Littleton, notes Brian Vogt, is again at a crossroads, but one he feels much of the country faces today.
“There’s just a little sense of disunity,” the executive director of Denver Botanic Gardens told Littleton Community Retreat attendees who gathered to hear his keynote address Oct. 18. “I’m not sure it’s just about Littleton. It might be about America.”
The retreat, held in the mountains near Granby, drew dozens of Littleton leaders to start a conversation about nurturing the health not just of individual residents, but of the community as a whole.
“What Littleton can work on now is what we’re really missing, and that’s core competency,” he said, adding that it’s also true for the country as a whole. “We need to make things leaner and meaner and better. It’s a big, bureaucratic, complex mess.”
Vogt, executive director of the Denver Botanic Gardens, has had lots of experience building bridges throughout his career. He’s launched things as small as the annual Haunts of Littleton and as large as the whole city of Centennial, often alongside his friend John Brackney, who succeeded Vogt as South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce executive director. This year, the two launched Common Sense Citizens, which they hope will grow into a national movement to fix government by ending polarization.
“When did we lose our core civility?” Vogt wondered. “Why are we doing this to each other? We don’t mean it. … Let’s have fair fights, and then pat each other on the back.”
Vogt grew up in Littleton and remembers well another time the city faced a challenge. He watched as the Flood of ’65 swallowed the basement of his Ridge Road home, sparing the house but opening up a sinkhole in his back yard. He said not only was he personally excited to have a temporary swimming hole, the flood led to the creation of Chatfield Reservoir and South Platte Park.
“Adversity turned into triumph for the city of Littleton,” he said.
Times were different then, he notes, and Vogt has a theory about his baby-boomer generation.
“We’re the most gifted generation in human history, and I don’t mean talented, I mean gifted.” That perhaps has led to a sense of entitlement, which he thinks might best be replaced by giving back.
“A big part of our day should be about service,” he said. “Do something to lift somebody up so they can become a better contributor to the people in their lives.”
Vogt told the group that work such as theirs offers an opportunity to break down barriers among factions in the community.
“Littleton is a beautiful, wonderful place,” he said. “Is it perfect? No. And isn’t that great? Because it gives us a project, something to work on.”
A co-founder of the Greater Littleton Youth Initiative, which arose out of the trauma of Columbine, Vogt worked with other members of that group to quell controversies surrounding how to curb teen violence.
“If people work in an environment that has big vision and big dreams and you get rid of old resentments … you can do anything,” he said.