President’s Message – March 2020


Our Heroes

    In her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards for Best Actress for her role as Judy Garland in the movie Judy, Renée Zellweger said, “our heroes unite us.”
    “The best among us inspire us to find the best in ourselves,” she went on to say, noting that our heroes are also our firefighters, our first responders and our teachers.
    I found her words enlightening considering there are people who give so much of themselves to make the lives of others better and richer. We should reflect upon and recognize these people among us. Due to their generosity of spirit they elevate the well-being of our community.
    Giving and commitment takes many forms. It could be a cartoon that conveys the need to fix our roads, a mapping survey of trees for creek restoration, announcing the Fourth of July parade over the years or dedicating years of service to improve our community. These are examples of the dedication of the four Orinda residents who will be honored March 22 at the Orinda Country Club.
    These heroes are Pete Hasselman (Citizen of the Year 2019), Barbara M. Leitner (William Penn Mott Jr. Environmental award); Bill Cosden (volunteer award) and John Haughin (volunteer award).
    For three years the awards have been jointly sponsored by The Orinda Association (OA) and the Orinda Community Foundation (OCF). The collaborative effort of these two nonprofits is an attempt to acknowledge and highlight in one evening exceptional people who contribute to making our city a great place to live.
    Three different classes of awards are acknowledged at a dinner gala attended by hundreds of local residents. In the past, these awards were bestowed by different organizations and at different times throughout the year. The Citizen of the Year award has been given to 71 recipients since 1948. The Orinda Volunteer Award has been given since 1986.
    The William Penn Mott Jr. award has been bestowed to 26 recipients since 1993. It is named after the first president, in 1946, of The Orinda Association. Mott also was an Oakland park superintendent for 17 years and was instrumental in creating Children’s Fairyland, the Oakland Zoo and the Rotary Nature Center. He was the executive director of the National Parks Service. He was by all accounts the most influential professional in the parks field in the last half century.
    Combining the three award programs into one grand event created a central focus and has proven to be more effective and meaningful.
    The awards night is a wonderful event to congratulate and honor the people who help shape our city. It’s not only our excellent schools and our idyllic location, but it’s also our volunteers who quietly and forcefully make our city one of the best in the United States. To make a reservation for awards night, go to the OA website,
    I hope you will join us March 22 at the Orinda Country Club to say thank you to our heroes.

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