On Being Second
by Executive Director, Shane Tippett, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
This time last year, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was fortunate to be included in a month-long, on-line “10 Best Public Garden” survey sponsored by USA Today and 10Best. Our friends and neighbors who participated in the polling checked in when it was all said and done, asking, “How did the Garden do?”
“We finished second, thank you!” Then other questions came: “Who was first?” (First went to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, a truly remarkable place, well worth a visit.) The next question: “How do we become first?”I don’t have an answer for that, because I don’t think it is the right question.
Being a top ten botanical garden was a strategic goal of the Garden in the 1990s. It was bold and ambitious, staking a flag in the ground at a time when, compared to Longwood, pretty much all we had was a flag and some ground to stake it in. Yet it became a call to action for our community to support the expansion of their community garden, a place that resonated with the people of Richmond because we were becoming the garden they wanted and deserved. Being top ten is not in the strategic plan we have followed since 2009, and I think it is because we recognized that our focus should stay where it has always been: on being second.
We strive to be second to our community, our visitors and our members. We want you to be first in our thinking and in our actions. We hope to place ourselves second to the aspirations of our neighbors, offering our commitment to others as the starting point for all we hope to do. We strive to be second to our mission and the planet, checking our egos at the door, striving to take responsible actions and teach in ways that strengthen the vital relationship between people and plants – things that will allow the relationship among people and plants to thrive.
While being number one is not in our strategic plan today, this core value is: “Hospitality: Welcome diverse communities as visitors, members, volunteers and staff.” When we think of being second to our community, to striving to have our visitors, members, volunteers and staff reflect our community, it is in response to the core value of hospitality. And by “welcome,” we mean “embrace and celebrate.” We embrace and celebrate all in our community because we respect and value all in our community, as we respect and value the plant world.