I am still in denial that my dear friend has left this existence. I log on to Facebook expecting a funny, insightful, thought-provoking, or uplifting post. His range was impressive – from sports to music, politics to cooking, or tv shows to technology. It seems impossible that there will be no more of these treats to greet me.
I first came to know Mike in 2011. That summer we returned back from our first trip to Ethiopia since adopting our daughter in 2008. We were planning a fundraiser for literacy and education projects there and titled it Open Hearts Big Dreams – a description that fit Mike very aptly. Someone shared that Mike and his wife Susie were adopting a son from Ethiopia, too. However, I learned they were traveling to meet him around the same time as we scheduled the event.
I was thrilled to receive a sizeable donation from the Carr family which they somehow found the time to make in the middle of one of the most important trips of their lives. I remembered being humbled in the faith they had in our efforts to give the amount (most of donations are still in the $50-$200 range and that was even more true at the time) and that they made it a priority.
Mike and his family generously supported our efforts each year since. Showing up to events, bringing friends, and promoting our work. Mike and I connected periodically to catch up and discuss. He missed last year’s event because he was in the hospital but still sent a note of encouragement and promised to be back when he could.
I got to know another side of Mike when I took on the role of first Director of Diversity Programs for Amazon in 2014. Mike asked hard questions about why we couldn’t move faster and do more. As a technology leader, he knew the power of scale and moving quickly. He was always willing to use his own resources and reputation to help propel things forward. I remember Mike came to nearly every event, stayed the whole time even for those lasting a whole day, and encouraged other leaders to do the same. In a tech company where time is your most valuable commodity, he made a huge investment. I watched as he grew more confident in his role and starting sharing his thoughts and experiences publicly. This piece he wrote is a great example: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/representation-matters-tribute-mike-carr-mikaela-kiner/?fbclid=IwAR1KZ1Li7rNsr-27VYUVFpthq558Sg-Uh3cO5EOe0P6-bQIOlIPhAovTVa4
Mike inspired me in so many ways. He didn’t have use of his legs because of an accident many years prior but never focused on what he had lost. He was larger than life – posting pictures of himself doing all types of physical activities and travel that must have presented unique challenges to him. He did not let what he didn’t have stand in the way of what he could still do (even if it took more planning and effort). He was similarly dogged in his pursuit of a world that was more fair and equitable. He didn’t shy away from hard conversations but also was always willing to listen. He was a serious person who found and shared a lot of humor in life’s absurdities.
The last year or so of his life, Mike was battling what was found to be cancer after months of testing and treatment. He openly shared his journey including ups and downs, fears and frustrations, and hopes and connections on Facebook. The response from so many who truly loved him from a diverse cross-section of humanity has always amazed me. I am a cancer survivor since 2004 and I so badly wanted that to be a label Mike could add to his list of impressive accomplishments. But the way he battled the disease to the very end, just like he did inequity, set a standard that few can meet. A friend called Mike a warrior and that is what he was in so many of his roles in his life. He was also a wonderful father, husband, son and friend to many.
RIP Mike Carr – you lived well and left the world a better place than you found it. Now, we are committed to continue and warrior on for the ideals and causes you championed. You may be gone from our sight but you are never gone from our hearts. Role model and hero, you will always remain to me and so many. Starting this legacy project with Susie is an honor and a privilege and your example will guide us.
Please visit our new Inclusion page here to read more about the Mike Carr Legacy Project.