.harvard.edu or reach out through LinkedIn.
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92-12 Andy Arends
Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to the 92 report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m here today with my friend Andy Aaron’s. Andy, welcome to the show. Thanks.
Andy Arends 00:16
Will, great to be here.
Will Bachman 00:17
So Andy, let’s start. Give us the thumbnail sketch of your journey since leaving Harvard.
Andy Arends 00:25
So Well, I had a great kind of interesting journey after Harvard. But it starts really when I was a freshman. I got to know a couple seniors Randall fetcher. And Chris Yardley, who work Chris Burton, Chris Birkenstock Yardley sorry, who were had already signed up to become rotary fellows and get a get a year’s worth of study abroad. Courtesy of the Rotary Foundation, I thought that was kind of a cool thing to do. So coming on to our I guess it was our junior year, I applied for and was awarded one of the rotary ambassadorial scholarships. So I went to Scotland, really, almost immediately after graduation, I guess, four months after graduation, and spent 18 months there getting a master’s degree in political science. But even between those two, though, I spent a summer working on political campaigns back in Iowa, working for a Republican congressman from Northeast Iowa on his campaign, and got to see kind of the sordid underbelly of electoral politics. But then went to Scotland came back from Scotland and had a chance to go work in Des Moines my, in my home state, but also had a chance to go work for a consulting firm in Boston that could potentially send me back overseas. And I made the decision that I could always go back to Iowa. But I would, it would be hard to go from Iowa to overseas again. So I took that opportunity. Turns out it was 100% wrong, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Joining me joined that management consulting firm, worked in London, South Africa, Taiwan, Israel, us little bit Switzerland and had a great time in South Africa was there right after the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela has just been elected. And we were there to help roll out phone service to black and mixed race neighborhoods in the South African term was colored for people who had been denied phone service under apartheid. And the other thing we were doing was we were racially integrating the company because the phone company was owned by the government. And so by law, it was also racially segregated and what work people could do. People who are black South Africans could only do manual labor. People who were colored or mixed race South Africans, because you manual labor or supervised blacks, people of Indian descent could only work as office clerks largely. And then whites could only supervise and so helping dismantle that really kind of root and branch apartheid system was probably one of the most meaningful things I did in my in my 20s. Got to work in Israel as I said Taiwan starting phone companies and then decided to come back to the US in part because I checked back into the hotel in Taiwan and the hotel descript said welcome home, Mr. errands, and I realized that I didn’t want to spend my life as a nomad. So came back to us went to business school at UCLA. enjoyed my time out there was a number of our classmates were actually in the program. Hey, Alex, Hey, Josh. And then coming out of business school, I also decided to La wasn’t my homey it just wasn’t my place. So I looked where I had three older brothers. I had one in Dallas, too hot, too many Texans, one in Minnesota, too cold, too many mosquitoes, and one in Denver. So I moved to Denver, my wife there at Trinity Methodist church on a mission trip and got married there had a first child there and moved into the healthcare field. I’d gotten laid off by two different telecom companies during the dot bomb implosion of 2000 2001. And decided to kind of remake myself for the first time. Switching from telecom to healthcare, spent four or five years with McKesson and then went to work for Kaiser Permanente. Our classmates on the west coast in Georgia in the DC area will be familiar with Kaiser, but for those of you who aren’t, it’s both a health insurer and a health system mean that it has hospitals or heart hospital partnerships, and employs physicians. I’ve had a great experience there. But that’s where I kind of hit reset to where I got fired. And it was I was doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons. I was working to expand their Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, but was doing in a way that was all about me. And I had to walk home or come home from work one day until my wife who was a full time stay at home mom with our I guess daughter was about a year and a half old at the time that had been fired, had to find a new job. And that was right as the Oh 708 recession kicked in. So I knew I needed to find something fast. We wanted to stay in Colorado couldn’t do it. So had to move to Chicago into the job with Deloitte Consulting, which was you know, as part of that kind of second reset they went through. Really was humbling. I got out of it. talking for a while my skills were rusty wasn’t the right fit really, but had to kind of get through it because I needed the money to support my family. And along that way, really due to an emotional reset as well. You know, some of the people who will know know me from kind of before and after, or at least in a professional sense will describe the changes striking. That was also an opportunity for me to deepen my faith and kind of reengage with my faith, I’m Christian. And that was a chance for me to kind of really remember that I need to put someone other than myself