A few years ago, I brought the Strong Towns message outside of Minnesota for the first time with a trip to Bismark, North Dakota. The promoters suggested 20 to 50 people would show up but, when we arrived, besides the two wonderful women putting on the event, there was only one audience member. I didn't care; I thought it was awesome.
The early days of Strong Towns were a lot like that. I delivered the Curbside Chat to audiences of one, two or three people a lot. And it was a much longer presentation back then, so that was quite a bit of practice time with some intimate feedback. My 10,000 hours.
Once I showed up to a public library in Grand Rapids, MN, for an event we had set up, advertised and thoroughly promoted. There was nobody there. Five minutes after the start time, as I was packing up, one woman arrived apologetically. I was tempted to leave as I had a long, dark and cold ride home. I stuck around and she loved it. So did I.
We had a saying back in my days playing drums for a local band: "Treat every night like it's Shea Stadium", a statement made in deference to the Beatles and their touring days. I've kept that sentiment with me every time I've spoken to an audience representing the Strong Towns movement. It's Shea Stadium, whether it is two people or two hundred people. I'm going to give you everything I've got, every time. That's my promise.
This is our big summer membership drive and, as part of that, I'm going to try and relate what I'm seeing in terms of the size and impact of this movement and how rapidly it is expanding. It would be my wish that you -- our members, readers and listeners; advocates for a Strong Towns approach -- could somehow experience what I have. I've gone from a fringe voice in the wilderness, laughed at by the leaders of my own city where I wasn't ignored outright, to part of a movement that is electrifying people to take action all over this country.
When I show up somewhere to speak and there are now a hundred, two hundred and sometimes more people there to hear this message in person, it is beyond amazing. I always watch their eyes and expressions as I deliver the Curbside Chat or, now, also the Transportation in the Next American City talk. Some people are there with me from the first word; they've come already in the movement. Others take a few slides to get it. Almost always there are a few more skeptical individuals that take longer, but by the end are nodding and smiling like the rest. I wish you could experience that with me. It is invigorating.
Understand something important, though, about this: All these people are there because of you. I'd still be talking to groups of 2 or 3 if you weren't sharing our stuff, talking about it with other people and telling others about what we are doing. I never take that for granted and I never show up for a presentation where I don't think about your contributions to this movement. The main thing that separates Strong Towns from other advocacy organizations is the depth, passion and commitment of our members. Don't forget that.
Thank you for everything you are doing to help us build a stronger America full of strong cities, towns and neighborhoods.