Stories

A Presidential Candidate, A Prominent Attorney… And Me

By Ryan Kuhl | Jun 21 2019

My dad is a very intelligent man who tends to have a lot to say, but unfortunately, his preferred channel of communication to the outside world has always been the t-shirt. One of my favorite shirts he owned had four cartoon figures on it and read “Babe Ruth, Queen Victoria, Leonardo DaVinci, Ben Franklin, AND ME.” The genius of this shirt is that my dad certainly was not one of the greatest athletes, rulers, artists or thinkers of all time, but he was definitely left-handed, just as everyone else on that lovely piece of art. He had done it—he found commonality with the best of the best and he proudly shared it with the rest of the world on a t-shirt.

That wonderful memory of my dad led me to think about my own understanding of worth and how someone like me could possibly become the current Board Chair for SA2020. I didn’t have the skills to design a confidence-instilling t-shirt that read “Former Mayor and current Presidential Candidate Julián Castro, Prominent Attorney and Civic Leader Sonia Rodriguez, AND ME.” I just had the normal fears and anxieties of the unexceptional knocking around in my head telling me the best course of action was to run away from an opportunity of a lifetime and defer to the many, many people who I imagined would be much better suited for the job. Surely there was some other important person out there dying for a chance to lead such an incredible and dynamic organization. Now, that last statement is true, but close to a year ago my fellow board members elected me and I was going to have to learn how to accept that responsibility. I needed to understand what I personally brought to the table and why I was worthy of such an opportunity.

Ten years ago, if you recall, the economy was in ruins and many people were desperately scrambling to preserve whatever savings they had in an effort to weather the financial storm. In a moment of financial genius, I decided the best course of action was to quit a stable job and use what little money I had to travel the world with my wife. The thought process was simple: lose money, but gain perspective. Well, we succeeded at both. The unfortunate downside to that equation was substantial and I now find myself turning 39 in a small cubicle, still trying to find my way, while many of my friends and colleagues are hitting their strides professionally. The upside is that my wife and I now share countless memories about the remarkable people we met, the incredible cultures we experienced, and the beautiful places we would have never seen in a million years had we not taken that risk. At a time when the far more intelligent course of action was to batten down the hatches and turn inwards, we gave conventional wisdom a big ole “see ya later!” and chose to step outside of our comfort zones. Foregoing the comfortable and familiar for the sake of adventure and new perspectives allowed us to gain a better understanding of a world far greater than either one of us, and we will cherish that forever.

Now, board service is no trip around the world with your best friend, but it is certainly an adventure like no other. You will meet remarkable people from all walks of life and realize that everyone has something invaluable to bring to the table. You will bear witness to seemingly ordinary people, like yourself, working together to do extraordinary things and you will proudly share those observations with anyone who will listen. You will find that following your passions intently and seeking out opportunities to serve those passions directly is a risk worth taking. So please, hold fast to the undeniable truth that you have so much to give to the world, and your voice not only belongs at the table, but it is welcome.

It took me a while, but I have learned to take ownership of my seat at the SA2020 table because I firmly believe in our mission to drive progress toward a shared vision for a thriving San Antonio. I also know that ensuring the brightest future possible for our community requires a commitment to lead from people like former mayors, prominent civic leaders, AND ME.

So, I did it—I found commonality with the best of the best, but unlike my dad and his fellow left-handed geniuses, I realized that our commonality stemmed from the collective desires of a diverse and passionate community to ignite powerful change. Now it’s my turn to share it with the rest of the world. Maybe I’ll even put it on a t-shirt. Wanna join me?

The Board Game is SA2020’s latest program, and the application is open now. We’ll pair you with a Nonprofit Partner that needs your skills and experience, and help prepare you to apply and serve. Find out more and apply here, and join me in helping to create change in San Antonio.

Ryan Kuhl

Ryan Kuhl is the SA2020 Board Chair. He received his BS in geography from Texas A&M University in December of 2002 and his MA in world history from UTSA. Prior to working with SA2020, Ryan was active in the San Antonio business community as the managing partner for First American Commercial Property Group. His firm specialized in the acquisition and disposition of commercial real estate assets and grew from the tenth largest firm in San Antonio to the largest during his tenure. Ryan has served on multiple boards and committees with organizations such as Leadership Organization of Professionals (LOOP), Young Texans Against Cancer (YTAC) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

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