first. Along the way, then worked at Deloitte left Deloitte, after two and a half years because of all the travel and went to what I thought was gonna be a lower travel job working for a division of Dell, their services division, and standard healthcare, still working, serving healthcare companies. And then I was there almost a decade through a couple of acquisitions and moves. And then, interestingly enough, they came out with a package for people over 50, as they were trying to reshape the company strategy. And to my boss’s chagrin, and with his greement, if I would delay it six months, I took the package left. And so that was actually the last summer. And I took three months and just kind of play with my family. I, I went on trips with my kids, I, my wife, and I did some fun things, family trips, all sorts of stuff. And I was just starting to get back into a job search last fall, when I got the news that my father was not doing well. And I’d been planning to visit so I went up to visit them, and they now live in suburban Minneapolis. And my father had a long term, liver, bile duct disease, I can’t remember the full name of it, but it was something called PSC. And so as he started down his path in the hospital, and in hospice, I was able to join him on that walk. And I will tell you, it was the best possible walk through a battling. And you know, for all the challenges our healthcare system has, in this case, it worked. He had great care in the hospital, we had great coordination and health in the hospice team. And I was able to be there with him throughout that journey with no distractions, because I wasn’t working at the time, was one of the most meaningful things in my life, in part, not just because I wasn’t worried about work. But more I was, I was not allowed to distract myself with work, which would have been probably my natural reaction had been working at the time. And I was forced to be fully present. And I think that was one of the biggest insights I took away from his passing was the need to be fully present at critical moments in life. And those critical moments, you know, they don’t just happen when someone gets ill they happen every day. I look back now and with all the traveling I was doing for 10 years, when I would fly 250,000 miles a year for for dela for Deloitte, I missed a lot of those critical moments, especially with my oldest daughter, she’s now almost 16. And I know I’m not going to get that time back. And so I’m really focused right now on making sure I kind of have those moments with her and with my other, my son and my other daughters to kind of keep that focus. Along the way there, I got a phone call from someone I’ve worked with for on and off for over a decade, and they invited me to come join their company. And so I’m now the chief growth officer at healthcare software company. So I run sales, marketing, business development and channels. And I’m working to try and grow this small software company to where we can get to some sort of capital event in the next two or three years, and then probably look for another one to do it all over again. You know, someone once asked me to describe what my super ego said, they said, everyone has superpowers, what’s yours. And I think I figured out that I have two. One is telling stories. And the second is connecting dots. And so that’s what I tried to do for them today. So, you know, personally, we live outside of Chicago, Illinois, about 40 miles due west of what I still call the Sears Tower. And in the spare time, I’m an active volunteer in both my son’s Boy Scout troop, and the cub scout troop that he came out, and also at a church and some things like that. So that’s the last 30 years in a nutshell.
Will Bachman 08:59
Well, thank you for sharing that, Andy. That’s, and for, and for being so vulnerable, and willing, willing to really share some things that were deeply meaningful and probably it’s pretty tough to go through.
Andy Arends 09:13
Yeah, the getting fired. One was, was, was pretty tough. You know,
Will Bachman 09:17
I want to just celebrate the fact that you’re, you know, comfortable using that word and sharing that, you know, it’s a lot of us would try to sugarcoat that or, you know, position is, oh, well, I decided to move on or whatever, we had a downsizing or layout. Yeah. But, but to be able to come out and say that, um, that really shows some confidence and you know, that you’ve, you kind of come to peace with it and really learn, you know, learn from it. You’re not not ashamed of it, and
Andy Arends 09:45
it was hard and the hardest part probably was forgiving the person that caused me to get fired. I got on the wrong side of a certain individual. And they made it clear that I needed to go and it was It wasn’t even to someone above me it was It was a essentially appeared, but I’ve been with the organization a long time. And I had read the organization incorrectly and I had read her incorrectly, in large part because like I said, my ego got in the way.
Will Bachman 10:15
I want to talk a little bit more, if you’re open to discussing it, uh, you know about, about your father, and I’m sorry to hear of his passing. Thank you. It’s something that, you know, I guess members of our class now or, you know, have dealt with or will be, you know, we’re at the time of light, you mentioned that it was one of the most insightful and inspiring times, and it was, you know, how great it was that you weren’t distracted at work at the time. Tell me some more about, you know, some of the insights you had, or, you know, the kind of interactions you had with your father, and, you know, just, you know, maybe other changes that, you know, in that you’ve made in your life based on, you know, having gone through that with your father.
