By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Ward had requested a meeting with Dade County Schools Superintendent Octavio Visiedo to discuss ways that Love Your Neighbor might be integrated into the school day. They never did meet, but word about the campaign spread, and in March 1994, according to Ward, 62 schools requested about 1000 bumper stickers each, with plans to encourage students to perform "a good deed" of some sort in exchange for a sticker. He wasn't prepared for an order like that, so he was happily surprised when the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community offered to help. "They asked me how I was doing for bumper stickers," he recalls. "I said, 'I'm in deep trouble.'" The coalition doesn't raise money for the campaign, says executive director Marilyn Culp, but acts as a clearinghouse for private monetary contributions, offers of services, and suggestions about ways to expand public awareness, as well as distribution of items such as bumper stickers, lapel pins, T-shirts, and bookmarks, all bearing the slogan.
The phrase was beginning to ring in an increasing number of influential Dade County ears. From the Miami Coalition's involvement grew the steering committee, chaired by Ray Goode, Ryder's senior vice president for public affairs. At the urging of Ward and Commissioner Betty Ferguson, the Metro Commission passed a resolution "[asking] the Host Committee of the Summit of the Americas to adopt the phrase 'Love Your Neighbor' as the official slogan of the Summit." Miami International Airport flashed Love Your Neighbor on its electronic billboard. Miami Herald publisher Dave Lawrence praised Ward in one of his Sunday columns. ("Sure, this is all probably naive," Lawrence wrote. "A good naive. The optimists among us make the difference in a future that includes everyone.") And Miami City Manager Cesar Odio asked city employees to display the bumper stickers on city vehicles and on their personal cars. In a memo to department heads and administrators, he endorsed the campaign as a way to "enhance Miami's 'caring city' image."
County Manager Armando Vidal, too, wrote to his department directors, informing them that Ward would soon be calling to discuss ways each department could participate in "our" Love Your Neighbor campaign. "As you can see," Vidal concluded, "the expanse of this campaign is only limited by our imagination . . . . Being the largest governmental entity in the community, it is imperative that we continue to take a leadership role in promoting this effort and developing a Love Your Neighbor spirit."
The county manager continues to support the concept and to encourage all employees to join in promoting it. "We ought to take time to think and act from day to day in accordance with the spirit of goodwill," says Assistant County Manager Dean Taylor, Ward's supervisor.
"Love Your Neighbor" is printed on much of Metro's stationery, and outgoing mail is rubber-stamped with the little red reminder. The Metro-Dade Transit Authority already had three buses painted red for use as shuttles while the new Brickell Bridge was being built. When Ward called, transit director Chester Colby realized he could make his Love Your Neighbor contribution by simply painting the slogan in white over the red background instead of repainting the vehicles in the traditional Metrobus colors.
Ward's department, long known as the Department of Human Resources, had been home for several years to an informal singing group called the DHR Ensemble. This past October, when the agency was renamed Human Services, Ward changed the choir's name, too A to the Love Your Neighbor Ensemble.
It didn't stop there; the private sector was doing its own neighborly deeds. A local check-printing company now offers to add the phrase to checks. (Ward has his printed this way). Two local video production companies donated their services to produce a Love Your Neighbor public-service announcement that will air on local TV stations as soon as next week. If the steering committee raises enough money, 60 billboards will bear the Love Your Neighbor message. And several local musicians, including Nestor Torres, have agreed to perform on a Love Your Neighbor music video: "It'll be kind of like a 'We Are the World' vibe," says Richard Serotta, operations director for Performing Arts for Community and Education (PACE) and a steering committee member. "Lots of ethnicity, from Seminole Indians to Haitian and Spanish musicians. It's one of those snowball-type things," adds Serotta, who plans to produce the video. "It started with Jim Ward, and then all of a sudden there were thousands of bumper stickers, and people keep coming on board."
Matters got to the point where Claudia Becerra and her fellow steering-committee volunteers were overwhelmed. "We've sent out 250,000 bumper stickers and mailings," Becerra says. (Ward estimates the total number of stickers distributed at 500,000.) "All the time people call with different ideas -- I really can't take care of all of it."
So Ward brought in a staffer to manage the Love Your Neighbor campaign. Cary De Le centsn was moved from her former position as Victim Services coordinator. Her newly created job -- special assistant to the director -- carried a small raise, from $29,200 to $30,500 annually.
Ward and De Le centsn have fielded inquiries and bumper-sticker orders from St. Louis, Denver, Mobile, and Macon. The citizens of Macon, in particular, have cottoned to the idea of Love Your Neighbor.