Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s business community recently hosted Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf for a talk on the evening of December 5 at the Acorn Club. Newtown Meeting’s Norval Reece and Joseph Evans and London Grove’s Mark Myers organized the event with logistical support from PYM. The talk, “Reflections on William Penn’s Holy Experiment from a Business Perspective,” was followed by a Q&A period.
The governor mingled at cocktails before speaking to 87 legal, professional, and financial Friends for 30 minutes. He shared his personal beliefs concerning ethical business practices rooted in trust and discussed his long-term engagement as a businessman on the boards of charities and civic institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce.
When he retired, Governor Wolf felt led to participate in the political process and launched his campaign for governor despite polls that showed only 1 percent of the population knew who he was. He still believes that most of that 1 percent likely confused him with author, Tom Wolf, but he persisted in running and won the governorship.
Governor Wolf believes that PA’s unique characteristics as a leader in building a diverse and business-friendly civic society with strong educational institutions go back to William Penn’s holy experiment. It was the creation of a commonwealth where the values of fairness, inclusion, and trust were uppermost in Penn’s mind that led to a successful colonial society. Economically Pennsylvania benefited from this vision, with strong ports, cities, and universities. The trust and diversity William Penn laid the groundwork for generated a dynamic Pennsylvania economy and society—despite Penn’s documented weaknesses as an administrator and the fact that his vision was not fully realized.
Pennsylvania, according to the French writer Voltaire, was the freest place in the world. This, Governor Wolf noted, was even though not all colonial business began on equal footing with equal apportionment of resources. Later, under Benjamin Franklin’s leadership, our Pennsylvania constitution was the first to offer voting rights to adult males, independent of property ownership.
Today, fairness, diversity, and trust still matter. The old saying; ‘do well by doing good’ highlights the essential role of trust and business integrity in a free-market economy.
Governor Wolf believes that in the geographically and politically diverse state that Pennsylvania continues to be today fairness, inclusion, and trust still matter. He cautioned that he’s happy to take feedback about things that need to change, but with advocacy also comes the responsibility to serve as more than a critic. It is important to seek solutions that lead to better conditions and outcomes.
Friends found the governor’s talk—with messages of fairness, diversity and trust—a bright spot given the current politicization of governments.
As he left the Acorn Club that evening, the governor made sure to pause for a brief stop in the kitchen to greet the Acorn Club’s chef and manager, thanking them for their fine work.