CEO to CEO: NC Chamber’s Gary Salamido Asks Critical Diversity and Inclusion Questions

Gary Salamido is the CEO of the NC Chamber, and he wants to know why Donald Thompson created The Diversity Movement, how NC businesses can create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, what can be done about white guilt, and how he can sign up to be a Certified Diversity Executive.


The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Donald Thompson: Welcome to the Donald Thompson Podcast. I am honored and humbled today to have the President and CEO of the North Carolina Chamber, Gary Salamino. Gary, welcome to the Donald Thompson Podcast.

Gary Salamido: Oh, well, thank you Donald. It’s it’s my privilege to be here. I appreciate you doing it.

Donald Thompson: So one of the things that Gary that I like to do is we get into conversation with folks – so you and I are good friends, but I want our audience to be friends with you at the same time. Take a moment and just give a little background on you. Where do you grew up? A little bit about your family. Anything that you feel you want to share just so that we can get to know Gary as an individual, and then we’ll dig into Gary as the executive and leader.

Gary Salamido: Well, thanks Donald. I appreciate it. And yeah, I grew up in Endicott, New York, small town in the Southern tier of Endicott, right in the middle of the state, close to the Pennsylvania border. Three of my four grandparents came from the same small town in Italy in Southern Italy, very poor part. And they came over to make a better life for their family and early 1900’s.

A couple of my dad’s brothers and sisters were born in Italy. A couple were born here. He was born here. My other grandfather was just 11 kilometers away. So my mom and dad are first-generation children of immigrants that came over because they had nine bucks in their pocket. And they wanted to make a better life for their family with it and built lives for them.

My mom’s parents work at Endicott Johnson shoes and the tannery. So my grandfather shoveled coal in there so that my grandma would have enough energy to sew soles on the shoes. And my grandfather on my dad’s side, worked for the coal company in Scranton, Pennsylvania drove coal truck, and my grandma there stayed home, raised eight kids. And about 600 foot square place. I grew up in Endicott, small town. We had a two floor flat and my dad owned it, but we always sponsored friends and family from Italy to come over and live above us. So I had a lot of family – just as an aside, I could speak fluent Italian until I went to school.

And my dad said you’re in America now. No more Italian. And so I lost it for awhile, but now I’m getting it back a little bit. Went to school, I’m a pharmacist by education. So I went to the Albany College of Pharmacy. I practiced both hospital and community pharmacy for awhile. Got involved in advocacy work early on in my pharmacy school career.

And then went to the University of Texas and got a degree in Pharmacy Administration. Master’s degree that really had very little to do with pharmacy. I had a whole lot more to do with economics and healthcare finance and all the pieces came together and then started my advocacy career with the Iowa Pharmacist Association, advocating for the profession of pharmacy and pharmacists. Then joined Glaxo in 1992 and worked there 19 years before joining the Chamber in 2011.

I’ve been married 30 years in August. It’s been a great ride with an incredible – as a lot of folks know you don’t do it alone. And so it’s been an incredible ride and I have three kids. My oldest daughter is married. Got married a couple years ago. I have a granddaughter in Holly Springs, eight month old granddaughter. Well, I’m looking forward to giving a hug, it’s been a couple months. My son graduated from Appalachian and he’s in South Dakota now he’s heading up – the tournament director group of the Dakota area soccer lines, and he just got his first official coaching job. He’s going to be, pro especially because he’s getting paid by him, which is good, but he’s the head coach of a women’s varsity women’s high school team in South Dakota, a Christian school there, and he’s also coaching a premiere boys team at the soccer Alliance. So he’s going after his dream to try and be a coach and be involved there. Degree in international business. And he speaks Chinese from Appalachian. Just had a passion for the game for a long time.

And my youngest daughter is a freshman at NC State and trying to figure out what her path is. She’s the smartest one of us all, but she can’t quite figure out whether she wants to lean on the left brain or lean on the right side of the brain. So very blessed to be here, working for the Chamber, hoping to try and find ways to create opportunity and jobs so communities can be healthy. So all the stuff that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. First I’m a healthcare provider. So my first lens is “do no harm and listen.” And that’s how you figure out what’s what’s going on with folks and how you figure out how to help them. And having had to put hands on people and listen to them and counsel them and how to take their medications is training and experience that I took into my advocacy work. And so I feel very fortunate now to be in a place where they believed in me enough to help guide an organization whose goal is to foster an environment that creates private sector jobs. So we’re the best place in the world to live and raise a family.

