ThinkFest Preview: Taney Dragons Coach Alex Rice on Uniting the City

Coach Alex Rice, left, with members of the team. (

Coach Alex Rice, left, with members of the Dragons. (AP Photo/Joseph Kaczmarek)

Philadelphians were enthralled by a baseball team this summer, but it wasn’t the Phillies. The Taney Dragons advanced all the way to the Little League World Series, with star pitcher Mo’ne Davis capturing the heart of the city — and the nation. (The team’s players reflected on their big moment in the latest issue of Philadelphia magazine.)

Next month at Philly Mag’s ThinkFest, Talk Radio 1210 host Chris Stigall will interview Dragons coach Alex Rice about how his team united the city and the lessons Philadelphians can learn from the sense of togetherness sparked by the team’s incredible run.

Join us on November 14th at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business for a day of the city’s smartest people sharing their biggest ideas. Read all of our ThinkFest 2014 previews here, and buy your tickets today.

Dick Morris Leaving Philly Talk Radio

Dick Morris | AP Photo

Dick Morris. Photo | Whitney Curtis, AP

That didn’t last long. A year-and-a-half after he arrived on the Philadelphia airwaves (with some recent bad press trailing behind him) Dick Morris is leaving his post at WPHT to campaign for Republican candidates in 2016. He’ll stay on through this year’s mid-term election.

Morris’s departure may portend some changes at the talk radio station.

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ThinkFest Preview: Ajay Raju Wants Philadelphia to Be a World-Class City

Dilworth Paxson CEO Ajay Raju, left, will be interviewed by Philadelphia magazine editor Tom McGrath.

Dilworth Paxson CEO Ajay Raju, left, will be interviewed by Philadelphia magazine editor Tom McGrath.

Ajay Raju doesn’t think small. He has ideas about building his law firm, storied Dilworth Paxson, into something new and different on the legal scene. He and his foundation have launched a new initiative, the Germination Project, aimed at turning today’s most talented teens into Philadelphia’s next group of leaders. (Read more about the project here.) Mostly, he has notions of transforming Philadelphia into a city that is second to none. On the planet.

“I’m sure in my belief that what’s around the horizon is an opportunity for our city to reform and reshape the contours of our potential,” he told Philly Mag’s John Marchese in a profile published last spring. “Why can’t we? It’s a blank slate. If you can be a magnet to attract the best and the brightest, you have a real winning shot. I want Philadelphia to be the Ellis Island of the new global corporate community and City Hall to be the new Statue of Liberty.”

That kind of lofty talk has fueled speculation that Raju would one day like to be mayor. Whether he wants to be or not is an open question, but you can hear more of Raju’s ideas for Philadelphia at next month’s ThinkFest, where I’ll have the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about everything from art and philanthropy to why Philadelphia’s business community needs to become a stronger voice in our civic issues. Will some of what Ajay Raju talks about seem out of reach? Maybe. But our city needs dreamers – desperately – and this is a chance to hear from one of the most compelling voices in town.

Join us on November 14th at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business for a day of the city’s smartest people sharing their biggest ideas. Read all of our ThinkFest 2014 previews here, and buy your tickets today.

Grow Your Own: Ajay Raju’s Germination Project

ajay-raju-headshot-400x400When Ajay Raju moved from India to America as a teenager, he was struck by something odd: Unlike in India, where the smart kids were the cool kids, academic achievers here were at the bottom of the social pecking order, well below the jocks, cutups, ­bullies, even stoners. What’s more, Raju noted as he got older, future Chase Utleys had a built-in ecosystem to help them develop their talents — coaches, camps, leagues, professional scouts. Future Barack Obamas or Michael Nutters? Not so much.

Raju, 44, who co-chairs the law firm Dilworth Paxson and is occasionally mentioned as a future mayoral aspirant, now hopes to do something to help those young brains. This fall he officially kicks off the Germination Project, a program that will provide intensive mentoring to some of the region’s most promising teenagers — while also, Raju hopes, laying the groundwork for a future leadership class in Philadelphia.

How’s it work? High schools — there will be 10 in the pilot phase, a mix of public, private and parochial schools from the city and suburbs — will nominate sophomores they consider to be their most promising future leaders. A selection committee will then choose anywhere from one to three kids from each school to become official Germination Fellows. While some of the schools participating in the program will be in poorer areas of the city, Raju says the goal isn’t to reverse socioeconomic inequities; it’s simply to find the generation’s elite, no matter where they might be. “We’re not trying to build the Navy,” he says pointedly. “We’re trying to recruit and train the Navy SEALs.”

If that suggests rigor, that’s the point. The mentoring portion will include more than just hints on how to write a thank-you note; kids will work with executives at institutions like Comcast and Jefferson to implement potential solutions to some of Philly’s biggest problems. And participation in the program won’t end once the kids have graduated. Raju imagines that the Germination Project will in time become a network of local super-achievers. The only catch? To remain a Germination Fellow, participants need to return to Philly after college and contribute to the improvement of the city.

Most intriguing may be the Germination Project’s website, where we’ll be able to follow participants’ lives and careers over time in what Raju says won’t be all that different from a reality show. “This isn’t a short-term thing,” he notes. “This is a 50-year love letter to the region.”

See Aju Raju discuss the Germination Project at ThinkFest, November 14th at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business.

Originally published as “Grow Your Own” in the November 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Ebola Fears Keep New Burlco Students Home

Panics aren’t pretty. They’re not rational. But they happen, and they’re happening in Burlington County, N.J. — where two Rwandan students are being kept out of classes today, even though their home is 2,600 miles away from the West African nations where the outbreak is actually taking place.

That’s roughly like keeping kids out of school in Philadelphia because somebody caught a cold in Los Angeles.
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