Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

January 2016, I was privileged to  be a guest of Mrs. Obama in her box at the President’s final State of the Union address. While we watched the President make his way to the podium, everyone was clapping and smiling, while those close to the center aisle were maneuvering to shake his hand. It was very collegial and they seemed like they actually liked each other. It looked. . . hopeful.Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 8.05.34 PM.png

Then the President started talking and I couldn’t ignore the conduct of the Congress. We hear our congress is divided but when you are looking down at it physically and symbolically, it’s stunning. There’s an invisible line right down the middle of that historic, important chamber.

When the action started, the President would say something and the left side of the chamber (Dems) would stand up and loudly applaud; the right side (Reps) of the chamber sat silently on their hands. While half the room cheered, the other half looked at their email, Facebook or Twitter. We had to leave our cellphones in the motorcade. That rule didn’t apply to our leaders. And now with the change in administrations, the Dems sit on their hands and the Reps cheer loudly. Seems it’s tradition. What kind of crazy tradition is that?

For a long time I’ve lamented the lack of grownups in Congress. The name calling is disgraceful and the lack of mutual respect is shameful. We wouldn’t allow our children to behave the way Congress does. Even if they agree with an issue and want to support it, they are scolded if they don’t follow the the Party Line, because they don’t want the other party to get a win! Shouldn’t this be about human beings, about our country, not about winning and losing?

I believe in bipartisanship and civility. I believe we should be working across the aisles and Getting Things Done. Instead Congress is stuck in the muck.

May 18, 2018 was the White House Summit on Prison Reform. Space is limited in the East Room so this included a very small group of 150. This is the second time I’ve been to the Trump White House and I’ve received a myriad of reactions:

 How exciting! Wow! Can I come too? Are you kidding? How could you go there? How could you work wth them? You shouldn’t go!

Guess what…I went. IMG_0221

Suddenly I’m in the position of supporting a bipartisan bill, The First Step Act, HR 5682. www.FirstStepAct.com and being criticized for it.  Van Jones, cofounder of #cut50, and Jared Kushner and their teams have been working tirelessly on this. It’s a complex dance of up and down the Hill and across those deceptively ordinary looking yet deeply historic aisles to craft a prison reform bill that will start the first domino of the many that must be knocked down. IMG_0231They are walking through mine fields and everyone is getting heat for it. I’m getting heat for showing up at the White House and participating.  So are my other sisters who’ve either lived behind the wires or had a loved one there.

 

(Photo: Columnist Rebecca Hagelin, Me in my camouflage jacket, Jared Kushner (Yes, he’s very tall), Pamela Winn of Restore Her and Amy Cando, CEO of CAN-DO Foundation.)

Van Jones admits he’s as liberal as they come, but in one IMG_0238of our first conversations he surprised me with a comment I’ve never forgotten. I was voicing criticism of one of our political leaders and Van said, “It’s a big playground, Sue Ellen, and we all need to learn to play together.”

In his very intelligent book, Beyond The Messy Truth, he observes, “To fix America, progressives and conservatives need a better relationship, grounded in mutual respect and deepened by working together on tough problems.” He’s serious and he didn’t pay me to say that:)) You should read it. (Photo: Pouring rain in front of the White House with Van Jones, bipartisan leader par excellence.)

 

The First Step Act is just that, a first step, applicable only to inmates in federal prisons. I’ve included a summary of the bill below, a link to the bill and a link to the Marshall Project for a bipartisan analysis.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5682

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/05/22/is-the-first-step-act-real-reform

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 1.35.24 PM.png

To answer my critics, I support this bill because no bill will ever be perfect, we are the grown ups in the room and must find ways to work in a bipartisan fashion. Jared Kushner’s father served prison time and, unlike most families, Jared had the means to visit his father often. He met other inmates and their families and he was appalled at how the system operates. He didn’t have to assume leadership on this issue and he’s gotten a lot of flak for it, but he knows how necessary it is.

So YES, I support the extremely difficult work that Jared and Van and their incredible teams have done to get this far. If not for their shared vision, none of this would have happened and I wouldn’t have been in the East Room of the White House last week to attend the WH Prison Reform Summit. Kudos to all who had the courage to show up. We’ve passed the House; now we must pass the Senate, a more formidable task.

For a very long time, not one formerly incarcerated human being was ever invited to the table, therefore our ideas and experiences went unheard. That’s counter productive because WE are the prison experts. Finally we are being included and our voices are being heard. All I can say is, let’s build a bigger table. We need each of you to show your support for this bill, the human beings, the families and communities it touches. That means all of us.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I love words, their power and their magic. In our prison classes, we have a vocabulary list to enhance the verbal acumen Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 4.24.03 PMof our students by using words like curmudgeon, voracious, hyperbole, myriad and gregarious. Their eyes light up when they “get it.”

I’ve been absent from my blog for awhile but words have brought me back today. I’m not a Mensa but I’m fortunate enough to have friends who are. They delight me with their brilliance, particularly their curiosity about everything. They love to explore knowledge, but when you’re that smart it also helps to be be funny or quirky or just plain irreverent so you don’t burn out.