Donald Thompson: That is awesome. I mean, that is a powerful five minute story and there’s a lot to unpack there. We’ll get to some of it if we can. Your son, that’s a women’s soccer coach, he’ll enjoy an interview that I did last week with Anson Dorrance, the head women’s soccer coach at UNC. And so I’ll send it to you.  I’ll definitely share and make that available. And I think the one thing that, of the many things that you said about your background, that healthcare provider perspective “do no harm and listen” is something that is really important in the moment that we’re all living, whether it is the pandemic that’s going on, whether it’s the racial divide, I’ll say, but really the racial healing that needs to go on in our country. All of those things require us to figure out and understand who to listen to and then what you listened to, what to act on that that’s for you. So that’s great stuff that we’ll get into. Tell me a little bit about your mission and your work at the Chamber, and then we’ll dig into some of our main topics. And what I’ll say is that one of the things that’s going to be unique about this conversation is that once we talk a little bit about the Chamber and different things, I’m kinda gonna open up the floor for you to ask me some questions. So you’re kind of flipping the script on us a little bit about things that we’re doing around diversity and inclusion and really promoting kind of education and activation of people in the business community as we go forward to make America better.

Gary Salamido: Yeah. The Chamber’s vision is one sentence as is the mission. Like good executives like you’ve taught me and others along the way is, the vision is how do we make North Carolina and maintain North Carolina as the best place for private job sector job growth in the country, if not the world, so that people can have a great place to work and lift.

And the mission is how do research, develop, advocate, and communicate policies and solutions that produce private sector job growth. So our communities to be healthy, that’s what we do. That’s what our members do. We’re 100% privately funded. So all of our members invest in us, all private sector companies across 21 industry segments and vary in size.

We have members as small as 10 and members as big as Glaxo with 100,000 employees and everything in between. We’re constantly looking and listening to those members and trying to dissect what are the broad based policies, issues, solutions, things we need to be advocating for and communicating for solutions that haven’t been arrived at yet or problems that don’t have clear solutions. How do we develop consensus and collaboration to look at what are the broadest base things we can do to make North Carolina a beacon of light for people who want to come and find a good job and raise their families.

Donald Thompson: That’s really powerful. One of the things I would say, just to echo how your mission is playing out, one of the really neat things about this podcast series that we’ve been working on for awhile is that I’m getting to talk to some most interesting people on the planet. And I had an opportunity to talk a couple of weeks ago, in an episode that we’ll release with a gentleman named Joe Colopy who was the founder and former CEO of Bronto Software that sold to NetSuite for $200 million. And one of the things that we talked about it was why he didn’t take this tech company to Silicon Valley, to Austin, but he burst the business and grew it in Durham through the American Tobacco Underground and grew a phenomenal business.

And one of the things he talked about was the access to talent and then the great environment to raise a family and grow that complete life in a place that’s thriving. And so when you talk about the health of our ecosystem, it has as much to do with our foundation for business success, linked with the full family unit success, both in education and activities and different things.

But that’s a great success story because a lot of times we focus on the bigger companies and bringing them in and creating immediate jobs. But there’s also a construct of the small companies that can grow big and do something phenomenal. So that’s a great success story of what your organization has helped lay the foundation for as well.

Gary Salamido: Yeah you know, it’s all connected Donald, there’s three components to health, right? There’s physical, emotional, and financial health. If people are in an environment where they can work, then communities can be healthy. So if you have those three components and you have opportunity, communities can be healthy, and if communities are healthy, North Carolina becomes a place that a lot of, even a lot more people want to come to because of the balance that we’ve had. And because we understand how all things are connected.

Donald Thompson: No, that is powerful and put into three really concise steps that people can remember. So, Gary, one of the things that I don’t even want to call it an elephant in the room, it is a global point of focus right now, which is how do we operate and improve working together when people look different, and what are some of the things that are happening to people of color in our country? What are some of the things in terms of business leaders that we need to think about so that we have healthy organizations and healthy communities? And you and I have been able to develop a strong enough rapport that we’ve had some really good dialogues, really candid about what we think leaders can do, but at the same time, you had some questions.

