The Roast & Toast of the Incomparable Dave Beckwith

posted on: December 14, 2012

Updated 12/17/2012.
By Christine Reeves 
I had the privilege of joining my colleagues, friends and mentors for the much-anticipated roast and toast of Dave Beckwith. Power, passion and people were the heartbeat of Monday night’s event, hosted at the Alliance for Justice offices in Washington, D.C.
This month marks his retirement from being executive director of the Needmor Fund in Toledo, Ohio. Dave serves on the boards of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and the Neighborhood Funders Group. He has also given his time and vision to countless other organizations, including, but never limited to: Center for Community Change, Governance Task Force of President Carter’s National Commission on Neighborhoods, Legal Services Corporation, East Toledo Community Organization, University of Toledo’s Urban Affairs Center and New England Training Center for Community Organizers. 
However, for Dave, “retirement” is a complete misnomer, since no one can fathom the end of his career. Rather, the consensus was that he would marshal his boundless energy and fixed moral compass towards new power, passion and people-centered adventures. 
Holding approximately 100 people from across the country, the office flooded well over capacity and grew thick with laughter, tears and memories. Some guests were on their third of fourth decade of friendship with Dave, but everyone in the room – including me, who has only had the gift of knowing Dave for a few years – see him as a source of inspiration.
Hilarity engulfed the room, when one after another, friends joyfully cheered and amiably jeered Dave. They shared witty poems, old stories and moving insights. Some dedicated their time and finances to some of his causes. Also, Cris Doby of the Mott Foundation, gave him a first edition of one of his most beloved books, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals

We were regaled with story after story, including his trip through Eastern Europe to help organize and empower citizens of former communist block countries. A true Renaissance man, Dave also shared his love for performing in the Opera. Perhaps most poignantly, his daughter, Sky Beckwith, shared a letter her father wrote to her on the day of her birth, 27 years ago.
Yet, even as we gathered to celebrate him, he made sure to remind us that we were celebrating ourselves, our work and the work that is yet to come.
Simply put, when I think of Dave, I think of three things. First, he collects people: He takes joy in organizing organizers, creating friendships between people who would otherwise be strangers and sharing stories with those he meets. Second, he has taught me and many others that it is okay – and even necessary – to get mad. Yet, he taught me not just to feel angry, but talk about anger and use anger as fuel for change. There are so many problems in the world that need fixing. So, when we channel our passionate anger at injustice and power to collectively find solutions, great things can and do happen. At the end of the day, we have to chose anger, because otherwise we are left with the unthinkable… apathy. Third, his strong faith is rooted in his core, and it seems to give him even more energy to help, challenge and encourage the people who he collects and to turn passionate anger into just solutions.
Perhaps this won’t make sense to those who don’t know Dave, but I left the event feeling taller, stronger, and hungrier to do big things.  Thanks, Dave.
We wish you the best, Dave, and we can’t wait to be part of your continuing, non-stop ride!