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Tommy Druen: Being a builder

Previous Column: Quest for authenticity

By Tommy Druen

In 2013, I had the honor to be selected for Leadership Kentucky, a program that brings together Kentuckians from various regions and diverse backgrounds to learn more about our beloved Commonwealth and develop leadership skills that will hopefully be applied in our careers and communities.

While I cannot say enough positive things about the programming of Leadership Kentucky, some of what I remember most vividly were the casual conversations and comments among the group.

One such came from Carolyn Dennis, a fellow classmate and Scott County resident. That summer, I was trying to drop a few pounds and Carolyn, a health consultant, introduced me to KIND bars. While they are commonplace now, these snack bars were just making their presence felt in Kentucky. I won't say they quite measure up to my preferred Zero or Heath bars, but they aren't too bad for what they are.

Later that night, I looked up some information on the company. Founded in 2004, it had recently experienced significant growth. Aside from just being a snack food, the company also emphasized highlighting people who had shown acts of kindness around the globe. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical, thinking their "Be Kind" movement and donations were as much about publicity and tax deductions as genuine goodwill. Nevertheless, I liked their granola bars and have since typically kept some in my desk or vehicle for a quick pick-me-up.

To be honest, I didn't think much about the company again until a few weeks ago. During a drive home, I decided to listen to a podcast. One that is in my rotation is TED Talks Daily.


If you're not familiar with TED, it started as a conference on Technology, Entertainment and Design . . . hence the acronym. While the conferences still take place, most people are more familiar with it through podcasts or NPR programming that highlight some of the more interesting segments. The talks are short, usually between 10 and 20 minutes, and feature experts on various topics. I've listened to discussions ranging from the physical effects of dehydration to why we should consider eating ground up insects in an effort to combat world hunger.

On this particular day, the episode playing featured Daniel Lubetzky. The name didn't ring a bell, but I quickly learned he was the founder of KIND snacks.

The son of a Holocaust survivor, Lubetzky was born in Mexico City and lived there until he was a teenager. He attended college and law school in the United States and, by the age of 26, had already founded two companies. Over the years, his business acumen led to significant financial success, and by age 50 he was estimated to have a net worth of over $2 billion.

While his biography was impressive, it was his topic that truly resonated with me. Lubetzky spoke about how our world has become divided into "us vs. them," regardless of the topic or the identities of "us" and "them." He argued that society has shifted to a mindset of blaming the other side for problems rather than taking active roles in solving them ourselves. He made the case that we should strive for less conflict and focus more on commonalities in efforts to overcome extreme worldviews that seem to only be gaining further hold each day.

Nice thought. But so was communism. It's when the theoretical smacks against the wall of practicality that nice thoughts often die.

However, as I listened on I learned that Lubetzky is doing much more than spouting rhetoric. He has taken active steps to create a community of "builders" - his term for problem-solvers who take actions to unite and create. His Builders Movement currently includes over 250 leaders from various fields dedicated to promoting civility and common ground. From a political perspective, this includes people with varied backgrounds like Karl Rove, a leading Republican strategist, and Erskine Bowles, who served as President Clinton's Chief of Staff. The list extends far beyond politics, encompassing luminaries in business, religion, academia and the arts. The talent Lubetzky has assembled for this cause is beyond impressive.

The Builders Movement goes beyond just a list of names in Lubetzky's Rolodex though. Even in its infancy, it has already engaged at the local level, finding common ground on issues such as gun safety in Tennessee and family welfare in Wisconsin.

When explaining his dedication to this effort, Lubetzky summarized it by saying, "If builders do not step up, destroyers will step in. And some of the worst chapters we have witnessed in history will repeat themselves. When society is falling apart, the only way out is for all of us to build together."

Despite my skeptical nature and having seen similar platforms fail in the past, Daniel Lubetzky convinced me in 13 minutes to have faith in what he is doing. I look forward to not only following his work and that of the Builders Movement, but to being a builder when and where I can myself.

Note: Daniel Lubetzky's April 2024 TED Talk can be viewed at ted.com.


Tommy Druen is a native of Metcalfe County, with roots in Adair County going back to the 18th century. He presently lives in Georgetown, Kentucky and can be reached at tommydruen@gmail.com.


This story was posted on 2024-06-09 12:12:36
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