And so one of the things that I like to do is, you know, my personality and background is have strong opinions on a lot of things, but I do believe in listening and I do believe in sharing perspectives. And so I don’t really start with a judgmental perspective from anybody. I just like the opportunity to have powerful dialogue with people that want to be open to learning and that can teach me something as you have, and that maybe I can share an idea too. And so what I’m going to do, which is different for our podcast, is I’m going to turn the questions over to you and let you ask me anything that’s on your mind about the moment that we’re in, that is pretty transformational for our country, and maybe some ways that I can be helpful to you into your organization.

Gary Salamido: Well thank you. And yeah, I do have a good number of questions. First. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say thank you to being open to giving folks that are in my position a place to have a candid conversation in a safe place. You know, one of the first things that you have to know is you have to find people who will allow you and not judge you to ask questions.

For which, for me, I can’t possibly understand the challenges that people of color are having on a daily basis, much less with the tragedy and the atrocity that was committed. So thank you for giving me a safe place to have those conversations because that’s step one. And so you were talking about this, as we got to know each other, you were a speaker at one of our events and we sat down and had a cup of coffee and you were talking about the importance of being intentional and actionable on race relations and diversity and inclusion, you know, before the events of the last few months and particularly the last couple of weeks happened.

So, what led you to start The Diversity Movement initiative? And how’d you come up with the name and what was leading you to this time, where you are prepared to help guide folks like me?

Donald Thompson: So that’s a great question. And one of the things, I’ve been very fortunate in my business career. People that are, that looked like me, people of color, and people that are white, people that are Asian, Indian, all different walks of life have contributed to me being an entrepreneur and having met some level of success.

So I have experience both the goodness of our country and how we can work together and also kind of the raw and unfiltered negatives of my walk. There is a period of time where I went through my business career for maybe not quite 20, but about 15 years of selling software in the high tech space and never selling to a decision maker that looked like me.

And that is something that was a stark reminder of every boardroom I was in, every conference that I went to, I was either the one, or one of very few. And so what I found is as I started to achieve a few levels of success, where people started to listen to me at least a little bit, I started to think about what my give back was based on my experience and what was given to me.

And I started to be asked to speak on diversity and inclusion issues and being a person of color in the technology space, being an angel investor in technology companies and marketing. And so I started to do those talks. And what I quickly found is that I was very powerful and focused in the areas of my experience, but I had the lack of broadness about some of the other things within our culture, whether it was gender issues, sexual orientation, neuro diversity. So if I was going to be serious as a practitioner and an advocate, then I need to do some homework. Then I needed to create some education and foundation. If I was going to use my voice to make this work, then I had to have some education and the team behind me to make it powerful.

And so that’s when I decided to become a Certified Diversity Executive. And I went to an organization called IDC that we’ve now partnered with to offer this training here in North Carolina. But anyway, I went through and three other members of my team invested in this three day immersive training course.

We then had to do a project. We then had to sit for three hour, 170 question test. This was a very intensive look at D&I, not only what it is, not only why it is, but what are actionable things we could do within our company to make our business better and more culturally aware, more culturally competent that then led to how do we make this?

You know, I’m an entrepreneur by DNA, not even by career, just by DNA. And so I said, wait a minute, we’re in the marketing business at Walk West. Marketing is about creating enough information about your target market so that you can share information in a compelling way so that their behavior changes and they buy a product, they go to a conference, they buy an album, they watch a video. These are the same elements that are required to understand people at an individual level to move their behavior in a D&I construct. So we were already doing this kind of work and research, but we were applying it slightly different. And so we decided as an organization, wait a minute, number one, this is an issue that we care about.

We have a significant number of women in leadership at Walk West. We have a multicultural team at Walk West. We have African Americans in leadership, women in leadership. It’s just part of who we are. Why don’t we take a slice of our talent in building and innovating and marketing and create a consultancy that’s focused on diversity and inclusion.

And I found a handful of volunteers within our company to take that ride with me. And it’s been really fun and really powerful, but that’s why we created it one, because it was the right thing to do. But two, we felt like we could be effective because we’re business people coming at this tough problem, not just from the HR perspective.

And so the other angle that we think made us unique to where we could be helpful in a powerful way is we’re business people that are solving an organizational challenge. So we intuitively understand the bottom line requirement of anything that a leader will invest in. So when we talk to people about D&I, we do talk about the emotive.

