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Freedom Rising

Late this summer, I had the rare pleasure of attending the movies with our whole family since both sons were home from college. We saw The Butler, a historical drama following the life of Eugene Allen, who through grit, luck and perseverance moved from a harsh childhood on a cotton plantation in Macon, Ga., to serving eight presidents in the White House.

While Betty and I enjoyed the ensemble cast — led by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey and joined by the likes of Cuba Gooding Jr., Jane Fonda, Mariah Carey and John Cusack — we were jolted by the reminders of events that now seem historical but of course played out during our own lives.

The Butler opens in the Deep South and recalls key events that many of us have chosen to forget — the violent resistance to school integration, lunch counter sit-ins, the Ku Klux Klan, Freedom Riders and the pivotal “I Have a Dream” speech by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago.

The show also had scenes of the Vietnam War, which defined so much of our early lives with the killing of young Americans . . . and young Vietnamese. We were glad that our 20-something sons could see this drama, which was only “history” for them.

America has come a long way. The segregated schools, the “whites only” water fountains, the refusal of service that Betty, in particular, witnessed in Florida and the Carolinas have given way to equality under the law, if not in all hearts. The movie ends with the election of Barack Obama, a beacon of hope and inspiration for millions of Americans, even for many who disagree with his policies.

So, what now? Let us remember that our founding fathers described a nation where everyone can pursue happiness. Let us be open to the efforts of those trying to improve themselves — and let us not forget that the sins of the past still echo today in the lives of many. In the end, we will be judged not by the riches we gather, but by our humanity and fairness to all people.

There are many competing visions for how to make Florida better, and in this issue we highlight the think tanks in the state that are active with research and publications in the marketplace of ideas. Many now step out of the ivory tower to take activist roles in lobbying as well. On page 130, associate editor Amy Keller reviews the swelling number of these groups in Florida.

This issue also focuses on the challenging world of finance. While most of us are familiar with major banking institutions like Wells Fargo, there are multiple elements to the money game, and we explore some of them here, including those capitalizing on “bad” loans, venture capital, community banks, credit unions and accounting firms.


For the convenience of our readers and advertisers, Florida Trend has outlined some major themes for 2014 — the list is available on our 2014 editorial planning calendar. It includes Floridian of the Year, a small-business issue, the legislative agenda, our annual Economic Yearbook and sector portraits of the marine industry, defense, higher education, entertainment, banking and sports.


In this issue, you also will see a big section on greater Fort Lauderdale, peering into the success enjoyed by the Broward County region, including facts about the airport, company expansions, biotech, education, marine, manufacturing, the port and more. Similar reports are planned for 2014 on regions as diverse
as Gainesville, Daytona, the Heartland, the Palm Beaches, northwest Florida
and Tampa.


Fitness update: I’m back in the gym on a sporadic basis. Jogging is in style again. The Turkey Trot 5k is only seven weeks away.

— Andy Corty
Publisher
[acorty@floridatrend.com]