For the past dozen years, we have had a tradition of publishing the word — one word to live by, to guide our direction and actions in the new year, to inspire us year-round, to serve as a guidepost for what we do and want to accomplish in the new year.
This year, we thought it beneficial to you, our readers, if we broadened this tradition and tapped the wisdom and insights of others.
As you read the words of these accomplished, thoughtful people, perhaps you will be inspired to adopt one or more of their words to live by in 2024.
My word for 2024: Legacy
CEO, Observer Media Group
As we all see, watch and read every day with growing despair, disgust and frustration at the destruction of the United States — admit it, we are crumbling — an appropriate question for every adult in America is this:
Is this what you want your legacy to be?
Is this what we want our children and grandchildren to inherit — a socially and culturally ravaged, decadent, lawless, hedonistic, God-less, tyrannical, bankrupt, immoral society? That’s the path we’re on.
None of us wants that. We must reverse this disastrous course.
Oh, that would take a book of Bible-like proportions.
But it starts with each one of us in our daily actions. First, toward our families. Then, toward others.
And it starts at the start: The 10 Commandments.
“Teacher,” said one of the Pharisees to Jesus, “which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Jesus replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.
“The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
In a statement written for Sunday school children in the summer of 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant, a practicing Methodist, wrote: “Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts, and PRACTICE THEM IN YOUR LIVES. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization.”
This belief and Jesus’ Top Two Commandments are seemingly disappearing from the minds and actions of Americans, snuffed out and persecuted under the weight of tyrannical secularism.
Reversing this course and re-igniting what previously made us the world’s beacon of liberty will be a monumental journey. It will be one of hard labor; of elder generations teaching, showing and inculcating the next generations in the raison d’etre of our nation’s founding principles; in the Constitution; in economic liberty versus the state; in proper, respectful social etiquette; in self-responsibility versus victimhood; and that the American way is to reach for the stars.
In his Shining City address to the nation on Jan. 12, 1989, Reagan said:
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise, and that freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.
“We’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important … more attention to American history and a greater emphasis of civic ritual.
“And let me offer lesson No. 1 about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins …”
Make 2024 a commitment to leaving a better legacy.
Managing Partner, Shumaker Loop & Kendrick, Sarasota
We all need to listen more.
To listen is to demonstrate respect for each other and for perspectives other than our own.
Listening is not the act of letting someone else speak, which alone has value, but instead is being so fully committed to hearing another person’s perspective that we ourselves might be changed for having listened.
When we listen we learn, we connect, we build trust. We may even discover that our own thoughts and judgments are wrong.
To listen does not mean we have to agree, but instead that we are deeply engaged in what others are saying so that we come to understand and empathize with other perspectives — even if we disagree.
Our country, our society, our world — all would benefit from listening more and speaking less, from learning more and lecturing less, from celebrating diverse opinion more and adhering to single-mindedness less.
When we listen, we become more tolerant, more educated, more compassionate. When we listen, we gain power, bridge gaps in understanding, break down barriers and experience shared humanity.
Those who listen know that true learning occurs when we listen. As Jimi Hendrix said: Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.
Let’s gain wisdom. Are you ready to listen?
Founder of Sisterhood for Good, Lakewood Ranch
Life is so different from when I was growing up. The values, morals and respect I see today are not the same. I shake my head all the time when I see what is happening in our world.
Albeit, life was not perfect when I was growing up. Nothing ever is … And I understand evolution, and that things must change. Yet, I always believed that when there is change, it should be change for the good — change to Elevate.
So as a New Year rolls around, my goal is to continue to Elevate — my mindset, my giving and the community in which I live.
Each year I have been involved in giving back, I have experienced the continued need for support in our community, and I have seen time and again that our community believes that it’s not about what you have or what you have accomplished, it’s about WHO you have ELEVATED — and how you have helped them attain a better life.
The mission of Sisterhood For Good Inc. is to enhance and elevate our community through an annual grants program. We accomplish this through the dedication of the more than 260 women who contribute membership dues and produce two fundraisers.
I’ve heard that “complaining doesn’t solve problems, it attracts them.” Therefore, now more than ever, the time is right to engage, participate and provide a sense of belonging where everyone feels he or she can thrive.
That participation is something to celebrate — to elevate.
Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El, Sarasota
Kindness is a sign of maturity, when one matures well.
Some are kind from the start, while others need to learn the value over time.
Many of the world’s ills come from young men seeking glory and prestige. But these advantages are fleeting.
Kind people finish their days with companions and community, and the true respect of their peers. “When I was young, I admired clever people,” said Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. “Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
Sarasota charmed me with its culture of Midwest nice. It still does. I find myself here surrounded each day by people who are generous, friendly and warm. I like to think it is a sign of my own kindness. I hope so.
CEO, Community Foundation of Sarasota County
While some may be anxious about the year ahead — whether that anxiety stems from politics, economic markets or another volatile unknown — I am focused on Consistency for 2024. That is my Word to live by in 2024.
As college football season wound down, I read a thoughtful column from former NFL and Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding about how amidst ongoing changes (FYI, I am a loyal Iowa Hawkeye alumna), Iowa football has staying power and measurable success year after year.
Kaeding attributes much of the football program’s success to smart, disciplined leadership. The inspiration came from a book called “Same as Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes” by Morgan Housel (and yes, I bought the book after reading Kaeding’s column).
I find this connection to consistency something we all need to remember in times of growth and evolution, even if that isn’t what gets noticed first.
Staying the course and true to your core values is valuable and reassuring. After all, tradition + consistency = trust and commitment.
I am proud that, as our community foundation approaches its 45th anniversary, I am one of two CEOs in its history to lead this organization that has done so much for so many — and will continue to do so long into our communal future as we grow and change.