But we also talk about the economic. We talk about the talent needs to grow your organization. We talk about the fact that if you have a million dollar sales person you’re trying to hire, and you miss out on someone that is a person of color or a woman, because you don’t have the language of inclusion in your marketing, the language of inclusion in your HR, you could cost yourself millions of dollars because you don’t make D&I important.

Most companies are 5 to 10 hires away from crushing it. And it doesn’t matter what your size. It’s about impact players and impact players think social good is important. A company’s culture is important. The diversity, not only of color. Each generation is important, but also the diversity of thought.

So, Gary, I know that was a lot in the answer, but I’m super passionate about it. And I’m one question away from a seminar. So you gotta be careful.

Gary Salamido: Well, no, I mean, it’s really helpful, Don. Cause you got the Certified Diversity Executive and then you have the program Beyond the Checkbox that you do.

And so I’ve been having discussions with our team about, you know, how do we get better? And we have folks of color honor our staff. We need to do better. We’re going to continue to do better with that. And we want to engage in a meaningful way and take actionable steps that we can do.

So the Checkbox, that’s a moment in time right? And then the CDE is more of a journey. Is that, is that fair to say? And then what do you recommend for organizations my size and what I do?

Donald Thompson: Yeah, that’s a great question. So what I would say is they’re all a part of the foundation of the house that you’re building that includes everyone. And so one of the things that’s important for an organization of any size is something that we call cultural competency. In order for you to have conversations that are truly authentic and truly meaningful, there’s a certain level of education and commitment to learn that everybody needs to have.

And our e-learning course Beyond the Checkbox, it’s very intentional in the way we name the course, because typically D&I activities up to this point have been a checkbox item. I have a chief diversity officer – checkbox. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have C-suite visibility. It doesn’t matter if their budget is low.

It doesn’t matter if this person doesn’t even have the experience in the job. We’ve got an African American, they’re used to doing HR, so they can be our person in diversity. We got it.

And so what is found is that people are now craving, not just the why I should, but the how to. But in order to get to the how to, we’ve got to give people foundational knowledge.

So the course Beyond the Checkbox does a couple of things. Number one, it teaches, what is diversity and inclusion? What does it mean? What is the history of the practice? It also talks about throughout the course, how do you implement, how do you market this kind of programming in your organization?

Because no matter how good something is, everything needs to be sold. Everything needs to be positioned. And then it also talks about the language of inclusion. How do we talk to each other? How do we use language that allows us to have a meaningful conversation, because we’re not just saying silly things to each other that someone could take offense to because we’ve studied how to communicate.

So this foundational course readies an organization to now take on more powerful initiatives because everybody’s dealing from the same foundation of information. Number two, and this is really critical. It’s really tough to get people to have group discussions on race, on gender equity, right out of the gate.

Psychological safety is really important. By taking this e-learning course, this four to five hour course on your own, you’re able to absorb information to now ask questions based on a body of knowledge. That allows you to have an even playing field with the other people in your company that are working through some of these issues.

And so we really think in terms of the stickiness of tough topics, you’ve got to give something that can do some homework. And so that’s where we dealt with it there. Now, as we move to the certifications, there is a certified diversity, the CDP, which is the practitioner. And then there’s the CDE, which is the executive.

This allows people now who want to take programming into their organization or be that champion in the organization to have not only the body of knowledge that they need, but now the knowhow, how to build and sustain and measure diversity programming, because at the end of the day, you can get things started, but you don’t want it to be a Black Lives Matter pep rally.

You want it to be something that changes your organizational culture for the better. And I think that credentialing educates the practitioner, but also it tells everybody that you’re working with, that you spent time to do your homework and to get ready for this new journey. And that designation is important to that new journey, because it is a credibility thing to say, I took three, four months out of my life to go on this journey to get this credentialing. I don’t have all the answers, but I now have a much stronger perspective of how we can get them together.

Gary Salamido: Really helpful. Yeah, because then it kind of leads me to another question that so I’m sitting here as a – I’m very fortunate to lead the organization as the chief executive and the president.

And I have folks that I want to have these conversations with that are various parts and levels in the organization. And we’re small at 23 people. So some folks are direct reports, some folks report to the people that are reporting to me. And so how do we engage in a way that, you know, cause there still is this well he’s the boss, right?

How do we create psychological safety? But even more importantly, how do I get the best and most open thinking and feelings from people?