Andy Arends 11:04
Well, one of the things was, you know, because because of that event of getting fired from Kaiser had caused me to rethink a lot of things, particularly around relationships. I had been working on my relationship with my father for over a decade. And we didn’t have a bad one before. But we weren’t particularly close to my father was not a man who had a lot of friends, or was a lot of fun. He wasn’t the guy that was the storyteller in the back, Slapper, my dad worked. And that’s one of the things that he instilled in all four of us boys. And I think part of it, though, was learning to realize that work isn’t necessarily always everything. I was blessed by my wife’s father, who passed away just a couple of years ago from Alzheimer’s, but I saw the richness of his life and the relationships that he and his wife had built literally over decades, and the friendships they had and how rich their life was, compared to my own father’s, in that regard. So some of these things, that was what I was learning ahead of time. But it was really important to me to understand that. And it’s, it’s something that’s been part of my thinking with my father is that I look at kind of my next, my next phase, or my life kind of phase we’re in is that the relationships we build. Now, if we don’t already have them, this is an opportunity to build relationships that will sustain you, if you’re lucky to the end of your life, my father had very few of them so that I can’t think of any close personal friends other than one of his brothers, the only one still living that he had. And that’s what I know I don’t want to have in my own life. And I’m also was also able to watch the compare contracts of my in laws, who invested time in relationships. And I think, you know, the more you invest in a relationship, the more you’ll get out of it. And so that’s been a big focus for me, a big learning for me through that whole process is, you know, think about not just the relationships you’re building for today, but what if that relationship will sustain you, it’s also led me to prune some relationships that I’m choosing not to maintain going forward, and kind of seek out some additional ones that I really think will be ones that will nurture my spirit and my soul throughout the remainder of my life. And part of that means because my wife and I had children a little when we were a little bit older, we have lots of peers, from our children’s friends, parents, who are almost a decade or more younger than we are. And so those are actually very selfishly great friends to make because they’re going to be around and more accurate and keep us on the flip side. Because I’ve got a daughter that’s turning 16 And some of these friends, their oldest pairs up with my youngest, I’m also able to share some wisdom with them about kind of trying to navigate through teenage years and things like that. And one of the biggest things I keep coming back to is that lesson that I kind of been learning and learning is about those critical moments and that you don’t want to miss those to a certain extent kids spell quality time qu A N T it why quantity? Yeah. And so that’s been a real recognition as well. But I think it’s it’s really important to kind of make sure that you’re thinking about what those moments are.
Will Bachman 14:24
Yeah, you know, your points about friendship are it’s, it’s, it’s tough to you start new friendships, I think as an adult, it’s easy to be you know, work and, you know, have work relationships, but go through life and almost have, you know, friendships that you had earlier prune away over time, but not be developing newer ones or investing in ones and, and somehow in the modern world, it can be difficult to form new friendships, right, it’s, it’s sometimes much easier in school. It’s difficult a different environment. And that’s a sure, you know, an area that a lot of people struggle with.
Andy Arends 15:04
Yeah, I think, you know, that old truism that relationships are built on shared experiences is a critical one. And, you know, one of the things that I think about is when we’re interacting with other parents of my daughter’s tennis team, or my son Scout unit, I’m actually actively kind of reaching out and trying to build on those relationships, and see if there’s a fit there. And that sounds very cold and calculating. But what I think it really is, is a recognition that, and the data will tell you, it’s it’s especially true for men. But you’ve got to kind of look to build those relationships intentionally. I wasn’t one of those, you know, I have classmates, you know, I think of people like Jace RB, and Eric EADS and Jamie Riley, and resolvent. They were close friends from freshman year, they remain close friends now. They, they’re, you know, I see them getting together interacting maybe less frequently than they were in their 20s. But those relationships are so strong, I wasn’t fortunate enough to have that kind of a rooming group. Just that how things worked out for me. And so it’s been more of an effort to kind of sustain and nurture some of those things. Yep, couple of my roommates, I’m still in touch with on a semi regular basis, I just talked to one of them about a month or so ago. But otherwise, it’s really been one of seeking out those relationships and friendships that provide an opportunity. Because it’s also an opportunity to give back. It’s not just that you give from those friendships, get you get from those friendships, you’re also giving you may not know, at the time how you’re giving. But you know, just be aware that just by your presence and kind of being in conversation and being relationship people with people, you’re not just get you’re not just getting you’re also giving
Will Bachman 16:51
you mentioned how your faith has been important to you. And talk to me a little bit about that about the your, your faith community and about what role that’s played in your life.