Every year Mensa International  sends out an invitation inviting members to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. These are definitely worthy adding to our lexicon. They are wickedly clever and irreverent.  See if you can figure out the very slight but powerful change.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 4.26.13 PM

 

Here are the winners:

 

 

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

Mensa also publishes the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners are:

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavoured mouthwash.

9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

I think Webster’s should consider adding some of these. And, by the way, if you’re curious about Mensa, go to https://www.mensa.org

The New Year is fast approaching. Instead of a traditional resolution, why not resolve to increase your vocabulary. One excellent way is to Google crossword puzzles. All levels of sites will pop up with the power to take you around the world with words. This view of our world using words to define politics  is a brilliant example of word power.Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 4.30.08 PM

 

Read Full Post »

After hospital and emergency surgery, I have spent the month at a much slower pace, trying to recuperate. “Rest,” my doctor said. Easy for her to say, but there were some things too important to put on the back burner, namely ATHENA.

This takes some background info. Last year through divine providence I met MarthaMertz, the founder of ATHENA International (http://www.athenainternational.org/). Twenty-eight years ago, Martha had a vision about women and leadership. I highly recommend you read her book, Becoming ATHENA, for the history of her very important journey. It is powerful, intelligent, and inspiring.

On her quest to learn how women lead, Martha realized that women use eight principles for leadership. When I read her book, I “got it” immediately and thought, “These are rules for all of us to live by. These would be wonderful taught at the prison.” I asked Martha if she would like to go to prison to do a program for Gina’s Team, our organization that brings educational programs into prisons and juvenile facilities.  That request is usually greeted by stunned silence, but Martha also “got it.” She immediately said, “Yes.”

So last December, Martha went to Perryville Prison in Goodyear, AZ for Gina’s Team to conduct an “ATHENA World Café” to introduce the women in prison to these principles. Here they are:

 The ATHENA Leadership Model*

Live Authentically. Being true to yourself. An inner clarity centers in core beliefs, grounded in ethics, and honed through reflection. A sense of purpose, pursued with integrity. Authenticity is the single most important quality of leadership. Leaders know their values and remain true to them.

Learn Constantly. Continuous development of skills and competencies, regardless of your level of achievement. Understanding built on experience, intuition and self-directed learning. The art of listening; the ability to learn from role models, bad as well as good. Leaders seek knowledge.

Advocate Fiercely. Passionate, personal devotion to something that deeply matters. Acting with unswerving commitment tempered by respect and compassion. Generating a powerful force for good. Leaders champion what they believe is right.

Act Courageously. The willingness to stand alone and speak the truth, to question assumptions or challenge the status quo. The determination to act honorably, consistent with your values, even in the face of fear or loss. Leaders dare.

Foster Collaboration. Valuing the gifts each individual brings, with a perspective that is global and a spirit that is inclusive. Deepening understanding, awareness, and knowledge through diversity. Encouraging participation from those who are often overlooked. Leaders welcome others to the work of leadership.

Build relationships. Connecting genuinely with those around you. A willingness to bond with others, profoundly and productively, with trust and respect; to reach beyond status and self-interest in search of meaningful connections. Leaders engage, empower, and trust.

Give Back. Leaving a worthy legacy for your community and the world. Recognizing that with success comes a responsibility to enrich the lives of others. Generously devoting voice, position, and resources to advance the greater good. Leaders serve.

Celebrate. The age-old practice of gathering to mark important times. Strengthening bonds of unity through creative expression, rituals and traditions. Memorializing moments, triumphant or tragic; sharing joyful or solemn reflection. Leaders remember and rejoice.

The women in prison also “got it.” The feedback was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. We then went to prison officials to see if we could teach it as a continuing program.  We were delighted when the answer was Yes. And so Martha’s new journey began. She has taught ATHENA Leadership in China, India, Dubai, and all over Europe and the United States, always to women who already have a measure of success and education. This would be the first time in prison where 50% of all inmates enter with less than an eighth grade education.  Rarely do they think of themselves as leaders and for some, this could very well be a paradigm shift.

Martha didn’t want to teach this alone. She wanted to team teach with me. I was thrilled and deeply honored. As a former prisoner, there is no doubt I have an “inside knowledge” of how things run as well as what inmates’ expectations are.  However, since I am a former inmate, we had to get special permission for me to be allowed back in to teach this class and are grateful that the administration shared Martha’s vision and decided to allow it. Once all this was accomplished and class schedules were set, we attacked the curriculum. Our first class was June 23.

Research done. Curriculum completed. Handouts copied.  All very professional. We are ready. But we are women and so we also had another serious conversation, “What are we going to wear?” There are lots of rules, beginning with no orange (no problem for me), no brown or khaki, no low-cut or sleeveless tops, no short skirts, no excessive jewelry. But I do know that inmates are starved for color so I always recommend that to our volunteers. Finally we really are ready.

 To be continued…

Read Full Post »