Donald Thompson: Yeah. That openness to have the conversation, number one, you gotta practice any new habit. You gotta do it again and again. And so here’s one of the things that I do at Walk West as a business leader is we have open zoom sessions or open meetings where we allow our team to write questions beforehand.

And then I can address those questions in an open forum. A lot of times as leaders, we think, all right, we’re going to have this town hall meeting. People are going to stand up and ask questions in front of everyone. No they’re not. Sometimes you have a lot of dead space, but people have questions. So if we let people submit their questions beforehand, you can get the conversations going, because there’s not that social pressure to ask it in a perfect way.

Or what if Don doesn’t like that question? So that’s one thing that we did. The second thing is create an opportunity for third party validation. We’ve had several companies that have had folks on our team at The Diversity Movement into their organizations to facilitate some of these conversations so that the CEO, the VP, the executive team can be part of the dialogue versus having to lead the dialogue.

And that is helpful as well, because it’s really, really important that people understand that we’re going on this journey together. Certainly there are decision rights and hierarchy in terms of what we do, what we fund, but there’s also a construct of, the best ideas should win. And everybody’s feelings have a place to be expressed.

And so we help people with that facilitation that we provide and also getting that education kind of independently. And then coming back into group is powerful. And then the final thing that I would say is three to four person lunches or coffees or virtual sessions are amazing low cost high impact because there’s a security in learning alone.

There’s security in smaller groups. The larger the group, the less people are going to be open. So you’ve got to stair-step that over time and then give people opportunities to get new information from a trusted source of insight. And so those are a couple of things that we recommend and quite frankly, those initial steps are either no cost or low cost.

It’s just not difficult to do. Because our role and I told this to a CEO and he was like, he said, Don, he said, “Listen, this pandemic has not done amazing things for my budget. These things we’re talking about, I also need to do.” And I looked him in the eye and I said, listen, we have a monetary focus with the diversity movement, like any other business, but our mission is bigger than that.

Don’t let your lack of budget or lack of creativity on how we can work together, keep us from engaging. So why don’t we just have a conversation about that? And what we were able to do is find two or three things that they could get started with immediately to at least get moving first, having this big box thinking that I can’t afford to bring in a group to help.

And so we don’t let the finances cloud our mission, and we make sure that we’re creative with whatever level company is trying to work with us because we feel passionately. And I can say this top to bottom of our team, that we have a responsibility to share what we’ve learned and make an impact.

Gary Salamido: That’s really helpful. I had a great conversation with a person I’ve known almost 20 years now, value her friendship a lot. I was asking during this time, how do I ask the questions the right way and how do I be supportive and how do I, how do I listen? And how do I let people know I care about them while at the same time. And she goes, “It’s real. Believe it.” And she goes, one thing that you could do as you listen, and as you read and you know, I’m reading different books, Dr. Kennedy’s book right now, I’m reading and she goes, just do that. It’s real. Believe it. Take one step at a time and catch yourself.

What do you think about that?

Donald Thompson: So I have two thoughts. So let’s say number one, that’s a great way to orient your mind to the conversation and talking with others. And then what I would add to extend that is I’m very big on tone. Everyone’s struggling with the right things to say and do good if you have a person of color on your staff and by the way, people of color aren’t the only people that are hurting white guilt is real right now. There’s a lot of we’ll dig into that in a minute, but let’s talk about people of color and let’s just say their name is Jennifer. Jennifer, would it be okay if we just had a virtual cup cup of coffee and I just want to give you space to share anything that’s on your mind and I want to be available to listen. That creates that opportunity. If they reach out, you’re reaching back, but you’re making that opportunity known. And your action is showing that you care another way that you do it is that you’re very open with your team about the resources and things that you’re looking at to help the organization.

This is powerful, right? We’re going to record this, this podcast and this discussion, but share the preview version with your team. Right? Talk with us, The Diversity Movement. Make sure that we get you a couple of opportunities for one or two people on your team. To review our course so that they can give you feedback if what we’re doing is the right thing.

So don’t try to decide the best way to walk down this journey with your team, allow them to be a participant in this problem together, and just being open that really, that act of,openness and creating that inclusion. And then the humility to say, I don’t have all the answers of what’s happened.

In fact, I don’t even know if I have any great ones. But here’s some of the things I’m trying and if there’s other things that you know of and recommend, I really want to hear it, just that openness and that tone is powerful. There’s no perfect word or phrase, but that tone and that openness, I think is really, really important in terms of that dialogue.