Andy Arends 17:03
Oh, boy. So I grew up in a small town on a farm outside of a small town in Iowa. We went to church every Sunday, but it was I think, for me, at least it was more because it’s what you did and what your family did and what your cousins and your your grandparents and everyone around you did. But Mike faiths are really deepening when I was at Harvard, actually, in part because of where my drone was located. And the bell, and that is
Will Bachman 17:29
Canada today. Good to see you. Candidate G
Andy Arends 17:32
Yeah, right near that bell. And I, you know, on my own started going to men church, Reverend and yep, and I, I volunteered as an usher and ultimately with Martha pangloss was the CO Head usher our senior year. But I became good friends with Peter and Peter could appeal to someone’s heart. But in my case, he also appealed to my head. And he brought to me a, you know, a light of Italy, intellectual Christianity that I had not experienced, growing up. And I think that was the kind of lay the foundation, if you will, that, to me made rational sense, but also appealed to my heart. But you know, both head and heart, and over the years of our 20s kind of ebbed and flowed a little bit, but really became more active during my time in LA. And then I lived in Denver, and my wife and I, when we were engaged, we actually decided to join a class at our church, where we read the Bible in a year. And that was kind of another kind of great foundation. But it was also it was also a real chance to just kind of get that whole survey and I just went through a program last calendar year, why read the Bible through in different sections, again, by reading every you know, a little bit of every day. There’s a great blog, the when your bible.com, it kind of lays it all out for you run by a friend of mine out of Denver, but it really started to provide a grounding for me. And when I went through that period, where I got fired, where I went through a couple of layoffs in the early 2000s in the tech industry, that was a big part of getting through my head that it wasn’t all about me. Because I mean, when I was living in Denver, I was I was living a great life. I lived in a cool 1920s arts and crafts bungalow. We had great restaurants in the neighborhood we walked to, I was getting really involved with some cool nonprofits. What was a charter school in that first generation immigrants and kind of putting them on a path to success. I was involved with community health centers, raising money for them to kind of extend care to the needy, but I was doing it for the wrong reason. It was about my ego and what I could do, not about what I was doing for others and who I was doing before. And so going through that termination process getting fired, walked out the building by the garb of the box. You know, that was really a rock bottom for me, but also a chance to start to look up more. And then along the way, you know, I think everyone’s faith ebbs and flows over time, and whatever, whatever you choose to believe in or not believing there’s, there’s an ebb and flow to it. But I think a big part of it is trying to find ways to be in community with others about because I think if you’re trying to do faith on your own, at least for me, it’s a struggle, I can’t do faith on my own, I have to do it with my wife, I have to do with my family, I have to deal with, with others that I know. And that’s been probably the biggest blessing to me. And again, kind of back to building those relationships. It’s been a big part of that. Does that kind of makes sense?
Will Bachman 20:45
It does. Talk to me a bit more about that work that you did in South Africa, of helping that telecom to integrate? And oh, God, and, like, specifically, how did they go about it, you know, on sort of day two, you know, you want to start bringing, you know, you know, the black people into, you know, other parts of the company, right. And as you, you know, in the term, they’re like mixed race people in different parts Indian, but, you know, sort of on day two, they, you know, haven’t had the education and the skills. So, how did the company like develop plans to start educating people or building their skills and capabilities, to, you know, to get to an integrated future state.
