Joel Silberman – Standing Ovation

This is a hard blog to write. My mentor, great supporter and friend Joel Silberman is going to leave his physical body soon. I am very sad, and at the same time so grateful he was part of my life and I got to witness what an amazing leader and role model he is.

During the 2016 National Democratic Convention, a group of partners from Democracy Partners made a presentation. What I remember the most about it is the feedback Joel gave me. He asked me, with a tone of curiosity, why did I step back from the participants while engaging them. I was not aware I was doing that. He told me never to step back. As a leader and role model, you always project forward. As public figures, we do our work by entering stage left, and then perform to achieve a standing ovation, no matter how big or small our role is.  Always take a bow and then exit stage right with confidence and presence, knowing you did your best work. And then start all over again because our best work is always in the future. He said to never, ever falter, doubt myself, question what I bring to the table or give up the stage until I had performed as the magnificent leader I am. And as a leader, I must always model this behavior and expect those that I mentor and who represent our communities to do the same. One hundred percent. Genuine, energetic, realistic and on message. All the time.

That is exactly how Joel lived his life. This The Cruu 2015  YouTube is a perfect example of his essence. Hear him explain why conducting an orchestra – shaping sound – was such a joy for him. His experience as a conductor guided his work. The stage always needs to be right, because you are doing this performance for the audience. As the conductor of an orchestra, you always need to be ahead of the music being performed so you can guide the orchestra.  This is how he lived his life, always focused on where are we going.



Here is how he explains how who you are will always come out, no matter how you try to hide it. So just be who you are. Also, how to use your nervous energy – When nervous say “I am really excited”. He also asked the question: “In the middle of chaos, who are you going to follow? The person that is calm.”



In his lifetime Joel was a performer, conductor, actor, producer, singer, production manager, activist, trainer, political consultant, writer, strategist and many other roles. He had an impressive list of clients. He taught a whole generation of young people how to stay on message and how to use their body language to engage and project that message. But to me he was first and foremost a loving and fun friend who was always there for me, full of energy, optimism, and presence. A supporter, cheerleader and guiding light.

This is Joel’s last Facebook post, on July 29, 2018. He created the #TeamJoel page so his friends, family, and colleagues could support him and be able to share with him how he fought cancer.

“As I start to think about my legacy, I am acutely aware that you are it. The people I have been privileged to do this work with, you who represent the very best hearts and minds of the progressive community, and it would honor me if you could find some way to continue on together as a community after I have made my last exit. You are an amazing group of people, and your energy has sustained me and kept me alive far longer than anyone had the right to expect. It will honor me if you continue to do that for the progressive community: move forward together with acceptance and compassion in these divisive times, carrying forward our best values with intelligence, humor, and love. 

You wanted to know what you can do for me? Here is what you can do:

If you are one of the progressive movement’s doers, tell me what you organized today.

If you are one of its makers, I want to hear about what you created, changed, or fixed.

If you are one of its dreamers, we need you most of all right now. I want to hear your visions – not about how awful things are but about the things you see on the far horizon, the places this movement plans to take the country when our time comes. 

Nothing will make my remaining days happier than hearing these reports. Don’t mourn. Organize. Change things. Dream. And rely on each other’s brilliance and strength, which will never fail. I love you.”

In the days to come, Joel will receive multiple Standing Ovations. We, as your friends and colleagues, will continue to honor your leadership. We will tell stories about you like you trained us to do.  How you changed our lives and how we will grow your legacy as organizers, makers, dreamers, and changers. The world is a better place because you graced us with your presence.

You have not yet given up the stage. You continue to perform as the magnificent leader you are. We are applauding your performance in a standing ovation.

I miss you, my friend. I can see you – taking a bow and Exit Stage Right with confidence and presence, knowing you did your best work. I love you too, Joel.