Gary Salamido: Okay. And you talked about, you just said there’s a white guilt out there now that’s real. Help me with that a little bit, because to be honest with you, I’m feeling it.

Donald Thompson: Yeah. So we don’t want to dance around that. Like, it’s a big deal. I’m talking to a lot of folks that in the past, when they’ve seen videos – the George Floyd video was so egregiously foul. So radically horrendous, it could not be ignored. Some of the other videos or other instances in the country have been excused away or spun with this person’s background. What was this person resisting? There was no video. So should they be believed? “Blue lives matter, black lives also matter, all lives matter.”

There was all this narrative noise about a discussion on the treatment of African Americans by the police and in particular African American males. So now that we have had the George Floyd moment, death on live television basically, it is now globally pulling back the covers on the real race issues that we have in our country.

The reality of it, white guilt is now risen because people are going, I have not been paying attention to this for 10 years, for 20 years, I’ve been living my life. My life’s been amazing. I’ve not had to deal with this and it’s real. So now how do we deal with that? We need to allow all of our employees that are impacted to have space to discuss and learn.

And one of the things I’m finding from executives, that are white people in my own company that are white that are speaking on this, is they want to know specific things they can do to activate. Cause they’re mad too, because everybody wants to be proud of their country. And right now there’s a lot of Americans that are not proud of their country and they want to be. You can’t really make up for the past.

You can build a future. And so I like to give people things they can do to help build a future. For example, there’s a friend of mine that runs an organization called 100 Black Men and they do mentoring and grow the educational opportunities for youth organizations. Donate to that organization.

What are some seminars and training that people can go to? So I want to create opportunities of activation to turn that guilt into a force for good and not allowing this moment to dissipate when we have the next media cycle that’s on something else. And so I acknowledge it with people that talk with me about it, but I give them a charge and a charter to say, this is something that could be helpful.

This is how you can use your voice. I’ll give another powerful example. Friends of mine, Penn and Kim Holderness are influencers in the media and branding space. They’ve done videos for a number of years. They are phenomenal influencers, smart business people, and great people. Kim sent me an email and said, Don, we’d love it if you could find some time to have a conversation with us about this, we need to use our platform to make this better. We need to be helpful, but we’d like to talk about why and how we could do it. And so I was like, sure, I’ll do anything to help you. And this is no different. So absolutely. So myself and Jackie Ferguson jump on a call.

Jackie is the Director of Multicultural Programming at Walk West, and now heads all of our content for The Diversity Movement. Jackie and I jump on a call and Penn goes, Hey, can you do a mic check for me? And I was like, sure. He said, count to 10 and I go one, two, three. And I count to 10. And then I see Penn and Kim both have their headsets on.

I thought we were just going to have a chat amongst friends, and we did a podcast real time and they put it out three days later to their thousands of listeners. That work has led hundreds of people to our site. And in particular, our newsletter, hundreds of people to look at the preview information on our course. Hundreds, if not thousands of people that are now reading the blog that Jackie wrote, that’s on The Diversity Movement website on what allies can do to make a difference.

So they used their megaphones to create awareness of what we’re doing at The Diversity Movement, across our e-learning, across our website. And more importantly, we had close to 5,000 views on the blog about what allies can do. And so that’s how Penn and Kim used their voice. That’s how you decided to work in partner with me to use your voice.

And this allows us to activate in the moment while we’re learning how to sustain it. There’s things that we can do tomorrow while we’re figuring out how we can be better for a decade. And those are just a couple of examples. When we’re talking about that white guilt, we’re talking about using our respective platforms and you know me, but I’ll share with our audience as we push this out.

I just don’t have time to judge you. I’ve got too much work to do. This is too important. I don’t have time to think about the past 400 years. That’s already done. That 400 years is to give you educational foundation of why things are fouled up right now. Once you understand and agree that systematically, it is not the same ability for the American dream for a black man and the white man, then we’re good.

Now let’s go to work. Because what people will try to do is debate a lot of different things historically versus learn the historical foundation as a launch pad for why we need to fix this for our kids and for their kids and their kids. And this is a multigenerational thing that we got to get done. It is not going to be easy because power, evil, racism doesn’t want to be rooted out, but it’s wobbling.