Andy Arends 21:33
So I think a big part of it was a recognition that it was going to be imperfect. And that was okay. You may remember, there was a program going on at the time, largely led by Bishop Desmond Tutu, who just passed away, called The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And so there was a big effort to hear, to hear and be heard, for people to share their stories and to kind of work through that transition. And there was an acknowledgement, I think, pretty pragmatically by whites, that this was the New South Africa and going back wasn’t optional. And so you may still have racist beliefs in your heart. But that wasn’t how the country was going to operate going forward. And a number of South Africans I knew to still choose chose to leave, went to Australia, somewhat to the US someone to the UK, but a lot of people who just weren’t going to put up with it chose to leave. But ironically, I found that those people tended to be English speaking and not Afrikaans speaking, South Africa’s white community is made up really of two main groups. There’s a one of Dutch or Flemish heritage that settled really in this, some of them in the 1600s. And then moved throughout the country, which in many cases, many areas was completely unpopulated time somewhere somewhere. And then there was an English speaking elite, if you will. And what was fascinating about that was the English speaking whites liked the fact that I went to Harvard. And they found that interesting and what to do engage about that, which was one of the few times I actually found dropping the H bomb to be intentionally a good thing. The second was the Afrikaans speakers, because they tend to be from a more rural tradition, love the fact that I grew up on a farm. And I could relate with them in that way. And then the blacks, colors and Indians were. They like the fact that I was there to help but I was going to leave. Because at the time, there was actually an influx of African Americans moving to South Africa, general with all great intention of kind of being part of this new change going on. But South African companies at the time, as I recall it, were able to hire African Americans to fulfill their racial quotas for affirmative action. And so professional and semi professional black South Africans were resentful against African Americans. And so the fact that I was, by my nature going to be transitory, and that I was there to help and I was going to leave was a benefit. You know, the I think the other thing was that, and I think correctly, because they had the Mandela government had a limited amount of time to start to affect change, that, again, recognizing that it wasn’t to be perfect. They put in some firmly strict affirmative action quotas, around different employment groups and management and things like that. And I think that was essential, really, in that time period in place to make that change happen. And South Africa is far from a perfect country. So when I visited several times since I left in 97, it’s one that still has it struggles today with poverty, with inclusion with racism. In, in many forms, even against immigrants from other parts of Africa, which find South Africa to be very inhospitable, sometimes, largely because of economic reasons. But it is is still a place that is a work in progress. But it is, I still find it to truly be the beloved country in the words of Alan Payton’s novel. And but I got, I was told something once when I came back for a visit, and I met up with one of my old clients, his big old, you know, tough as a boot. Afrikaans white South Africa, who said, told me, you know, once the dust of Africa gets in your nose, it never leaves. And I think that’s still true, I still have a fond place in my heart for Africa, and maybe a place where I wind up again, in some sort of volunteer assistance capacity. I don’t know. That’ll be for probably a phase four, Phase Five, Phase Five in my life.
Will Bachman 25:54
What courses that you took in college, if any, have continued to resonate with you?
Andy Arends 26:01
Oh, gosh, I think one of the ones and it’s ironic that it’s it’s really kind of driving me now with my oldest daughter who has a love of literature and is considering either being a teacher or a physical therapist, believe it or not, was Marjorie Garber in the class she taught on Shakespeare. And, you know, well, it was a pretty much straight down the line survey of Shakespeare. Garber, I believe, at the time was one of the world’s experts on cross dressing in Shakespeare, how prevalent that is, across his novels. And it is something that kind of continually comes back to me as seeking to understand people who have a soul or a life that is different than their, what society expects them to have, or have their board, gender or appearance. And, you know, there’s, there’s, wait, you know, near enough time, we kind of get in any discussions about transgenderism, or LGD LGBTQ values, and there’s like that it’s it’s, it’s that’s obviously a really deep and important subject. But the the thinking about how do you try and keep an open mind about who people perceive themselves to be versus who you perceive them to be? I think a second one would be, John still goes class on the built, built environment that taught me to kind of look for hidden clues for things. You know, thinking back to the South Africans, you know, one of the things I had to do was I had to get a guy who had been in the South African Defence Force is their army, chasing gorillas from the African National Congress, his military wing, spear, the nation was the translation of the name of the group, I had to get two guys who have been on opposite sides of that to work together. And funnily enough, the way that I got them to do it was and it was I lucked into it, you know, who, what 25 year old knew how to kind of address those kinds of wounds that people have. But we were in a, we were at a retreat, we were in a bar, and we somehow got singing songs. And so I taught them, some of the Harvard fight songs. And they taught me some of the Afrikaans the white, Afrikaans drinking songs, and the Black Spirit, the nation, songs that they sang in their units. And by the time that we were done, the three of us were literally blind drunk, we were having to support ourselves, as we stumbled back to our, to our combination. But the fact was that they, they may have still hated each other the next day, but they were at least able to work together. And that’s one of the things I took away from kind of seeing things in a different light. That I don’t know that I would have thought about had it not been for still kind of trying to teach you to think about things and see things in a different way. And maybe that’s kind of the similarity with Marjorie, garbage class. The third one I’d point to it was a history of the US economy, something like that taught by Claudia Goldin and Jeff Williamson. For those of you who don’t follow kind of the a lot of the interesting economics coming out of Harvard, Golden’s kind of really built a name for itself in understanding wage disparities between men and women and kind of what are the underlying factors that drive those fascinating research and kind of, you know, what are the changes we need to make not so much in companies but in society, to achieve a level of equality in for women and men in the workforce? And then, believe it or not, Jeff Williamson is still alive. He’s retired in Madison, Wisconsin, and I think over the next six weeks, I’m actually gonna go out and have lunch with him because he’s widowed now and starting to lose his sight but invited me to come up meet him for lunch.
