“Today’s Flag Day,” I said to myself, surprised, as I hurried home from an errand to put our July issue to bed and off to the printer.
For many, it’s a holiday that goes by unnoticed. Perhaps that is because it lacks the familial bonding — and the vacation days many of us enjoy — of Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Independence Day and religious observations.
But if one looks to what the day represents, I believe June 14 would be a revered day by all Americans. The flag is a physical manifestation of our Constitution and the ideals encapsulated in that document. Freedoms of religion, of the press, of speech, to be tried by a jury of our peers, to promote the general welfare: The foresight of our country’s founders is admirable, and speaks to the moment we are living in hundreds of years later.
We are enduring the Covid-19 pandemic, which is affecting different parts of the country, and different types of people, in different ways. We are seeing civil protests on a level that current generations only knew in history books, with Americans of all types striving to create a more perfect union. And, though less covered by the news right now, we are experiencing a worldwide addiction to disposable plastics that threatens our waterways — the general welfare of us all — along with a changing climate that produces more powerful and destructive storms.
If I know one thing about the marine industry, it is that the people who comprise it are among the most welcoming group (tied with Deadheads and Parrotheads) that I’ve ever had the pleasure to be around. I’ve been on the docks all over the world and have spoken to thousands of boaters, from Great Loopers to the CEOs of major boatbuilders. The camaraderie we create in this world is evident.
We are the type of people the founders envisioned when they wrote the great document that serves as our nation’s foundation. We are the people who embrace freedom with every sunset we chase, who promote the general welfare through participation in our sport. Every time we walk down the docks and make a new friend, simply because we share a love of boating, we are embodying the best of what the Founding Fathers had in mind. We have created a community that is inclusive of all who join it, no matter whether they tie up at the marina in a rowboat or a superyacht.
The next step we can take, as an industry at this moment in history, is expanding that inclusivity. A few years back, the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation launched a Hispanic Outreach Campaign and a Spanish-language website. That effort showed, among other things, that participation in boating among Latinos had doubled during the previous 10 years. It was a start in the right direction, and it suggests the right path for the industry to take now, with similar efforts to include and engage with people of all races and genders who dream of getting out on the water.
At the same time, we must become better stewards of our environment, to protect the space where those dreams can be lived. Our industry is taking steps in this area, too, working to recycle end-of-life fiberglass boats, build zero-emission power trains, and find novel solutions to the problem of plastic pollution. It’s also a good start, hopefully with much more to come.
One way to begin thinking about how we can continue to advance in these areas is by looking inward, at how we conduct our existing businesses. For this month’s Q&A, we profile B Labs, a nonprofit that examines how a company’s operations and business model impact workers, their community, the environment and customers. There are more than 3,300 Certified B corps in more than 150 industries and 70-plus countries, all of them working to strike the right balance between corporate social responsibility and profitability.
It would be wonderful to see more marine businesses join that group, and other efforts that share its goals. We have always been an industry made up of people who like to get in there and get their hands dirty. Often, that description applies to banging around in an engine room, or working on new technology for building boats in bustling shipyards, but the description can also apply to expanding inclusiveness and sustainability.
Those two things — inclusiveness and sustainability — not only can power our industry for generations to come, but also are precisely what, our Founding Fathers knew all those centuries ago, serve as the very foundation of who we are.
Together, let’s ring the bells of freedom to all comers and ideas that make our flag worth serving.
This article was originally published in the July 2020 issue.