How do we unite different cultures in the midst of a polarizing political climate? In this episode of Add Passion and Stir, George Washington University professor of leadership Louis Caldera and Rose Previte, owner of Compass Rose and Maydān in Washington DC, talk about culture, leadership and the potential for diversity to drive positive change in the US. Both guests believe diversity is our greatest strength. “As long as we’re true to our principles of equality, and people can develop their talents through education and contribute something, then that’s what we need to do,” says Caldera, the son of Mexican immigrants who became Secretary of the Army. He emphasizes how our country benefits when the brightest people in the world want to come here to be educated. “The growing diversity of this country will become more politically active and they’re going to say, ‘I don’t fear people who come from places like where I come from because I’m a contributing American,’” he predicts. Previte’s restaurants are a celebration of diversity inspired by her upbringing with a Lebanese mother and Sicilian father and her own extensive travels. “The street food [at Compass Rose] is the great equalizer, it’s where everyone whether rich or poor…come together over food,” she says.
Both guests come from families where food and hospitality were focal points. Previte remembers how her diverse family educated others about they were through food. Caldera, who grew up poor in Southern California at a time when the Latino community was still small, believes shared meals are important for building strong families and communities. However, shared meals can be difficult with the work schedules in low-income families, so he advocates for supports like minimum wage, family assistance and opportunities for education.
Listen to this conversation between two leaders who understand diversity as a strength that builds positive social change.
Resources and Mentions:
- No Kid Hungry (nokidhungry.org): Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.
- Root Cause Coalition: (rootcausecoalition.org) The Root Cause Coalition is a national, member-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of health disparities by focusing on hunger and other social determinants leading to nationwide epidemic of preventable chronic health conditions.
- Louis Caldera is a professor of leadership at George Washington University and a Senior Fellow in the GW Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute. The Cisneros Institute is dedicated to advancing the Latino community through leadership development, community engagement, and research and policy programs focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the Latino community. The former Secretary of the Army, Caldera has served in numerous public, higher education and nonprofit leadership roles, including as an Army officer, state legislator, university president and in two presidential administrations. He served in the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1997, representing a downtown Los Angeles district. He served as Secretary of the Army in the Clinton Administration and in the Obama White House as an Assistant to the President and director of the White House Military Office. From 2003 to 2006, he served as President of the University of New Mexico and was a member of the university’s law school faculty. A native of El Paso, Texas who was raised in Whittier, California, Louis is the proud son of Mexican immigrants. He holds a B.S. degree from the U.S. Military Academy, and law and business degrees from Harvard University.
- The Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute draws on the intellectual strength of the George Washington University and the resources of the nation’s capital to cultivate citizen scholars and innovative research focused on the Latino community. Research produced by the institute examines current issues facing our country to encourage diverse perspectives in national dialogue and decision-making, while the Institute’s robust curriculum in leadership and professional development prepares high-achieving students to make a difference and become the leaders of their generation.
- Rose Previte comes from a food loving Sicilian-Lebanese family. She spent years helping to run her mother’s catering business and later her restaurant. Previte spent over a decade working in bars and restaurants. She worked at Mike Schuster’s Pour House for over six years, while getting a master’s degree in Public Policy from George Mason University. Previte married David Greene, NPR journalist, and joined him when he was posted in Russia. In almost three years’ time the couple traveled to 30 countries, absorbing their street and market foods, and the energy of diverse cultures. These travels reinforced her strong commitment to community, and to offering people the chance to taste delicious foods and discover the meaning behind them, which inspired the opening of Compass Rose in 2014 and her second restaurant, the recently opened Maydān. Previte is also the host of Check Please on WETA public television in greater Washington DC. She was featured in the April 2017 issue of Washingtonian magazine as one of D.C.’s “40 Under 40” top professionals to watch.
- Compass Rose offers international street food from around the world. In the first year it was open, Compass Rose was on every best restaurant list in D.C. The Washington Post wrote about its signature dish, khachapuri, seven different times. Compass Rose has been on Eater’s 38 Essential Restaurant list since opening and has been mentioned in local and national media including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Food & Wine and Bon Appetit. The restaurant won a 2017 RAMMY for best casual restaurant.
- Maydān takes a different approach to dining: one that’s about the food, but also the love, respect, and traditions that go into each dish. The name means “gathering place” or “square” in many different languages. Maydān’s food tells the story of traveling from Tangier to Tehran and Batumi to Beirut, but it also tells the stories of voices that often go unheard. Owner Rose Previte was invited to sit and break bread with strangers, listening to stories and learning tried and true techniques. She wants her guests to feel as welcomed, embraced, and valued as she did during her travels.