Will Bachman 29:53
That’s awesome. John still go. It’s interesting to me. You’re the second guest that’s mentioned both still go and Marjorie Garber. Wow, can definitely still hear. John still goes there. How many of you have been to Peshtigo? Wisconsin? Go and see it.
Yeah, that was him. A swamp
Will Bachman 30:13
Yankee. Hopefully I hope I’m looking forward to getting John as a special guest on the show.
Andy Arends 30:20
Oh, he’d be phenomenal. He’s promised to do it.
Will Bachman 30:23
I have to just get him get him on the phone. So what would surprise you most about your college age self on on your journey?
Andy Arends 30:35
You mean, what was most surprised my college itself about where I wound up?
Will Bachman 30:39
Yeah, about where you bet, where you wound up and about your life decisions?
Andy Arends 30:44
Oh, well, you know, I had a plan. When I was a freshman, I had a plan, I was gonna go to Harvard, I was gonna get involved in politics. I was gonna come back to Iowa, go to University of Iowa law school practice law for a few years, become a county attorney, become an attorney general, and eventually run for governor. And from there this guy was, that was the plan, kind of like Mara Healy has wound up doing in Massachusetts. But I worked in politics, it wasn’t what I wanted to want to doing. So I think the first kind of surprise would have been that I wasn’t back in Iowa. I think the second would be the international travels, I’ve been able to do, both in that time period and consulting. But then even afterwards, I’ve been working when I was a Delmon, we were acquired by NTT, I worked in Australia, Japan, trips to Saudi Arabia, the, you know, the kind of UAE, Japan, UK, places like that, the ability to kind of get out and see the world like that. I didn’t think that I was gonna be that much of a, of an internationalist at the time. I think the second thing that would surprise me is, you know, the way you have to learn to react to negative blows, I didn’t think anything was gonna happen to be like that I didn’t think I could fight. I didn’t think I would, you know, wind up in the different relationships that I did. I didn’t see any of that coming. And I think the third thing that would be the biggest surprise to me would be the level of involvement I have in my the lives of my children, I’ve done that. I think that was a, something I just, you know, it wasn’t that I didn’t think I wanted to have a family at the time, it just it wasn’t, didn’t cross my mind problem. And youth engagement, I’m able to have with my kids, especially during COVID, I’ve been very fortunate, and we didn’t have any serious illness in our family. So that’s been a blessing. And you know, the time at home, and the kind of slowing down of life that happened, especially in the early months of the pandemic, was an incredibly rich way to get to know and engage with the children.
Will Bachman 32:54
And your point about negative blows, I think, really resonates. Particularly for perhaps a lot of Harvard alums who, almost by definition, they did pretty well in high school, and, you know, checked a lot of boxes and had a lot of A pluses, and a lot of successes, probably outside of class to get there. And then perhaps they did well there. And so I think for a lot of high performing Harvard graduates, you know, when you do encounter those blows in life, those inevitable setbacks, it can almost be harder than someone perhaps, who’s who’s been roughed up a little bit earlier in their life?
