For the Rev. Larry Simmons, the notion that “we can do better” has guided his life of public service.

While some may think it sounds pessimistic, Simmons sees the notion as just the opposite: an indication of hope. The drive to improve is “rooted in optimism,” Simmons says. “And if there’s one thing that distinguishes America, it’s our unbridled optimism.”

“We are a well-known place” Simmons, 72, said of his longtime hometown, Detroit, Michigan, where he serves as the Executive Director of the Brightmoor Alliance, a coalition of community organizations.

Named after the Brightmoor neighborhood, located in northwest Detroit, Simmons works with, and on behalf of Brightmoor residents, aiming to create an engaged and empowered community. In addition, Simmons is active in the community not only as a religious leader and education advocate but also as a father, who raised eight sons with his wife, Betty.

While noting a spectacular transformation in certain parts of Detroit, Simmons laments what he calls an unevenness throughout the city.

“You have young people with hope and optimism moving in and enjoying the proximity and identity of the city, and then you have residue of poverty — crime, abuse and trauma. How do we share wealth in a way that no one thinks they have to sell their body for drugs or food?” he asked.

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