When Outward Bound USA board member and former Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter, found himself on a pulling boat in the Chesapeake Bay in 1992, he had questions. While he admits that he wasn’t expecting a yacht, once he boarded the pulling boat he said to his crewmates and instructors “So, this is the boat that is taking us to the boat, right?” To his surprise his crew shared “No, this is the boat.” The former Philadelphia Mayor spent the next four days on his first Outward Bound course with educators from across the Philadelphia area.
The idea of Outward Bound in Philadelphia was hatched when Mayor Nutter was running for City Council and his friend, Nancy Goldenberg, approached him with details of the organization. After much conversation and research, he reached the same conclusion: Philadelphia needed Outward Bound to inspire the city’s young people and the young at heart. That was over 30 years ago and Mayor Nutter has been living Outward Bound ever since. Most recently, he was elected to the Outward Bound USA Board of Directors.
Similar to many Outward Bound alumni, there was one moment on a ropes course that he still draws from as he was stuck at a hold “for what felt like 15 minutes” and contemplating his next move, he realized it was about “trusting your people, trusting your equipment, and trusting yourself.”
“It’s that moment for me – my Outward Bound moment. It has been the most impactful memory for everything else that I have done. Every time I have had to make one of those big decisions, I have thought back to that moment on the ropes course. That fear, that doubt. Then, I remember to “trust your people, trust your equipment, trust yourself” and then I am able to move forward. That moment has never left me and has guided me forward. That moment has stayed with me and means the most to me.”
Following his years of political service to Philadelphia as a City Councilperson and then Mayor, Nutter now finds himself in a classroom as a Professor of Practice at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Working with young people post pandemic, he reflects on how Outward Bound is needed now more than ever. “This pandemic has changed us in certain ways. I want more and more young people, not so young people, young at heart people to experience the discovery that comes through Outward Bound. I think in a certain way, Outward Bound experiences reinvigorate a closer sense of humanity, and engagement, and focus on each other as human beings. Which is really what Outward Bound is about. It’s about looking out for that person next to you.”
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I think we can all agree that the world needs more Outward Bound alums looking out for their people next to them.
Watch the video below, shared on behalf of Outward Bound Philadelphia, featuring more about Nutter’s story.
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