How the CEO of Southwest Airlines & the Mayor of Clearwater Restored My Faith in People

Mayor of ClearwaterFrom the time my daughter Paris, who is now ten, was old enough to talk I’ve taught her the importance of using her voice- to stand up for others, to make a difference, and never let people tell her should couldn’t do something. It’s amazing- while it doesn’t seem our kids listen, they do!

My husband Dave is a Captain at Air Tran Airways, which was recently acquired by Southwest Airlines. Needless to say it’s been a very difficult transition and many decisions made that simply are not fair to the AirTran pilot group. While in the airport heading to Ohio with Paris and Noah, we ran into a pilot who was telling us about a move he and his family had to make to another state and how upsetting it was. In short, he had to leave where he lived so the Southwest pilots could come in.

Standing at the boarding gate Paris looked and me and said, “Is that heart the logo for Southwest?” I replied that it indeed was and what she said and did next floored me. Her exact words were “Well I don’t think Southwest has a heart. If they did they wouldn’t make that pilot move and my daddy would not be losing his captain position to become a first officer so that they can in turn promote their first officers to captains. It’s wrong and I’m going to write a letter about it and tell Southwest!”

Wow- we went home and Paris wrote her letter. I held it for two months, terrified to send it as I was afraid of the consequences for Dave. Then I realized, if I don’t mail this letter, what does it teach Paris about using her voice? I had to send it- so I did. I know Dave was nervous but the amazing man he is, he said just “mail it.”

This week we received a response letter from Gary Kelly, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, the person Paris directed her letter to. It wasn’t a form letter; it was a personal letter with lots of heart, and a great attempt to explain to Paris how the merger process worked. He related to her concerns and shared how important her daddy was to the airline. I’m 43 years old and this letter stopped me in my tracks- it was proof that we live in the greatest country on Earth- no matter what the doom and gloom people of the world try to say. It’s this exact process that makes our country great- the right to use our voice and express our opinions without being executed or imprisoned. Especially for a girl. Need I remind you of Malala Yousafzai and the consequences she paid for using her voice to fight for education for girls in Pakistan?

The very next day I received another letter in the mail, this one addressed to Noah, my eight year old son. When he saw his sister writing her letter he said, “Well, I’m upset about the road construction on US 19! It’s blocking the Toys R US entrance and no one can get in. They’re going to go out of business, and I love that store!” So he too wrote a letter but to the Mayor of Clearwater and lo and behold, we received a response from him as well just yesterday (in photo). A wonderful, personalized letter that spoke to Noah at his level and encouraging him to always use his voice and fight for the things that are important to him.

In both cases my children were unable to change the course of direction for the causes they wrote and fought for. Yet what if Abe Lincoln had given up after one or two failed attempts of running for office or fighting the Civil War? My hope is that these lessons taught my children that they can make a difference and that they must be involved in shaping the world they live in. I implore you to teach your children to do the same. Shut off the television, the video games, and challenge your children to participate in the world around them because at the end of the day- this is the world they will be living in. Want more inspiration? Sign up for my blog at

Written by Traci Bild, Clearwater FL





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2 replies on “How the CEO of Southwest Airlines & the Mayor of Clearwater Restored My Faith in People

  • Donna Cutting


    I love this blog post!!! What amazing children you have; what amazing parents you are; and like you, I am so happy that real connection, compassion and caring really exists in most people. Thank you for sharing this story.


    • Traci Bild

      Thanks Donna! The hard work of getting my kids to take a stand seems to have soaked in, they really do take action & stand up for themselves and others, love it! Miss you girl!


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