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Always on the Road Less Traveled

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Founder’s Day is a time for reflection and celebration. On this day, we celebrate the many great achievements since the firm’s beginning. It is also a time to reflect on our roots and the attributes that make us distinctly Edelman. For me this year’s Founder’s Day theme – “Always on the Road Less Traveled” – captures this distinction perfectly.

Whether it is leading the charge of Communications Marketing or taking a stand on societal issues, Edelman is not afraid to stand out and stand up for what we believe in.

Involvement in societal issues and volunteerism has been embedded in the DNA of Edelman since my father, Dan Edelman, founded the firm in 1952 after returning home from his service in the Army during World War II. My dad considered volunteerism, in particular, to be a principle of success for a business – and our employees embrace it. In fact, 63 percent of our nearly 6,000 employees participated in 32,000 hours of professional and general volunteerism in FY15. SVA-1

In my role as Managing Director of Global Engagement Corporate Responsibility I am honored to carry on the legacy of my father and mother every day. Ever since my father died in 2013, I have become actively involved in veteran issues and look forward to contributing as much as I can personally and professionally to help move the veteran agenda forward. Last week, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at this year’s Student Veterans of America (SVA) Leadership Summit in Chicago, IL. During my address I shared some of the findings of a recent study that Edelman conducted to assess the general well-being of veterans in America.

The findings of the study show that veterans have the skills employers look for in candidates, but their lack of job-specific education and experience is a hurdle to them securing employment. This is the result of disconnect among veterans, employers, and community partners – an “un-virtuous cycle.”  It is all of our responsibility to create a paradigm shift, to bridge the military and civilian divide and create a virtuous cycle focusing on new missions of veteran employment, military to civilian transition and veteran well-being. We must work both individually and collectively to manage expectations, overcome obstacles, and effective translation. My father was successful because he effectively translated the values, skills, knowledge, and experience gained in the military to establish Edelman.

My mother, Ruth who died at age 84, was a lifelong partner of my dad for 59 years. When once asked what her greatest accomplishment was, she said “my greatest accomplishment is being Dan Edelman’s wife.” She tirelessly supported my father, our family, the company and was an inspiring mental health activist. I had the opportunity to speak about my mother’s many achievements a few weeks ago at the 2016 Domenici Public Policy Conference in New Mexico, where I was invited to speak about the current state of Trust based on the results of our 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Edelman_PeteNancyDomeniciI was truly honored to be a speaker and have the opportunity to meet Senator Domenici. My mother and Senator Domenici met when she lobbied for mental health funding in the Senate in the mid-1990s.

My mother was passionate about mental health issues because in her mid-forties, she had to confront a manic depressive illness that triggered two hospitalizations for depression.

My mother became an advocate for mental health and worked to boost funding for mental health research. My father fully supported my mom’s efforts and asked our D.C. office to partner with her to sponsor an annual seminar to educate dozens of Congressional leaders about mental-health issues. Her efforts contributed to the landmark 1996 Mental Health Parity Act co-authored by Senator Domenici. That legislation was updated in 2008 and has improved mental health care coverage for roughly 113 million Americans. My mom was inspiration to me and many others by living a productive life despite her bipolar illness.

I am proud that Edelman continues to carry out on my mother’s and father’s legacy of giving back, including helping change the conversation around mental health and veterans. This may be the road less traveled, but it is certainly worth traveling.

John Edelman is managing director, global engagement and corporate responsibility.

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