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Mistakes made, lessons learned

15 Oct 2003

Candidates for City Council were invited to submit essays answering the question: What mistake did you make in your personal life that taught you an important lesson? All did, except John W. Smith, Republican candidate in the South District.

Jason Crane

Candidate for City Council East District

At age 18, I returned from a year as an exchange student in Japan and went to study jazz at a SUNY school. While I was away, there were massive state budget cuts and the program was reduced to one professor. I went anyway and enrolled in a music education and classical performance program. I hated it and spent a year performing poorly and eventually refusing to study at all.

I then spent a year working in a bank and trying to figure out how to get back on the accepted path – college, job, family.

One day, I realized that maybe the problem was the path, not the person on it. I packed up my things, moved to the Southwest and started playing music professionally. I met my wife and within a year we were back in Japan having an adventure.

Since then, I’ve tried very hard to be true to myself. The important thing is not that I fit in a particular box or category, but that my actions and energies go toward improving the world around me at the same time as I challenge myself.

I learned another lesson, too: Have fun! “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a fine idea, and its time has come. We need to create an environment where our citizens have a real chance to pursue their dreams. We need a city full of rewarding jobs, healthy neighborhoods and innovative ideas.

Like my decision to head west, the choices necessary to make this dream a reality will not be easy. But many times the only way to succeed is to step off the well-trodden path and strike out in a new direction.

Crane is running on the Green Party line.

Lois J. Giess

Candidate for City Council East District

As Robert Frost wrote, I regret “The Road Not Taken.” I grew up in Oak Park, Ill., a community much like Rochester – rich in cultural activities and opportunities for creative expression. I took advantage of all of it: ballet, tap dancing, piano and singing lessons tennis, synchronized swimming and field hockey. I took cello lessons from a cellist in the Chicago Symphony and played in the school orchestra.

As an adult, I continued to seek out those avenues of creative expression – classes at the Memorial Art Gallery, yoga, furniture restoration, flower arranging, needlepoint, etc.

What I regret is not choosing one of those avenues and pursing it to the point of individual satisfaction. My husband, John, loves sacred and orchestral music and has pursued it with a passion since he was 8. He is familiar with the extensive sacred organ repertoire and the principal organists who play this sublime music. He sings enthusiastically with our church choir and he shares his talent and joy.

I now believe it is important to develop that creative side of all of us. I have become a passive (or want-to-be) voice. Frost understood that this was a lesson that I would be “telling with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence.” Despite the sigh over those missed opportunities, I do believe that it is never too late to nurture that creative side. But for real fulfillment, one must pursue the creative instinct to the point of satisfaction. Just sampling will not sustain the spirit, will not avoid the sense of a road not taken.

Giess is running on the Democratic Party line.

Anthony Giordano

Candidate for City Council East District

The biggest mistake that I have made in my personal life is giving the amount of trust that I have to certain individuals from my past.

I always give the benefit of the doubt to every person with whom I come in contact.

But I think because they know I am an open and kind person, some see this as an opportunity to take advantage of me.

In the past, there was a couple who were friends of my mine and who had very bad financial problems – as I did.

I helped them out with transportation when they had no car. I also gave them a place to live when they were evicted from their suburban home.

However, after I gave them all this help, they stopped being my friends.

And after everything I had done for them, they never once even said “thank you.”

However, I learned a big lesson from this experience and others like it.

I realize that I probably should not have trusted certain individuals from my past to the extent that I did.

I have discovered that there are people out there who will knowingly take advantage of you and/or the situation.

So, having coming to these realizations, I now feel that I will choose more wisely those people I will trust or depend on.

Nonetheless, despite any negative experiences, I will continue to have a positive outlook when it comes to dealing with people. My nature is to be trusting and I just feel good about helping people, even if the kindness is not returned.

Giordano is running on the Citizens for Change Party line.

Luis A. Perez

Candidate for City Council Northwest District

What is one mistake you made in your personal life that taught you an important lesson?

One mistake that comes to mind was that I didn’t go to college right after I graduated from high school.

I had been doing an internship with Rochester Telephone my senior year at Monroe High School, and when I graduated the company asked me to continue working full time.

With seemingly secure employment, a new car and money in my pocket, I decided I could continue my education at a later time.

Three years later, after a six-month labor strike, my job was eliminated and I found myself in the unemployment line – with a new appreciation of the need for a college education.

A young family and a new career at Eastman Kodak Co. later made it even more difficult for me to attend college.

It would be many more years and many sleepless nights before I would finally receive my master’s degree in social work – fulfilling a dream and major goal in my life. The personal sacrifice and the strain on my family and social life were immense.

I learned many lessons from this mistake.

One of the most important is not to put off for tomorrow what you can do today. We must seize the moment when it is before us.

I also learned that if you work hard and stay focused you can accomplish much.

More importantly, I learned a new level of appreciation for my family and friends who were so supportive through it all.

Perez is running on the Republican and Conservative party lines.

Robert J. Stevenson

Candidate for City Council Northwest District

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?” I grew up in “Butterhole” in northwest Rochester, a Catholic enclave in the 1930s.

After completing eight grades at the local parochial school, in accordance with parental advice, I entered St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary and six years later St. Bernard’s Seminary to prepare for the religious life.

By the last year of training, I finally figured out that my preparation was appropriate for a monk in Italy in the 1920s. I took leave of the advanced training in philosophy, theology, Scripture and ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin wondering what practical use 11 years of priestly training could have in the real world.

After two years of active duty in the Army, two years at Rochester Products and having acquired a master’s degree and three teaching certificates, I started a 30-year career teaching high school.

Gradually I realized that parts and pieces of my seminary training complemented my career choice of teaching science. The logic and cosmology courses stood me in good stead to teach the orderly procedures of gaining knowledge in science. Moreover, I can apply my teaching skills to addressing the myriad constituent problems I have addressed in representing 50,000 citizens these last 16 years.

What I initially thought was almost the biggest mistake in my life has turned out to be a very strong logical and ethical framework for dealing with the city and its citizens. The very act of reaching for something impossible has guided my life.

Stevenson is running on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families party lines.

Adam C. McFadden

Candidate for City Council South District

In February 1993, I was in my junior year at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C.

On the first springlike day, I decided to skip my marketing class to hang out with my Phi Beta Sigma brothers.

I ignored the fact that I had a presentation to do with my classmate Ronald “Killa” Anthony. Ronald was the point guard of our basketball team who earned the name “Killa” because he could destroy anyone who defended him on the court. After working for two weeks on our marketing presentation on mint-flavored beer, we thought we could get an A. But because I skipped the class, he was unable to do the presentation.

When Ronald found me after class, I was given the task of persuading our professor to allow us to present in the next class.

About 10 o’clock that night, I was getting ready to meet Ronald to review our presentation when a friend came to inform me that Ronald was dead. He had dropped his car keys down the elevator shaft in the boys’ dorm. He had gone under the dorm, which was built on stilts, to retrieve his keys, when he fell 10 feet into the elevator shaft. He had lain there helpless with a broken neck and when someone sent the elevator car up, the counter weights had crushed him.

I was never able to make that presentation or even say goodbye to him. He was a leader on and off the court. He taught me that when you are given a task, you must complete it because others are depending on you. We all must do our part and when one of us does not, we are accountable together.

McFadden is running on the Democratic and Working Families party lines.

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