Pastor, All Angels by the Sea, Longboat Key
This the celebratory Season of Light.
As the northern hemisphere is shrouded in winter darkness, you can see beautiful light displays all over. But the Season of Light is more than beautiful displays. It is a season to bring light to others.
This is also the heaviest season. (Yes, weight gain.) It’s also a heavy time of looking back on what 2023 brought us.
Winter darkness, and reflecting on how this year ended with captives and war, can make us feel isolated and powerless against a darkened world. If this is how you feel, let’s recall that this is the Season of Light. According to Isaiah, light gives us hope: Arise! Shine! Your light has come.
The prophet’s light is not an exterior light that will magically make you feel better and fix societal problems. No, this light of hope shines from inside of you and radiates outward for justice and peace.
Sending a note of cheer, giving a compliment to a complete stranger, donating to a cause that helps others — these are all ways to let the light inside you shine outwardly.
Let us remember that shining our inner light will make this a happy New Year.
CEO, Neal Communities, Sarasota
Gratitude means “the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
We should remember our families, our health, our faith and all those things for which to be grateful.
Most important of all, we Americans have much for which to be grateful. We live in a free country, a melting pot of different people with one culture which we call “Being an American.”
This may be under attack nowadays, but our nation is still the Shining City on the Hill.
Gratitude is the most helpful to the person who “shares the gratitude.” That is, gratitude is an attitude, an attitude that helps the giver as well as the recipient.
Having a grateful heart or living a grateful life sets the tone, tenor, and attitude of the person who has the capacity to see his or her life as a good thing.
Gratitude is a benefit to those who receive it, too.
The kindness, depending on the sincerity and depth, is always a good thing for the person on the receiving end. It helps establish a kinder culture, a better community atmosphere and a more successful civil society.
CEO, Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee
My Word for 2024 is Imagine. It has so many far-reaching spokes of thought.
After all we have experienced since 2020, I see the potential of a positive light as we attempt to return to a 2019 state of affairs.
When I started thinking about one word, I remembered the word I used so frequently in 2020 — “unimaginable.” What we lived through and experienced was unprecedented, an unimaginable time for the world.
So thinking about 2024, I turned it around to a positive: imagine.
Let’s imagine in 2024 that we return to life prior to our COVID years. It reminds me of John Lennon’s lyrics: “Imagine livin’ life in peace … Imagine … no need for greed or hunger.”
When I researched this word, I found that political commentator Frank Luntz calls the word Imagine the most powerful word in the English language. Walt Disney famously said, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, dreams are forever.”
Albert Einstein explained “Imagination” is more important than knowledge. “Knowledge is limited; whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
Imagine is our own personal, creative mental journey. Imagining allows to visualize how we want to see things or how things could be.
Mayor, Longboat Key
In a world consumed by negativity, I struggled to come up with a Word to live by, but there seemed to be a surplus of words not to live by.
Narcissist is the Word I choose not to live by.
Not coincidentally, the Oxford English Dictionary has selected “rizz” as its word of 2023, which I understand to mean charm, charisma and/or the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.
Narcissism, therefore, is the unwavering conviction by an individu-al that he or she has “rizz.” Whether you are a 77-year-old presidential candidate, a star college athlete or anyone in between, you believe you have rizz and should be amply rewarded for it by millions of dollars, eyeballs or votes (or all of the above).
Maybe in 2024 we can put that narcissism back in the bottle and try again to do good things, constructive things, that don’t make us powerful, wealthy or famous. Worth a try.
During the Joe Biden presidency, our country has completely fallen apart.
Crime is rampant and goes unpunished. Our border is wide open.
Our debt is $33 trillion and climbing. Inflation is growing higher than our wages.
There is a land war in Europe.
We don’t make things in America anymore, we buy them from our enemies in Communist China.
We pulled out of Afghanistan like a bunch of cowards.
We don’t know what a woman is, and we think men can have babies.
The government pays people not to work and says no one has to pay his or her loans back.
One of our greatest allies, Israel, is fighting for its survival, and the Washington Democrat politicians play politics with aid to help to push for more reckless spending.
We must Rescue America. We must return our country to a position of strength. That is the Word to live by in 2024: Rescue. Rescue America.
Sports Commentator, Lakewood Ranch
I strongly believe to be successful in the game that we all play — the Game of Life — one needs to approach everything with a sense of PASSION!
You can never be successful in anything in life without enthusiasm, energy, dedication and a passion to achieve.
I hope everyone in 2024 goes after the things that are important in life with devotion and a sense of passion to help others and make this world a better place for all.
I have been very fortunate and try to spread my passion to others to help and bring joy.
Charles E. Williams
12th Circuit Court Judge, Sarasota
With all due respect to singer Aretha Franklin (and also a play on her words), the Word for 2024 should be Respect.
Respect is more than a catch phrase or a lyric. It is a word that must be embraced more than ever.
Let’s start the year showing basic respect for each other, and in that context having respect for who we are and, more importantly, having respect for who we aren’t.
We must show respect to those who do not act or think like we do, even though we may disagree vigorously with their point of view.
We do not need to, nor should we ever, show respect for evil acts or thoughts. But we should understand that some people may not see things the way we do, nor should they have to.
Disagreement and debate are welcome, healthy and basic elements of our society, but in acknowledging that, respect for differences in opinion is the other side of that coin.
As a member of the legal profession, I respect the rule of law and the role of the courts in shaping our country. We must respect those opinions and rulings, even those we may disagree with, the same way we respect the Constitution of the United States for being the sword and shield it represents in protecting our basic rights, because the rulings from the courts and the rights we all cherish all come from the same document.
So, Respect — respect for others, for our institutions, respect of our differences and of our similarities — is my Word for 2024.