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Oct 2003 / from the source :: email this story to a friend

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
By Marijean Jaggers

Marijean Jaggers My husband and I have been having a fifteen-year intermittent conversation called, "If you could have any celebrity over for dinner, who would you invite?" The answers have ranged over the years, reflecting current events and political sways; guests from George Carlin (his) and Norman Schwarzkopf (his) to Oprah (mine — in the eighties, okay?), John Irving (mine), Toni Morrison (mine), and Halle Berry (his, duh!) have graced our short list. The kids have even chimed in with pro skateboarder Tony Hawk (his) and the Olsen twins (hers). Lately, I've been compiling a local list of notables with whom I'd like to share a table. The list is not long, but growing. All folks you've probably heard of, some of whom I've actually met.

  1. Mayor Francis Slay and his wife, Kim. I haven't met the mayor. Seems like a decent guy. I'd like to talk about anything but money, public schools and the local political scene with he and his wife. I'd like to find out what they read, what kind of music they favor, and where they like to go on vacation.

  2. you will know him by his spectaclesChief of Police Joe Mokwa and Fire Chief Sherman George, and of course, their wives. All of the fantasy guests can bring a guest; let's just make that clear right now. Dates, significant others, spouses, kids, whatever. I have had the chance to meet the chiefs and even fawned ridiculously over Chief Mokwa's fabulous eyewear. (His rimless frames are fantastic.) Chief George has perhaps the most genuine smile of anyone I've met. I want to hear their dreams of the future, their goals and hopes for the city and its inhabitants.

  3. Sister Mary Jean Ryan. Mostly because she has such a cool name. (Between us, I think my parents were hoping for a nun in the family when they chose my name, but alas.) Sister Mary Jean is the CEO of the first healthcare company ever to win the Malcolm Baldridge award. She leads one of the best places to work in the country and attributes the success to the fact that everyone within her organization knows what the organization's purpose and values are, and has a clear idea of how their personal goals and values fit into that of the organization. As a businesswoman with a vow of poverty, this nun has leadership skills that would make any CEO green with envy (oops, that's a sin.) I want to know what role faith, and not even necessarily of the religious variety, plays in building business, and inspiring others to succeed.

  4. Arnold Donald, CEO, Merisant Corporation. Another local well-known I've met, Mr. Donald runs the company that makes Equal, and houses the Equal Foundation, a charitable organization that funds diabetes education and prevention programs. Diabetes, the finding of a cure and helping others to live with and control the disease, are personal causes of mine. Mr. Donald has the financial power to contribute and make a difference. Mr. Donald is a parent, too. I want to talk about teaching children the responsibility to care for others, and what a difference sharing and feeling strongly about a cause makes in your own life. We'll serve dessert made with Equal and pour from little blue packets into our coffee as we talk.

There are others, of course — people who aren't currently on my horizon, or those about which I know little, but think I'd like to know more; Rabbi Susan Talve (we've met), Dr. Peter Raven (met him, too), Joe Edwards (talked once on the phone). Fascinating folks, smart, great community leaders, business people and for me, people I want to be like when I grow up.

So when we have a complete set of good china, have perfected our cooking skills and can muster up the courage to print and mail the invitations, perhaps then, we'll have the distinct pleasure of breaking bread with any of our dream list guests. Until then, the list will grow.

Marijean Jaggers is the Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator for Crown Optical (thus her fascination with Chief Mokwa's specs); she once made the horrific faux pas of inviting vegetarians Amanda Doyle and Brian Marston to a grilled meat burning barbeque. They came; and still speak to her, much to her delight.

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