Before my dad opened the first Marriott hotel in 1957, he had already spent decades building and growing the restaurants and airline catering business that were the forerunners of what today is Marriott International. He needed good employees who would be loyal, friendly, hardworking, and dedicated, all attributes that were as important back then as they are today. He didn’t necessarily hire for experience. He hired for character. In fact, one of his 12 rules for success was “It's more important to hire people with the right qualities than with specific experience.”
That’s why I think he would be so proud of the many legacies he made possible, especially the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities and its Bridges from School to Work program. For more than 25 years, Bridges has set the standard for school-to-work transition for young adults with disabilities, intervening with more than 21,000 youth in nine major cities at the critical juncture between high school and young adulthood. My brother, Richard, is the chairman of the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities and its Bridges program.
Each fall, timed to coincide in October with Disability Employment Awareness Month, my brother travels around the country presenting awards to exemplary Bridges youth. And each year he tells me how much he is struck by their character, heart, and humility—and by their deep appreciation for the opportunity to have a job, to help their families, and to build a future. Equally remarkable is that many of these young people are not only getting their first jobs through Bridges, but in many cases their second, and in some cases, their third.
Take for example Henry in Los Angeles, now employed as a banquet set-up aide at the JW Marriott LA Live. His first Bridges job came as a courtesy clerk at a Ralph’s grocery store, where he did such a fine job that he was featured in the company’s employee newsletter. During Henry’s moment in the limelight receiving a Bridges Achievement Award from my brother, Henry shared his moment of glory with his mother and presented her with a bouquet of flowers.
And there’s Jonathan in Dallas, now working two jobs, one at the Dallas Marriott City Center, whose managers are asking for more referrals just like him. And Tim in Atlanta, working at the Marriott Marquis since September 2013, where he has been promoted to a lead banquet aide. His outstanding contributions have paved the way for the hotel to hire nine more Bridges youth. And while the focus of Bridges is not necessarily on training and placing young adults in hospitality careers, we are delighted when fine young people like these find rewarding job opportunities in our hotels.
These young people—and the thousands who came before and the thousands who will come after—exemplify the qualities that my dad held dear. All of them are young men and women of character with their sights on the future. What better way to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and what better way to honor my dad, than to celebrate the abilities of Bridges participants, both those working for Marriott, and those working with countless other businesses. My dad would be proud. And so am I.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for keeping Marriott on the move.