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Let’s Work Toward Something Better | A Letter from QLI President and CEO, Patricia Kearns


As the week comes to a close, I thought I would reach out to share a few thoughts on the many things happening inside and outside of the gates to our campus. I am an optimistic person but I admit that this week ends with mixed emotions for me. Let me start with the positive:

I am so proud of ALL of you for the amazing care you continue to provide our residents and families in the midst of this pandemic. Incredibly proud! You continue to deliver life-changing rehabilitation and care, protect the dignity of our residents, instill purpose in their lives, and create hope for the residents and families in our QLI community. You have remained committed to excellence, no matter how many challenges have been thrown our way. Many of you have come in early, stayed late, shown up on your day off and put in many, many extra hours. Your willingness to help out wherever and whenever you are needed is inspiring. I feel honored and lucky to be part of this team.

As proud as I feel of all of you, I also want to acknowledge that I end this week with a heavy heart given the pain our black team members are feeling right now. I have sat with this letter for the past few days trying to find the right words, something wise or inspirational to say or something that might offer some clarity. But my thoughts right now are anything but clear. The only thing clear to me is that I deplore racism and, as a company, we are passionately committed to the fight against divisive and destructive systems of racism and oppression.

Some of you have asked if my delay in publicly condemning racism and communicating QLI’s commitment to stand in solidarity against systemic institutions of inequity comes from a concern with irritating our donors or our any of our stakeholders, or because QLI stays out of political discussions. And my very firm answer to that is NO.

I have not hesitated for one second out of worry about what our donors or customers will think about our commitment to creating an environment that is free of discrimination and to fighting the systemic, institutional discrimination that is pervasive in our community. And this isn’t about politics to me, it is about human rights. This is about people that I care very much about. My delay in sending this email is because I needed to spend time this week listening instead of talking. Listening with a genuine intent to seek understanding. And what several of you have shared with me this week has made it very clear that I don’t, and can’t, understand the pain, fear, and anger that you are feeling. I have not walked in your shoes and I will never have to endure the hateful things that have been said and done to you.

For those of you who have openly shared with me, I am grateful for your honesty and your feedback. I know some of you have openly shared how you’re feeling with your team as well. I am glad you didn’t feel like you had to pretend that everything is okay when you spoke. For those of you who haven’t felt that level of trust and feel like you have to pretend everything is okay when you are at QLI, that breaks my heart. I am so sorry. I know this comes too late, and I know it’s not enough. But I am – all of our leaders are – committed to putting more effort toward creating an environment that is safe for everyone to be open and honest. That starts with our leadership teams putting forth sincere effort toward developing awareness about how our team members – right now, our black team members – feel. And it has started this week with a greater effort to listen for the sake of truly learning and trying to understand. We are also trying to create platforms for others to learn, in hopes this might crack the door open a bit wider for open and healthy dialogue. I hope you will join us for next Friday’s Huddle as a meager start to this effort.

Some of you have also asked what are we doing to make things better in Omaha. QLI has been part of local efforts to improve inclusion, primarily related to career development, through partnerships with the Greater Chamber of Omaha, Heartland Workforce Solutions, Avenue Scholars, and Legacy.

While our efforts with these partners have been positive, I acknowledge it’s not enough. There’s more we can do. We need to honestly examine what we are not doing but could, and should, be doing. The bigger, long term changes come with being real about biases and making sure we have teams of leaders and systems in place that prevent biases from creating injustices. I don’t have answers right now about what QLI can do to create meaningful change across the broader Omaha community. But we are at the table with several community partners who do have the power to create change and we are committed to doing everything we can to support these efforts.

I want our black team members to know that we take our commitment to you very seriously. I am here – all of our leaders are here – to stand beside you right now. QLI strives to be an inclusive community that provides opportunity for every human being who comes through our gates to thrive. We strive to be kind, to be fair, and to be invested in each other’s success. And we will strive to get better every day for the sake of every single person in our community. I hope this team will stand together right now to be a place of safety and hope for all. And I hope that instead of wishing for things to get back to “normal”, we all work toward something far better.

My deepest gratitude for all of you.
Pat

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