In by John Henning

The  GGBA’s 5th Annual Power Lunch took place on Friday, February 1, 2019 and celebrated the GGBA’s commitment to building bridges across economic, geographic, cultural, and inter-community boundaries throughout the last 44 years.  At this year’s event, John Henning, GSG Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Professional Services, introduced Juan Novello, the Senior Vice President of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. His remarks were powerful, and we wanted to share with the GSG Community. 

My name is John Henning.  Native Californian, United States Citizen, graduate of Golden Gate University in San Francisco, a proud board member of the Golden Gate Business Association and Chief Marketing Officer of Granite Solutions Groupe, a San Francisco-based recruiting and consulting firm founded by my incredible husband Dan L’Abbe over 20 years ago to serve the needs of the financial services industry.

Of all those titles, HUSBAND is the one I’m most proud of, and because of the great work organizations like the United Nations, the GGBA and the NGLCC I feel safe saying it in public and in business.

Sphehn, Magic and their chick, Sphengic, at Sydney Sea Life Aquarium in Australia. FILE PHOTO | AFP

Penguins from Australia! – who would have thought that we could learn about tolerance, acceptance, community and unity from a colony of penguins in Australia?  This week, as reported in the New York Times, a fabulously dressed gay couple with the names Sphehn and Magic have become national symbols of the LGBT movement in that country!

Demonstrating how a bond that transcends gender and sexuality can symbolize a nation’s ability to move beyond personal and religious tensions to focus on what’s good for the community and the next generation.

Their 3-month-old chick – Sphengic – is now almost fully grown. He, or she, does not have a permanent name yet. Nor does the penguin have a gender.  A penguin’s reproductive organs are internal, so sex can only be determined by a blood test at full maturity.

When Sphen and Magic became a couple, Australia had just gone through a contentious debate about whether gay marriage should be legal.  This resilient and determined couple, unaware of the political heat around their relationship have become a surprising symbol of leadership to the world.  If a penguin colony can figure this out, the human community certainly should be able to!

Today we are celebrating the bridges that connect our diverse backgrounds, the achievements of our collective efforts and the values of our ancestry, which give us hope and determination to move forward as one people in business and in life.

We have a saying at our company, “hope is not a strategy”.  But when it comes to human rights and economic equality Hope is crucial, giving us the direction and inspiration to act.

Unity – Behind me you can see the history of the words’ root form, Unite.  As anyone who knows me can attest, I love words – probably too much at times!  But I ask you now to consider the history and definition of this word and what it means to you.

Every day in this country and around the world we are bombarded with stories of injustice, harassment and adversity caused by ignorance or the failure to remember that we are all one.

We may not all be the same, but we are one.

I believe that our nations are never stronger than when tested, and I believe that this room is filled with the individuals, corporations and civic leaders that can inspire the greatness in EACH and EVERY one of us to lead by example with dignity, honor and hard work to bring us to the ultimate goal of our democracy.

E Pluribus Unum – Out of many, one.   The motto of our nation is literally printed on our currency, reminding us of the importance of economic and social equality.

I don’t know if you’ve all had the chance to see the recent film RBG, the story of an amazing woman who was born with nothing other than a loving family, a desire to do the right thing and the strength to persevere – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

I’ve taken the liberty of adapting my favorite line in the film it to our mission here:  “We ask no special consideration for our sexual OR gender identity, all we ask of our brothers and sisters is to kindly remove your foot from our necks.”

I believe we must listen to people who are not like us to learn, understand and unite with them.  In order to be heard, we must also listen.

So I have 3 questions to leave you with today:

  • How can we have unity without understanding?
  • How can we expect understanding without learning?
  • How can we learn without listening?

These are the questions I try to ask myself each and every day, and this is why last week Granite Solutions Groupe’s board of directors voted unanimously to adopt the UN Free and Equal campaign’s Standards of Conduct for Business.

We are honored to have great leaders from the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign, and from the California Hispanic Chamber and the Mexican LGBT Chamber of Commerce with us.

Today I have the great privilege and honor to introduce Juan Novello, the Senior Vice President of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  A dreamer in every sense of the word, both politically and philosophically, Juan has been a man of action in building bridges, uniting the Hispanic and LGBT communities.

The adopted son of two amazing fathers and the husband of an incredible designer, Juan is here today to tell his story and give us the inspiration to build bridges to make our community safer, economically stronger and more prosperous for all. And I now present to you … Juan Novello.


Granite Solutions Groupe is a Chairperson Level Sponsor of the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA), and John Henning is proud to serve the organization as a Board Member. The GGBA is the nation’s first and largest LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Its mission is to champion opportunity, development, and advocacy for our LGBTQ & Allied business community. To learn more about our partnership with this powerful organization, reach out to engage@granitesolutionsgroupe.com or visit www.ggba.org