Unity Awards Alums

John Annis Says We Must Continue to Try to Find Common Ground

Annis was a 2020 Unity Award winner for his work as senior vice president of Collaboration and Impact for the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation

March 2, 2021

John Annis, center

John Annis, center

Image: Alan Cresto

Where are you now?

“I continue to love my work at Barancik Foundation.”

What have your recent challenges been?

"Like most people I know, the global pandemic has been a challenge.  We started working from home in early March and it seems likely that this will be the norm for a bit. I realize how blessed I am to be able to do the work that I love from the safety of my home and I respect more than ever the essential workers who do not have this luxury. 2019 ended horribly for me. The tragic deaths of Chuck and Margie Barancik were a huge loss, but I also lost my childhood best friend to cancer, and my mother, who had been dealing with Alzheimer’s, passed away after a fall. Did I mention we had to put our dog (Needy) down at 15-plus years old? Oh, I was working through the process of donating a kidney and, late in the screening, Tampa General discovered that I had two huge kidney stones. Not only did that disqualify me, but I had to have surgery at SMH. Hello, 2020, and a global pandemic!”

Best news?

"In February, I became a grandpa for the first time. My beautiful granddaughter, Amaia, has reminded me of how lucky I am."

What would you like people to understand about your philanthropic efforts toward greater unity?

"Collaboration is hard. Lots of people talk about it and claim they do it.  It requires lots of listening and understanding. It doesn't mean giving in or selling out; it's more about progress and making things better and sticking with it. Philanthropy is much more than making grants/giving away money.  When it's done well, it can truly impact systems and lead to change. Real partnerships require honest and sometimes difficult conversations. "

What personal traits bring people together?

"Personality traits and leadership traits can be different.  During my career in the Marine Corps, we frequently talked about, studied and practiced the 14 leadership traits—best remembered by the mnemonic JJ DID DIE BUCKLE.  Justice, Judgment, Dependability, Initiative, Decisiveness, Tact, Integrity, Enthusiasm, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty and Endurance. I think many of those are traits that help with bridge building—particularly integrity and unselfishness. I think we should always encourage people to embrace tolerance and inclusion, but we have to approach these efforts in an inclusive manner right from the start. I think our local Embracing Our Differences is a great example of ways to start a conversation and hopefully begin relationships that lead to better understanding, maybe even empathy."

Are you hopeful about the future?

“I'm an optimist by nature, but I have to admit to being less hopeful than I have been in a long time. Some of the worst behavior in national politics has become accepted locally. What would have been absolutely unacceptable in the past is suddenly excused as straight talk.  Some people don't even bother to ‘spin’ things—they outright lie. Relationships may be our best hope.  We have to keep talking, listening, reaching out and finding common ground whenever possible.  We can't let it become ‘us’ and ‘them.’”

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