by Laura Berthold Monteros
“This theme is something near and dear to my heart,” incoming Tournament of Roses President Lance M. Tibbet told The Rose Examiner on Wednesday. We met at Tournament House for a conversation about the vision he has for his 2017-2018 tenure as the leader of the 129th New Year’s celebration. The theme, “Making a Difference,” reflects Tibbet’s optimism and commitment to kindness and selfless service, about doing something without reservation simply because it is the right thing to do.
Selecting a theme is usually a family process, and it expresses something about the president’s world view. “Making a Difference” evolved out of a Tibbet family tradition, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” together every Christmas season. The movie reveals how the thoughtfulness and kindness of one person can change his community for the better. Tibbet said the title wasn’t going to work for the Rose Parade theme though, because “everyone doesn’t have a wonderful life.” But “Each one of us, without cost, can make a difference. We all have that ability.”
That’s what the Tournament of Roses is about, 935 people coming together to make a great impact. He would like to see that continue throughout the year, with members of the Tournament participating in the broader community to make a difference.
“Quite often, the theme only relates to the New Year, but ‘Making a Difference’ can be relevant every day.” People who volunteer in PTA, scouts, soccer, people who go to skid row and hand out blankets, those volunteer in their communities, make a difference. “I want to celebrate and spotlight all those people in our community doing things,” he said. “It’s important to be mindful that there is kindness in humankind.” Besides individual action, “when we all come together, you and I, we can make a big difference.”
A different image for the Tournament of Roses
That conviction is reflected in the poster for the 129th Rose Parade and 104th Rose Bowl Game. Tibbet wanted to do something new and different with the graphics, and he did. The poster is less traditional and has a message painted on a wall graffiti-style. The more one looks at it, the more one sees, both as art and as symbolism—the theme scrawled in a heart, the hands that make the heart, “human kind” with “u+i” highlighted, a phrase Tibbet often repeated in our conversation.
The theme is secretly revealed to the float builders late in the year, but the president sends out hints, so designers can get the juices going for the floats that will be driven down the parade route 13 or 14 months later. This year, a video was also included. We asked Tibbet how he found this particular video, a moving 3-minute story of a young Thai man whose small kindnesses affect other people.
“In Thailand, they do a lot of advertising that tugs at the heartstrings and appeals to your emotions,” he said. The design firm the Tournament uses brought a similar Thai video “that didn’t encompass the message. So I just got on the internet…. Everybody responds at the same moments in it.” They may respond differently, but at the same times. “Everybody has that person in their lives.”
Who has been “Making a Difference” in Tibbet’s life?
“That’s easy. My dad and my wife. My dad always was the first to raise his hand to try to make things better. Amelia always thinks of others first—how we can help, how we can give. Dad was responsible for my being in the Tournament. That’s why I’m involved in the things I am.” His father Bert was a white-suiter for 24 years. “Amelia is my better half. She is really inspiring to me. She’s what I call my enabler.”
Tibbet, a partner and vice president at Magic Growers, Inc., studied ornamental horticulture and electrical engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. That seems like a natural fit for working on the Cal Poly float, so we asked. “I did not. I did not work on the float,” he replied. At the time, he was just getting involved with the Tournament and starting work at the nursery, plus commuting to campus. Though he wishes he had been more engaged at Cal Poly, he did note that his wife and two sons, Seth and Joel, have both worked in float building in one way or another.
What of the Rose Parade Grand Marshal?
“We’ve had lots of ideas, and after tomorrow night [when the theme is announced], we’ll have plenty more sent our way. The hope is that we find that individual who people understand has, is, and continues to make a difference. Not necessarily with a lot of fanfare. There are a lot of different ways you could go with the theme.” It will be someone who is the right fit and has the right message, he said.
“Because we are constantly assaulted with bad things, with negativity, we need to be reminded of all kinds of good going on and kindness being shared. The theme is important for a parade that celebrates New Years and the optimism that brings. There is a lot of good in the world. Let’s celebrate good and forget about bad, at least for a day.”