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A Message From USHG's President, Chip Wade: Memorial Day Reflections in 2022


This past Memorial Day weekend, we were supposed to honor those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Instead, we mourned the lives not just of our soldiers, but of our children. We felt pain and frustration and rage for lives gunned down not only on the battlefield, but in our schools.


Again and again and again.

When I heard about the Uvalde shooting, one week ago today, my first thought was “Holy shit, I can’t believe this is happening.” Then I remembered Buffalo was just ten days earlier. That shooting, perpetrated by a white supremacist, left me shaken to a degree I hadn’t felt since the murder of George Floyd. But with no action taken in the time since, why wouldn’t it happen again?

So my second thought was a correction: “Of course I believe this is happening.” 

How can one not feel an utter sense of hopelessness that anything can change? Sandy Hook was nearly ten years ago. Nothing has changed. Parkland was supposed to lead to a different outcome. Nothing has changed.

Nothing will change as long as Congress doesn’t act. And it’s clear that our political systems and institutions are so broken that politicians alone — Democrat or Republican — are incapable of addressing the issues that plague our country.  Our elected officials perform moral outrage in place of offering courageous leadership. 

I don’t mean that as an indictment of Congress, just a personal opinion of its recent output. For what it’s worth, I’m a registered Republican — though I haven’t always voted that way, certainly not in recent years. I share this to say that I’m not on one “side” or the other; I vote on the issues. And my God, dead children shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Preventing mass murder shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Common sense gun safety shouldn’t be a partisan issue. 

I’m on the side of humanity. I’m on the side of warmth, compassion, generosity, curiosity, and dignity. In other words, the foundational pillars of the hospitality industry.

That’s why I believe the hospitality and restaurant industries must lead change on responsible gun laws. When political leaders fail to act, it’s up to businesses to take a stand. We have the power to address this crisis… if only we dare to use it. 

As a model, look to the integrity of Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr, who used his platform to articulate the exasperation so many of us feel. It got me fired up to get off the sidelines; I literally wouldn’t be writing this without him.

Look also at the business community’s response to the war in Ukraine. American companies are losing billions by choosing to divest from Russia, but the costs haven’t deterred them from standing in solidarity against Putin’s atrocities.

If we can make those decisions because another country is being ripped apart, why can’t we do it for ours? I call upon business leaders, in my own industry and beyond, to put our money where our mouths are and take action. The hospitality industry has the largest number of voters of all industries. We must turn out against — and pull financial support from — lawmakers or candidates who resist gun safety legislation. 

That’s only the beginning. We can educate our staff on ways to get involved. We can donate to nonprofits on the frontlines of gun safety. We can lobby elected leaders to take up reforms the American public overwhelmingly supports: passing laws like H.R. 8 — currently stalled by Senate Republicans — to expand background checks and close loopholes, as well as reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. If those seem like pipe dreams for our dysfunctional Congress, we can push for smaller-scale gun reforms, because something is so much better than nothing. Most overlooked, we can lobby our state legislatures and Governor’s mansions, where 19 states have adopted red flag laws.

It may seem impossible now, but America has come together to pass laws that have saved lives before. Hospitality professionals surely recall when restaurants had smoking sections, long after the dangers of secondhand smoke were well-known. And I remember the public outcry when seat belts became mandatory in vehicles. Does anyone today question the millions of lives they’ve saved? A refrain among the gun lobby is “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” True, but they make it exponentially easier to do so… just like driving a car, which has required driver education and a license in all fifty states since 1959.

The long road to progress can be frustrating. But it is possible. Our industry must lead the charge because it’s at the very core of what we do: creating safe, welcoming spaces, being a restorative force in people's lives. After all, the word “restaurant” comes from the French verb restaurer — “to restore.” 

How restorative it would be to feel safe in our communities again. In our supermarkets, our churches, our synagogues, our concerts, and our schools. 

In our restaurants and hotels.

To do our part, Union Square Hospitality Group is committed to

- Donating $50,000 in support of gun safety 

- Convening forums with experts on gun violence for our peers and team members throughout the hospitality industry

- Rallying our own team for the June 11th March for Our Lives

- Withholding financial and other support from any legislator or candidate who opposes reasonable gun safety legislation

I urge my fellow leaders across the industry to join me.