A Message About Extremism From Our CEO

Rick Smith Headshot

Rick Smith, IDA Chief Executive Officer

In the spring of 2015, servant leaders from across our country met in Annapolis, Maryland, to chart a new course for the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). IDA board members, home office staff, and branch presidents huddled for two days to discuss, debate, and create an IDA Destiny based on an unarguable and tacit foundation of respect for boundless inclusion. We agreed to craft and construct a new organization obsessed with finding better solutions and faster resolution through this essential model of inclusion. We resolved to cradle disagreement in search of better ideas.

We decided to engage people—all people regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and differing views—at their immediate point of need. We committed ourselves to providing everyone, regardless of their differences or different views, with understanding and the tools and resources to learn to read.

It is not an accident that we chose Annapolis as the site of this meeting. Annapolis was an important site about 250 years ago (a convenient meeting point for founders from Massachusetts to Virginia) when a confluence of ideas, values, and commitments created our unprecedented republic. The republic exists regardless of agreement or disagreement. Indeed, it has evolved because of strong disagreement. Through disagreement come better answers and solutions.

However, effective disagreement cannot occur without inclusion. Useful disagreement cannot exist without respect and strong debate. Our republic wasn’t organized to thrive or mature in an exclusive, extremist environment nourished by bias and starving of facts. We cannot understand people’s needs or meet them in a conscientious way in an extremist environment because extremists are immoderate, uncompromising, and excessive. Extremists only exist through isolating and silencing those who are not extremists and do not share their iconoclastic views that separation and exclusion are good. Extremism and healthy transformation are genetically opposed and cannot coexist.

We are experiencing stress in our country right now. We all know that we are. Times such as these require strong and consistent voices willing to disagree with extremist views and actions. IDA is one of those voices. We are strong, consistent, and steady in our commitment to create an environment where inclusivity is the only pathway to our evolution.

We will never embrace extremism or any environment that supports exclusivity, punishes disagreement, or disenfranchises people because of their opinions or lifestyles. We are here to ensure that students around the world can READ, and when they read, we want them to be invigorated by ideas, opinions, creativity, and conclusions from a wide variety of origins.

We came out of our Annapolis meeting two years ago having constructed a foundation of behavior and servant leadership consistent with the founding of our republic 250 years ago, a destiny articulated in much the same way—by sound, thoughtful, servant leaders.

We like it. 
We think it is right.  



Rick Smith, CEO

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