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Remembering Dick Spady

Earlier this month, an important figure in the dialogue and deliberation field passed away at age 91. Many of you know Dick Spady’s son John Spady well, as John has attended every NCDD conference, been active on the listserv, and launched the National Dialogue Network after winning a Catalyst Award from NCDD in 2012. The Forum Foundation that Dick founded showed its support of the dialogue and deliberation community by consistently sponsoring the NCDD national conferences.

DickSpadyWhen I checked in earlier this week about his father’s passing, John reminded me that he had told his father about the first NCDD conference in 2002, and was glad to be there with him as he set up his table about the work of his Forum Foundation, his new book The Leadership of Civilization Building, and his Opinionnaire® Survey tool to understand the “symbolic dialogue” among diverse groups of people. John recollected how, in fact, “symbolic dialogue” was included in the glossary of the first NCDD conference handbook (actually a 3-ring notebook!).

John is now actively curating his father’s civic legacy and has even released a first version of an Opinionnaire® plugin for WordPress (http://bit.ly/Opinionnaire) — developed by John’s (now nonprofit) National Dialogue Network. He also commissioned a small book about his father’s “Visions and Values” that can be read on Amazon.com here: http://amzn.com/0615953832.

Dick Spady will be deeply missed in our field, and our heart goes out to John and his other family members during this difficult time.

Please read the remembrance piece by Kathleen O’Connor below or find the original here.

We Have Lost a Remarkable Man

Dick Spady may not be a national icon, but he was a giant man of vision and values. He co-founded Seattle’s legendary  hamburger company – Dick’s Drive In. He believed in  people’s inherent quality and dignity. This was reflected in all his work from covering health care for all his employees to his passion for civic engagement.

In the fast foods industry notorious for providing low pay and poor to non-existent benefits, he paid for health care benefits for all his employees – full and part-time. But that’s not all.

If college students worked 20 hours per week, Dick’s covered their tuition costs. If some employees did not go to college, the company covered the costs of child care. Employees could take time for community activities and the company would cover that time. He not only invested in his company and his employees, he invested in the community as well through his employees’ service. This all in addition to his personal civic contributions. There is also a box on the counter at each Dick’s so customer can donate spare change for community organizations.

Dick’s passion was civic engagement – assuring people had a voice in community affairs at all levels.  He devoted his non-business life to consensus building and civic engagement. Passions we deeply shared.

When we founded CodeBlueNow! in 2003 to assure the public had a voice in shaping the health care system, Dick and his family donated a new survey tool they created called the Opinionnaire. Unlike most survey tools, among other things, it let people object to a question and abstain from answering a question. We called our Opinionnaire tool the Pulse. We used it to survey views on health care during the 2008 presidential election in both Iowa and Washington state – red and blue states. We verified those findings with professional market research and the findings were the same – that there is common ground on many issues.

We found this considerable common ground when we listened to what the people had to say and re-framed the discussion from the political to the personal.

Dick’s life is a shining example of what can be done, that believing in people matters, that employees are actually a good investment, and that if you want a successful business you must treat your employees with dignity and respect and provide for their well-being. These practices did not drive his business into the ground financially – it flourished.

It is with the deepest sorrow that I share the news of the death of this remarkable man who gave so much to so many. All he asked in return was that we let people have the voice they so amply deserve.

Dick died on January 10th at age 92:  www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/obituaries/dick-spady-co-founder-and-namesake-of-dicks-drive-in-dies-at-91.

Rest in Peace, Dick.  Job well done.


You can find the original version of this post from Kathleen O’Connor’s O’Connor Report at www.oconnorreport.com/2016/01/we-have-lost-a-remarkable-man.

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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