Speech: Dale Bornstein, 2018 Agency Honoree

Karen Strauss: Good evening everyone, I’m Karen Strauss, and I run strategy and creativity at Ketchum. I think I’ve done that for something like 1,000 years. To mentor is to affirm, and I can think of no one more affirming than Dale Bornstein, who I’m so very, very honored to affirm this evening. After Eva Berring, my effusive fourth grade creative writing teacher, nobody ever told me I was talented and creative more often or more sincerely than Dale did and continues to do. And with Dale’s unique brand of heartfelt support and just-in-time tutelage, she made me and now so many hundreds of other protégés, many in the room tonight, appreciate themselves and believe in themselves. And that’s really one of Dale’s greatest gifts.

In a sometimes-Darwinian business, Dale doesn’t just create survivors, she creates strivers and thrivers for life. What’s especially heartwarming to me about my professional relationship with Dale, is that I actually started out as her boss, hiring her into this profession – I’m not sure if I should apologize – and over time, as she actually got to be a big shot, she became my boss. And in both roles, first as my trainee, enduring what was then a rather aggressive red pen, as she always reminds me, and later, as my coach and, if I’m to be honest, occasional therapist, always reminding me to bring inventive solutions, not problems. She always made work fun, and funny, and collaborative and a thing of love.

And perhaps the idea of love in the workplace between two grown women seems unprofessional, but I really do love Dale, because she treats all people, in all kinds of circumstances, with compassion and empathy. She always provides constructive criticism with a very big heart and good intentions, always. And often times completes a directive or a suggestion, with “I love you.” And in the rough and tumble environment of client expectations, staff right sizing, PNL management, a little love goes a very, very long way. And boy did we love our collaborations.

Regardless of who had the titular role of boss at the time, together, we slaved over, mark my words, Mat features about robotics and auto mechanics, for a vocational school. We sweet-talked the former Mets player Bobby Ojeda and singer Bobby Brown, to perform absolutely free of charge at a client charity event. We staged a headline-grabbing marriage between a hot dog and a model we dubbed the marriage of food and fashion to launch a themed restaurant. We’re proud of this, mind you. And we concocted the Chlor Trimeton allergy season index, which predicted, low and behold, year after year, it was the worst allergy season ever. What do you know. Legendary work.

I believe that excellent mentors inspire creativity, risk taking and being your best self, and working alongside Dale always guaranteed that trifecta. I was never so brave, so imaginative and so proud as when Dale was my everyday mentor and muse. Dale’s mentoring magic has lifted up many, many friends and colleagues, and their messages of gratitude mirror my own. And I don’t have time to share many of them, but I’d like to a few.

Linda Etherton, who’s in the room – wave Linda – who’s a brilliant food and nutrition counselor said, “Dale is the whisperer who kept me from losing my way from time to time. Her tender care and inspiration always kept me focused and fresh. Dale was far more than a mentor, she was an advocate. I wish everyone could take the Dale Borenstein leadership class – what a lovely world it would be.”

And Kelley Skoloda, who was a masterful head of our brand marketing practice – Kelley, raise her hand. She said, “Dale was my woman-tor, championing a balance of career and family that let me progress in my career, while still spending time with my husband and children.”

And Adriana Giuliani, who now goes by AG, a former Ketchumite, who’s now Dale’s creative director at M Booth said, “Dale is the Red Bull of mentors, she gives you wings. She will never necessarily give you the answer, but she is masterful at leading you to the questions you should be asking.”

So, this evening, it is with absolutely deep admiration, and affection for honoree Bob Feldman and presenter Rob Flaherty, who were also my beloved bosses back in the day. But this evening I lift my red pen to Dale Borenstein, who has made an indelible mark on my life and on the lives of so many other people, who strive and thrive today thanks to her. Thank you, Dale, I will love you, always.

Dale Bornstein: Alright, wow, this is a really overwhelming and emotional evening and Karen, thank you. You, too, are the embodiment of what tonight is all about. You have nurtured me as friend and mentor for more than 30 years, and I don’t know if there’s any way I can really say thank you. So, thank you.

It is truly an honor to be here and among those recognized tonight by the Plank Center. And it’s humbling, because I know how many great leaders and mentors there are in our industry. Many of them are here tonight, including those sitting at my table and those just here in the audience. And I do have to give shout outs. PBL, and Kelley, and Linda, and Linda, and Paul, Denise, and Margi, Bill and Lisa Ryan. Rob, Bob, I’ll get to you guys. So many in this room, I feel very, very fortunate.

For what it’s worth, I have found myself following in the footsteps of Feldman, Flaherty and Strauss, and they always take a lot of time ahead of me. I’m just being really, really honest, right? But, for most of my career, these three lifelong mentors, industry leaders and most importantly, really good friends have had a profound impact on my life. And it’s not often that you get a public platform like this to just say thank you, so thank you. I also owe a big thank you to Margi Booth, and we’ll get to that, too. If they were chapter one, she’s chapter two. And I thank you Margi. And Bob, a huge congratulations on your well-deserved award. Tonight is really, really special.

Okay, so, Betsy Plank was certainly onto something and there’s nothing more meaningful or inspiring, I think, than the generosity and reciprocity of mentorship. It is one of the most gratifying ways to give back, certainly for me, and when someone calls me a mentor, I consider that the ultimate compliment and privilege. My experience has been, that the best mentor/mentee relationships grow organically through trust and respect and mutual admiration. And they are fueled through inspiration, aspiration and real modeling. Yes, real modeling. That’s a term I heard for the first time this year, and it was Shaq, of all people, who said it. Can you believe I’m quoting Shaq? Okay, so, he talked about being a real model, not a role model. His point was simply this – why should you play a role when it’s so much more impactful to just be real. And that struck a deep chord for me.

If you know me, you know I’ve always believed in being true to yourself and your values, and helping to teach others to do the same. More than ever, our world needs real models. We should marry our actions with our words, lead authentically and take the time, really take the time, to mentor those who matter most in our lives.

Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you figured out why.” Well, years ago, Rob Flaherty said something to help me get closer to figuring out the why. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, so don’t come and correct me, Rob. Alright? Okay. “As an agency leader, we aren’t just in the business of client service. We are in the business of helping others be the best that they can be, build their careers, families and livelihoods.” And that really stuck with me.

Then, when I joined M Booth, Margi showed me the power of a culture where people pursue their passions. We encourage our folks to get out into the world, be curious, be adventurous, take some risks and check off that bucket list. Heck, we even fund grants for that. And why? Because that just makes them so much better. They’re inspired, enriched with new experiences, new insights that they can then share with their colleagues and clients to help them be the best that they can be. And isn’t that all what this is really all about?

So, as someone who has always prioritized people first, the opportunity to coach, inspire, to just make a difference, is really the reason I get out of bed in the morning. And from the day I started in this business to today, I have been the lucky beneficiary of the wisdom and friendship of certainly many folks in this room, who I’d call the best of the best. You have always been there to give me courage, confidence and perspective, and I am forever grateful.

And now as I watch my 13-year-old son grow up and navigate the complex world we live in, I hope that he too, will find great mentors. People who believe in him and encourage him to keep climbing. “Real Models,” who lead with their heart as much as their head. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you again Plank Center for this tremendous honor. It means the world to me. And let’s all keep climbing.


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