A Sign from God


There are plots and subplots. Which is which is often impossible to discern. Former Denver Mayor Bill Vidal is our next speaker on Aha Moments. The plot is laid out in the title of his talk: An Immigrant’s Journey and in the copy we have prepared: “Born in Cuba to a wealthy family, Bill Vidal and his brothers were sent to Florida in 1961 and then transported to an orphanage in Pueblo. Overcoming the personal struggles of his uprooted childhood, he became one of Colorado’s most influential civil servants. Author of Boxing for Cuba, he will share his journey overcoming obstacles—both personally and professionally.”

As always though there are so many subplots—those intersecting lines that are beneath the main storyline. Of course, subplots can require unearthing. So I began to dig and immediately the following story surfaced.

As is true for many people who have faced early separations and loss—change is not a welcome opportunity—it is often a frightening prospect. In 2004 Bill Vidal was finishing his fifth year as head of the Denver Regional Council of Governments when John Hickenlooper offered him to join the Mayor’s Office to head Public Works for the city. Bill turned the Mayor down three times but told the Mayor, who would not take no for an answer, he would think about it.

That night, Bill and his wife Gabriela were watching the film, “The Man from Elysian Fields.” At one point in the film, a man Vidal describes as “skinny and lanky” comes out of a restaurant and helps actor Andy Garcia’s character into his coat. “My wife says, ‘That’s Hickenlooper’ and I say, ‘It’s not.’”

Indeed, Gabriela’s instinct was correct—the Mayor of Denver had been given a small cameo by his director cousin, George Hickenlooper.

Bill’s response upon seeing the credits and the director’s name: “It’s a sign! It’s a sign from God!” and he sought out the Mayor the next day to accept the job.

I never heard of this film, “The Man from Elysian Fields” so I watched the trailer. It did not include the scene where John Hickenlooper is holding a coat. The film though addresses change as both frightening and risky as well as an opportunity to dig deeper into who we are, or can be, than if we follow the same plot.

I don’t know what other Aha Moments Mr. Vidal will share with us—but this is one subplot I look forward to discussing with him.

David Sanders



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