And while it’s wobbling, we got to hit it. While it’s wobbling. We have to move with the passion and the activity and the unity, because right now it’s wobbling right now. We’re in a unifying moment in our country but we can’t let the moment dwindle. We got to put force behind the moment. And so those are some of the examples that people like yourself that have jumped on board with us and want to do what they can, where they can.  And that’s really all we ask.

Gary Salamido: You’re raising more and more questions. I don’t know where we are on time.

Donald Thompson: Well, I’m hoping it’s helpful because I can get super passionate.

Gary Salamido: No, no, it’s extraordinarily helpful. And we got to continue to have the conversations. Good, man. That’s all I got for now. I got more, but I’m good for now.

What do you have a questions you have for me?

Donald Thompson: So one of the things that you asked that I want to follow up on. What else could I be doing in the near term? We’re going to tease some things out, but are there a couple of things where I can be supportive? Where you guys are right now, to where our team can engage with you and just be helpful.

And you can answer that. And you can also come back to me on that, but true partnership is a two way street and that means we got to learn and give together. And so I want to make sure that we’re good partners together. And so if you have some thoughts now, fantastic. I’d love to hear them. But what can we be doing to, to be helpful in this, in this moment for you?

Gary Salamido: Yeah, I think the first thing is my, you know, and I have some other thoughts and I will get back to that is to have your recommendation on for me and my leadership team. Do we start with Diversity Beyond the Checkbox that we do that immediately? As we go and then, you know, I’ve committed and I am committed to the Certified Diversity Executive.

So what is the timing of that? And, and how do I plan for it? And you know, not everybody in my organization needs to have it or do that. I mean in terms of my leadership team and how does that work? But I’ve committed to it so you can put me in your class however that works.

Donald Thompson: Awesome. Let me jump into a little bit of it and we’ll handle some more offline. First I think that the Beyond the Checkbox course is table stakes for all executive teams. And I think the act of you guys doing it intentionally as a team, and then having set up some facilitation that we come in after you guys have taken it over the next week or two, and then really talk about it and have an open Q&A with your leadership is a perfect, simple, foundational step.

And just within our partnership, just talk to me offline and we’ll figure out something that’s just bare of how to do that quickly from everything that we’re all we’re all doing. So I do think that’s a very powerful step. The second thing in terms of the CDE course and the CDP. Mid August is the CDE. I think off my top of my head, it’s the 11th, 13th and the 18th, but that is going to be the first cohort that we have.

And we’ve got some great people that have not only expressed interest, but that have committed to be a part of it with you. And so we’re excited about that. So we’ll get you the specific dates. And then in the show notes from this podcast, we’re going to push that out as well as we finalize that.

Gary Salamido: So I’m in the first cohort, the officially then.

Donald Thompson: You are officially in the first cohort if you want to be.

Gary Salamido: I want to be so thank you.

Donald Thompson: 100%. And so we’re, we’re very encouraged about that offering. So to me, the eLearning course is the table stakes. And I think it’s a great thing for you guys to do together and then a great thing for your organization to see you do. And the other thing, quite frankly, Gary, I really think that offline let’s just figure out a way that you can make it available to your entire company and the leaders show the lead. By doing it first, like you, this is what we’re doing as a leadership team. But if you guys would like to participate in this part of it with us, we would love to have you and make that available.

So let’s figure out something that is just really compelling. That makes me smile. That’s a great way both for your team, but a public endorsement of change in this moment. That’s awesome. So we’ll get you those dates. Gary, I thought this was great, like you and I are like, it’s easy. Cause we’re just talking and we’ll, we’ll figure out.

Love it, man.

Gary Salamido: Well, thanks, Don. I enjoyed it. Thanks for your friendship. That’s the biggest thing.

Donald Thompson: You as well, my friend, thank you so much, Gary.

Thanks for listening to the show everyone. Gary and I talked about both CDE and CDP courses that we’re offering at The Diversity Movement, and I want to be make sure you have all of the correct information.

The CDE course, which is to become a Certified Diversity Executive, is August 11th, 13th, 18th, and 20th, from 8:30-3:30 each day.

The CDP course, which is to become a Certified Diversity Professional, is August 10th, 12th, 17th, and 19th, from 8:30-3:30 each day as well.

You can find information on these courses as well as the Beyond the Checkbox course by visiting

Also, if you’re interested in becoming a member of the NC Chamber, visit

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Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit


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