(Editors' Note: This story has been updated with a comment from Life Time.)
Bahram Akradi, chairman and CEO of Life Time, Chanhassen, Minnesota, penned an open letter asking Americans to tell elected officials “to focus on what is best for our citizens and our country.”
The letter was released to the media on Jan. 22.
“Whether in our communities, businesses, or even our homes, each of us plays a critical role in uniting people around causes that contribute to a healthier, more productive world,” he states in the letter. “This is equally important in public service. After all, our elected officials are supposed to lead and unite us for the benefit of all citizens. Let's make it clear to our leaders in public service that we expect them to act in this fashion.”
He then called upon other business leaders to also ask politicians and the media to “halt the ongoing blame game and, instead, focus on balanced, intellectual, and respectful discussions that address the important issues facing our country.”
This isn't the first time that Akradi has gotten political. He has donated to local and national campaigns in the past, mostly to Republican candidates but also to Democrat Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org, However, that doesn't mean you should look for Akradi to run for public office. A spokesperson for Life Time denied that he has any such plans.
His history of speaking out on wellness and politics includes his July/August 2018 editorial for Experience Life in which he urges people to conduct themselves civilly. He offered this reason for weighing in on the topic of the uncivil discourse in the country at this time: "At Life Time, we are intent on creating a healthier nation and world, and I believe a culture that’s built on respect is an essential element of that.”
His January/February 2019 editorial for Experience Life focuses on division in the country, noting that “Just as our bodies suffer when our physical, mental, and emotional well-being are inundated with unhealthy in-puts, so does our democracy.”
Akradi, who immigrated from Iran as a teenager, urges people to get involved by contacting their representatives, going to city council meetings or joining a social movement.
Life Time’s founder has a lot of reasons for wanting politicians to work together. The direction Life Time has been heading indicates that Akradi's call isn't just about business. The company is focused on building healthier communities through healthy living campuses, uses its Life Time Foundation to provide school children with healthy food options through customized grants, and offers after-school programs. Plus, its shared workplace facilities are set up in part to lead to healthier lifestyles.
But Akradi and his team are businesspeople, and so business also comes into play. The more divided the country is, the greater the fear for the economy—and that’s bad for any business, particularly in an industry reliant upon discretionary spending. In addition, one of Life Time’s owners is a real estate firm, and Akradi himself said in this Finance and Commerce article published this month that he wants people to know Life Time’s capabilities as a commercial real estate company. A poor economy is not good for any real estate firm, particularly one that is betting heavily on healthy living campuses and healthy workplace offerings like Life Time now is.
This contentiousness in politics does affect us all. Will Akradi’s letter help to stem the tide? Not if it’s just him making the plea. For one voice to be effective, it has to be heard and it has to be repeated. It has to grow into a chorus that can’t be drowned out. It has to lead to a movement that demands action. That’s where you come into play. If you agree with Akradi’s position, then I encourage you to let your voice be heard, too. Write your member of Congress, write the president. Demand that both sides work together and stop playing politics with the future of this country.
Here is Akradi’s letter in full:
Dear Fellow Americans,
I regularly think about the influence of leadership on the well-being of individuals, societies, the environment, and our planet. Whether in our communities, businesses, or even our homes, each of us plays a critical role in uniting people around causes that contribute to a healthier, more productive world.
This is equally important in public service. After all, our elected officials are supposed to lead and unite us for the benefit of all citizens. Let's make it clear to our leaders in public service that we expect them to act in this fashion.
Please join me in asking all of our elected officials — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, including our President, Senators, Representatives, Governors, and Mayors — to focus on what is best for our citizens and our country.
Instead of constantly resorting to attacks and counterattacks, let's ask our elected officials to engage in productive and respectful debates so they can prevail with the best approaches that move our nation forward. Only these types of debates, broadcast to all Americans, will accurately inform and empower each individual to form his or her own conclusions.
Instead of dividing us, let's ask our elected officials — and the media — to unite us and to do so with the mutual care and respect we would be proud to teach our children.
I hope fellow business and community leaders also will join me in asking all politicians and the media to halt the ongoing blame game and, instead, focus on balanced, intellectual, and respectful discussions that address the important issues facing our country.
We need to be the United States of America, not the Divided States of America. Only as a united nation will we solve the real problems we face right here at home, while positively influencing the world around us.
To all elected officials and media, I ask that you commit to lead our nation to unity and alignment for the benefit of our country and its citizens. Please focus on doing what is right for our nation, as leadership is a responsibility, not a privilege. And now that responsibility is to unite America.
For the rest of us, we each have the power to let our elected officials know how we feel, what we expect, and our desire to be united, not divided. Please take action to ensure your message is heard. #unitednotdivided