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World Cafe Hosts discussion of Servant Leadership with Larry Payne

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Former Houston First Lady White, Chris Bell, Tyra Banks of World Cafe, Larry Payne and his spouse. Auditorium of Julia Ideson Library  August  21 2014
Former Houston First Lady White, Chris Bell, Tyra Banks of World Cafe, Larry Payne and his spouse. Auditorium of Julia Ideson Library August 21 2014
Marc Pembroke
Larry Payne discusses his new book on Servant Leadership
photo by Marc Pembroke

On Thursday evening August 21, The World Cafe and Houston Public Library hosted a panel discussion and book signing with Larry Payne in the auditorium of the Julia Ideson Library. Payne is the author of a collection of essays on the theme “Servant Leadership.” The panel consisted of several of the contribution essayists, all of whom have well-known leadership roles in Houston. Mr. Payne began with a brief introduction of his philosophy of servant leadership, and the need to establish personal priorities as well as devoting attention to serving others. The essayists, all former colleagues or friends of Payne, have inspired others in the Houston area in a wide variety of roles, and cited examples of many who have done so. “Payne is host and producer of Dialogue Houston, a community affairs program on HCC-TV, CH19; and the host of Interchange a talk show on Public Radio 90.1 FM KPFT,” as the HPL press release states. “He serves his beloved Houston through work on behalf of numerous organizations.” He explained that he had been a stroke victim, and had to relearn to walk and take care of his own health.

Noted sociologist Dr. Stephen Klineberg gave a cogent summary of the demographic transformation of the USA and particularly of Houston, emphasizing the need for visionary leadership to reach across ethnic and social barriers to solve problems and develop a new generation. A delightful unanounced addition to the program was a performance by Rita S. Ochoa, singing the debut peformance of her newest song “The Heart of Houston” which embodies a spirit of compassion and inclusion. Ms. Ochoa stated that she and her husband had put the finishing touches on the song only hours earlier that day.

Dr. Robert Houston, a nationally recognized expert on urban public education, shared his reflections on the essays in Payne's new collection and encouraged others to engage in similar positive initiatives. He cited an example of an inner city program of early childhood education lead by high school graduates.

Former City Council Member Chris Bell cited the transformation of Baldwin Park as an example of servant leadership. Baldwin Park, now considered a “hidden jewel” by some city guides, was once a dismal space frequented by drug users. Inspired by projects in other cities, then Council member at large Chris Bell and students in a leadership class planned to clean up the park in a relatively short time, immediately followed with the installation of playground equipment. The setting is now a tranquil family friendly park with ancient live oaks framing picnic areas.