City Club Focus – Hope and Optimism

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City Clubs have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic as our facilities are in most cases tied into the urban centers in which we serve. We do not typically have outdoor facilities or outdoor recreational facilities that have been the saving grace for many of our private club counterparts. Our members who frequent our clubs based on their downtown workspace have found that working from home has replaced the need of the dreaded commute. With that said, most city clubs have been able to provide their members with enough take-out food and beverage offerings, provide online programmatic opportunities and find other ways for their members to stay emotionally connected. This article is not intended to relive what has occurred but look ahead to what will again be a crucial rebuild.

I have been thinking a lot about the phrase the light at the end of the tunnel. An internet search on wordorigins.com revealed that the phrase is a metaphor used to refer to signs that a long period of adversity is coming to an end. The metaphor, if not exact phrasing, dates to at least 1879 when it appears in a letter by writer George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) about a recent bout with an illness. The writer used a pen name because she wanted to escape the stereotype of women’s writing being limited to lighthearted romances. As it turns out, she was an English novelist and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.

Cosmos Club, a men’s only club at the time, was formed one year before that phrase was written. I am not sure anyone at the time would have predicted two life altering pandemics (Spanish Flu and COVID-19), two world wars, many other conflicts, and catastrophic events. Like Cosmos Club and many other city clubs who have been around for more than a century, the phrase has stood the test of time and now more than ever, there is reason for hope and optimism.

Over the summer months and into the fall, many of the normal in-person club activities and events will return. I am not sure Cosmos Club’s John Wesley Powell and his cofounders would have anticipated a Club that now boasts more than 2,700 members and that women make up a significant part of its fabric. Those founders would be thrilled to know that the social component for which this Club was founded on remains strong.

On May 1, our traditional annual meeting was held virtually as we come towards the waning days of restricted club access. The incoming Club President at Cosmos Club, Paul Taskier, summed up our path forward in this excerpt from his inaugural address:

I have no grand scheme for my short year as President of the Club, no ambitious proposals. This will be a year when we climb back from the abyss of the pandemic and begin the slow return to normal. I do want to ensure that we come back strong, with a renewed sense of connection, a greater appreciation for the social and intellectual life of the Club, and more enjoyment and participation in all that the Club offers us.

The lines between home and work have become blurred this year, and it is far from clear that we will return to the formerly strict division between leisure at home and work at the office. I think that sea change makes the opportunities afforded by the Club even more central, even more important, and even more compelling.

Many of us are simply tired of being at home this whole past year. We can, and we should, ensure that the Club becomes a “third place,” where we can work if we want, relax, read, socialize, have a coffee and a pastry, be entertained and engaged by programs, and where we can entertain others with first-in-class cuisine and service. A unique destination that combines a Viennese coffeehouse, lecture hall, museum, library, garden, meeting space and restaurant. All with friends we have already made and friends we have yet to make.

It has been observed that civilization developed with the advent of cities, where there is a dense network of relationships and interactions that are necessarily constrained by norms and mores which are oil to the engine of society. City clubs mirror those societal interactions in a more intimate way. A club - which carefully admits people of similar interests and inclinations, who are deemed likely to get along with each other - provides us with the chance to make social and emotional connections that enrich our lives in the most elemental way. Our Club is a resource, not merely for the vibrant intellectual programs that stimulate us, but for our most human need, the need to connect with others. It is my hope that in the coming year we can all be revitalized, and our spirits uplifted by our return to the Club and all that it has to offer.

My best wishes to my city club peers, and the entire club community, for a successful renewal and rebuild. There is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.

Mitchell Platt, MCM, CCE
General Manager, Cosmos Club and Vice Chairman, CMAA

Mitchell Platt

Posted by Kate McDevitt at 08/03/2021 05:27:14 PM | 


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