Andy Arends 33:36
Well, I think part of that, for me was, I was awkward in college socially, you know, coming from a very unsophisticated, rural upbringing. And even though that had, you know, quite a bit of benefit and privilege associated with it. It was, you know, I was, I’m sure I was in that half of the class that made the top half possible academically. And so I was used to getting my head handed to me a little bit in college, just because I was not nearly as well prepared. As many of our peers. You know, my graduating class was 52, and a rural high school. You compare that to the excellent preparation some of our classmates had academically, it just wasn’t in the same ballpark. So I was a little bit used to that. But, you know, again, there was still coming out of college and later in life, everything seemed to be working. Well, I was incredibly privileged and fortunate. That rotary scholarship that, you know, working for a consulting firm getting paid well, I was very blessed. And so, you know, I look at people that have not been nearly as fortunate either at the start of their lives or later on. Mine’s been pretty easy. Even with the minor setbacks, you know, they were major at the time, but they, they in the grand scheme of things if you think about what we’ve seen over the last couple years, the pandemic or just running around lens more widely out in the world. We’re incredibly privileged and blessed. Anybody who’s listening to this is going to be in the top two or 3% economically in the world, they’re going to be blessed to live in a country that despite all its faults remains remarkably free and stable. If you look at what’s going on right now, in Eastern Europe, they would envy living here, if you look at what was going on in places like, you know, I worked in South Africa, they would envy in many cases, some of the capabilities and freedoms we have. And that’s not to say that we don’t have our own issues with race or gender, or ableism. But it really is an incredible opportunity. And one of the things that concerns me now, again, as I talk about my own kids, think about my own kids, is that they, in some ways, don’t understand the privilege that they have to live here. And to be born here. In terms of, you know, my daughter and I were having a discussion about gay rights, and how, you know, we have fully realized that here in this country, and there was a recent poll that came out, I think, from the economist that said that, you know, a majority of America, a majority of young Americans think we are in the bottom half of the world, in terms of rights for gays and lesbians, and people are queer, transgender, or questioning. And it’s simply not the case. And that’s not to say we don’t have a lot of work to do. But we’re building on some great work that was done by people over decades to earn those rights people like Peter gulps, you know, who if you if you remember back, we had that. We had the magazine with the exploding pink triangle on it in the rally in Harvard Yard. And I still remember Peter coming out of the closet that day and saying, I know, it’s not incompatible to be a Christian, and to be gay. He said, Because I’m a Christian, I’m gay. And so his willingness to stand up and say that in front of all those people, and you know, I’m sure there were people that had suspected it before, people you may have confided in before, but it was a real shock. He was, you know, he was a, he, he gave the benediction at George Bush’s inauguration in 1989. You know, he was a well known public figure. And at the time, it was, it was somewhat of a risk for him to come out like that. But I think it was, I think it really was an eye opener for me. And if you you know, if you if you have any doubt about that, go back and read his book, The Good book, reading the Bible with heart mind, I’ve got a still got the copy he signed for me here on my shelf. And, you know, it really lays out how historically we have used tools like scripture inappropriately, to oppress people, and how there is a message for everyone in those. That is a message of life. And it’s it really is kind of coming back to, you know, we’ve we’ve had these great benefits, it’s we have, and with that comes a great responsibility. Number one not to slide back, but also to look forward and continue to expand those extend those liberties and rights to others. And I’m not I’m not laying out some kind of Messianic foreign policy that we need to go and try and free every country, I think we’ve learned that that is both foolish and foolhardy. But there is an opportunity for us to be that light in the world.
Will Bachman 38:25
And you this has been a great discussion for classmates or or anyone else hearing the show that wanted to follow up with you, where would you point them online,
Andy Arends 38:35
a Facebook, I’m in the class Facebook group. So there also, my email address is in the Red Book. Still the same one, Andy underscore Aaron’s ar e firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on LinkedIn as well. So if you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, happy to do that. I’m actually the the the manager of our class LinkedIn group. So if you are one of the folks that I haven’t yet found on LinkedIn, please do. Either give me an email or find me somehow. And we’ll, we’ll manage to get you into the group. And I think also, you know, snail mail still works to my addresses in the Harvard thing, you can log in with your crimson key information to find my mail address if you want to drop me a note. I still look forward to Christmas cards from several folks every year I’ve it’s a habit I need to get back into I get them from you and from Heather Harris out in Oregon, who’s working as a vet out there with her family, her wife and her family. And so I look forward to receiving those every year. So please feel free to reach out and be great to reconnect. Fantastic. And not the least face to face. Come to the reunion. Yeah, if this if this episode plays before the reunion, please do come out and join us. It’ll be a lot of fun,
Will Bachman 39:51
which which it will be playing. Andy, thanks so much for joining us and listeners. If you go to 92 report.com That’s nine, two report.com you can sign up for the mailing list so you can get updated of new episodes. You can read the transcripts if you prefer to read rather than listen, and, and you can see all of the previous shows. So, Andy, thanks a lot. This has been great.
Thanks. Well, it was a lot of fun