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Christine Littig of Missoula's Bernice's Bakery Writes to President Obama about a Nation-Wide Entrepreneurs Roundtable

October 9, 2010View for printing

I would like to suggest that you, Mr. President, pull together a cross-section of young Americans for a week long brainstorming retreat to ask what steps they see as necessary to build community amongst our nation.

Dear President Obama:


Hello. My name is Christine Littig. I am 44. I live in Missoula, Montana and run Bernice's Bakery with my husband Marco. We employ anywhere from 30 - 40 employees at any given time. We enjoy two children: Georgia and Liza Jayne. While I cannot believe it myself, I am writing you today to make a suggestion that I believe could re-instill America's faith in you, the continued potential of our nation, and kick start your campaign for a second term as President of the United States.

Bernice's Bakery has been in business for almost 33 years. It is quite an amazing business, and not my first. When Marco and I purchased Bernice's it was in sincere financial trouble, had a reputation for poor customer service, could not retain a staff member for longer than 6 months, discounted most of its product prices on a daily basis, and employees found it extremely difficult to get along with each other let alone management. Yet a spiritual reverence for Bernice's existed. I liken this crazy, exotic beast to the United State of America.

Alright, I realize that one is truly not comparable to the other. But, that is not my point. During the past eight years of ownership my husband and I have come to develop a very successful management style that has brought us community spirit, financial success and retained, trusted staff. Interested?

Bernice's runs what we call a Lead Program. Each week for one hour anywhere from 10 - 12 staff, management, myself and Marco sit together to discuss "red flags" and what we can do to keep Bernice's alive, vibrant and financially successful. The interesting piece is that there are 3 management staff and 9 regular employees (most of which are anywhere from 10 - 20 years younger than management). Without hesitation I will state that Bernice's is currently a business that generates over $1,000,000.00 in sales on $3 croissants, $4 loaves of bread, wedding cakes, and averaged price $40 cakes. We are now financially successful and have felt little to no downturn during the recession. We are currently up 8% for 2010.

How does this information connect to my suggestion? I would like to suggest that you, Mr. President, pull together a cross-section of young Americans for a week long brainstorming retreat at Camp David, the White House, or wherever you feel it would be the most suitable. I would like to suggest that you ask (with an open heart and open mind) this cross section of America how they would do it differently. I would hope you could, and would, share what pieces of bureaucracy bog you down on a daily basis, ask what steps they see as necessary to build community amongst our nation, what "red flags" ignite when they think of the future of the United States of America, what ideas are pulsating in their fresh and vibrant minds that are being missed by well-intended, over-educated, long-practiced elders. That is not to say you, nor I, are elders. I am simply stating: Bernice's ability to hear impassioned youth and act on their fresh, caring, well-informed, and willing opinions continues to rebuild what was once a crumbling business.

Mr. President, you arrived in the White House largely due to enormous support from a youthful and hopeful population. Choose no one older than 30. Why? Most people between the ages 30 - 45 have become the "agents" of execution, capable of putting ideas into action but not quite as nuanced and sensitive to the developing winds of new ideas. Choose from all walks of life. Hold an open admission opportunity. Seek out individuals who enjoy brain-storming, who are active leaders of any kind in their communities, those who revere you and those who question your every move, and, of course be mindful to choose those who have shown promise and have yet to receive opportunity. Pull together a group of 50; one from each state.

In addition, find individuals who are currently building their careers with passion and knowledge: small-business owners, non-profit directors, up and coming heath-care professionals, young Christian preachers, educators, etc. Divide the 50 into thirds. Each third meets with you, and you alone, once. While you meet, the other two-thirds meet with the same purpose. 3 days. Length of time each day, I leave up to you. Day 4, everyone meets. The forum is dictated by the discoveries made in days 1, 2, and 3. Again, the length of time met, is left to your discretion.

The morning of day 5, you choose 15 individuals out of the 50 to meet for 2 more days. Day 5 is a day of good-byes; a day of rest and re-focus for those staying. For the last 2 days, meetings continue in bursts. Sometimes with you. Perhaps a lunch meeting. (Prior to this point no meeting should be held over a meal or drinks. Meal time and late night gatherings allow for interpersonal conversation and rejuvenation amongst the 50 only the first 3 days.) A brisk 5 mile walk and talk. Perhaps the 15 meet with the First Lady for a few hours. The Vice President for another few: those who you believe will generate open and vibrant conversation while remaining open-minded to ideas that have been generated over the last 5 days.

One week. I am convinced you will be surprised. I am convinced everyone will be surprised. I am convinced it will be the best investment of your time and America's tax dollars. I am convinced, that like myself, there are individuals in our nation still wanting to help and support your mission for a better United States of America. There are still individuals seeking inspiration and opportunity to share their passion for the United State of America. These individuals are men, women, Democrats, Republicans, Gay, Atheists, Christians, business people, mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. They are paying attention. They are informed on multiple different levels and they are willing to contribute to finding solutions for creating a better future.

It is my opinion that, not only will this retreat garner fresh perspectives for America's future, it will rejuvenate our nation and you. It will have America waiting with baited breath to hear what perspective a fresh community has to offer. And, I believe, it will create a media frenzy and set the stage for you, sir, to become President of the United States for another term.

I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I have been married before, and divorced. I have no other children. I have never done drugs. I do not smoke. I am an average American. I have re-built my life more than once and am sure I will have to rebuild it again. I am a strong woman from a long line of French-American women. I am a force to be reckoned with, but work each day to be the fairest and hardest working person anyone has ever met. I believe in America. I am a patriot and believe in free speech, but I am not political. I believe in, integrity, inquiry, and community.

And I, without a doubt, believe you need fresh hearts and minds to rejuvenate you, sir, so that you may find the strength and joy to unite, truly unite and fight to lead this country once again.

Thank you for considering my suggestion. I wish you only the best.
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