While Charles III became king of the United Kingdom upon the death of his mother on September 8, 2022, the world just watched his coronation last week. Though he is a new king, Charles III is a veteran of the monarchy, with there being no doubt that he will have less time actually in his current role than the time it took to get there. The question is how he will he use the precious time that he has.
What will be the legacy of Charles III? Will he simply be remembered as the oldest person to become King of England, having been heir apparent for the longest time of any previous monarch, or will he shape the English monarchy according to his philosophy about humanity and the natural world we’re privileged to inhabit?
King Charles III is a 21st-century monarch. His interests in climate change, architecture, and sustainable farming that seemed ahead of their time when he first expressed interest in them are now priorities for other leaders. He created the Prince’s Trust to provide opportunity for those who seek it, including financial support for education, training programs, and professional advancement for youth and young adults who because they lacked financial means were at risk of becoming casualties of society.
While living in the shadow of Queen Elizabeth II, times changed—and with them, Britain’s role in the world and in Europe. As many of us learned from the televised versions of the royal family and British monarchy, King Charles will have little-to-no coercive power to shape the country according to his philosophy and vision. He is in the unenviable position of finally attaining his place in the sun as king, while having less freedom to speak out about the causes that he championed as Prince of Wales. As a monarch that possesses no executive or political power, he in many ways must continue to live in the shadows.
Some say that his smoothest path might be as a transitional or think tank monarch where he can convene bodies of people to put forward 21st-century ideas while being careful not to be too provocative.
“’Tis the times’ plague when madmen lead the blind.” —Gloucester in Shakespeare’s King Lear
It has been a couple of weeks, and I still can’t get out of my mind Maureen Dowd’s April 16 column in The New York Times, “When the Mad Lead the Blind.”
In today’s world, who are the mad and who are the blind?
What comes to my mind is that some of the people who hold political positions of power are mad. They are in positions of immense responsibility but lack the wisdom and grace to fulfill the promise of their title. Those who have good intentions—not the mad but those who don’t have the wherewithal to persuade, build coalitions, and execute plans—will hopefully have short terms in office avoiding catastrophic damage. However, it is those who are mad who will hang on to their positions, seeing every position as just another rung on their quest for dominating power. These officials have no regard for the impact of their decisions on citizens and the ideals of the nation.
Why do we elect people who are mad? Is this not a vote against our own wellbeing? Do we elect people who are mad because we are blind to who they really are? Acting as if we are blind to such people’s true nature makes us vulnerable to their maniacal actions. Willful blindness is a transgression paid for by retribution down the line.
We should not be surprised when some officials attempt to enact unconscionable policies that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago. These bold actions are just the tip of the iceberg because these elected and appointed officials believe that the citizenry is blind to who they are and to the purposes of their actions.
Imposters abound, using rhetorical tools that sound as if they are protectors of the electorate all the while spewing words that increase contempt and polarization among groups of people. When a candidate vilifies any group with no regard for the consequences of their message, you will know that this candidate is mad. More than party affiliation, charisma, or credentials, history tells us that it’s the character of the person that will foretell the kind of leader or representative that person will be.
Perhaps more than the sighted, blind people can discern if a person has empathy as well as a moral pale beyond which they will not tread. A yardstick to measure and a thermometer to test the degree of madness of potential leaders and elected officials is to listen to how they imagine the nation can restore a sense of unity; how they imagine creating cooperation among governing bodies; and how they imagine defusing bitter conflicts at home and abroad with compassion, justice, reason, and love.
For our own sake, we must believe that we can overcome the shame that some of our elected officials are creating when they enact punishing and disgraceful policies aimed at stifling freedom and rolling back progress for everyone, not just some. Rather than being discouraged by the actions of those who foment conflict indicating that they have no human compassion or moral compass, we need to do our due diligence in preparation for our next opportunity to choose.
We must not be blind. We must see who among the prospective elected officials are mad.
On Palm Sunday, April 2, 2023, I went to the Scottsdale Museum of the West to see a screening of the documentary film, Jews of the Wild West.
As I watched the film, I kept thinking about how the stories of Jewish people who immigrated to the United States and later to the Western United States appear to be missing from American history. The absence continues to be perpetuated in books and films today. A special thanks is owed to the nonprofit production company and to the filmmaker, Amanda Kinsey, for uncovering and sharing such a significant part of American history.
Notable Jewish migrants to the West are Levi Strauss, who we can thank for the jeans we wear; Isaac Shwayder, whose son, Jesse, founded the premier luggage line Samsonite; and Meyer Guggenheim, patriarch of the philanthropic Guggenheim family whose wealth came from the mining and smelting business. Women such as Golda Meir were also prominent in establishing a Jewish presence in the West. To say that these families had humble beginnings is an understatement.
They used their ingenuity, persistence, grit, and desire to make a life without persecution—one in which they not only survived the hardships of the frontier but thrived. They found that the Wild West had less antisemitism than New York City. In general, people who moved West had one thing on their minds: taking advantage of the riches the frontier would eventually offer.
The Jews who migrated West, for the most part, were not panning streams and mining for gold. They understood that people needed practical products and clothes as they pursued their dreams of a better life and their road to riches. The Jewish migrants may have started out as peddlers who made enough money to open a dry goods store as in the case of Shwayder. Eventually, they found markets within their communities and beyond that became their road to success. Because they were usually the only people in the community with a business, they often became the mayors of these frontier towns.
I just finished listening on Audible to April Ryan’s book, Black Women Will Save The World: An Anthem. #BlackWomenWillSaveTheWorld. This is a powerful and emotional reflection on the toils and unwavering leadership of Black women in a world in which our contributions are not valued and, in fact, our very selves often are devalued.
This book made me think about those women—“hidden figures” —who, over the decades, have provided the very foundation for all the successes of subsequent generations of Black families. One such group of “hidden figures” is the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion from World War II.
The 6888th was a unique U.S. Army unit that had the distinction of being the only all-female, African American battalion to serve in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. Made up of 855 women—824 enlisted and 31 officers—this Women’s Army Corps Battalion was commissioned in Europe between February 1945 and March 1946, and was led by 26-year-old Major Charity Adams.
The specific mission of the 6888th was to sort and clear a multi-year backlog of mail for the American Army, Navy, Air Force, the Red Cross, and uniformed civilian specialists who were stationed in Europe. This represented seven million people awaiting mail.
In February 1945, the first contingent of the 6888th embarked from Camp Shank, New York, to sail for Britain. They survived close encounters with Nazi U-boats and arrived in Glasgow, Scotland, where a German V-1 rocket exploded near the dock. The second contingent of 6888th soldiers docked in March 1945 in Gourock, Scotland.
Upon arrival by train in Birmingham, England, the Battalion confronted warehouses stacked to the ceiling with letters and packages. They endured inhumane working conditions, including dark, unheated, rat-infested aircraft hangars with broken windows and air raids. Despite these conditions, the Battalion created a new mail tracking system, worked three separate 8-hour shifts, 7 days a week to process an average of 65,000 parcels per shift (which is 195,000 daily), and cleared the 6-month backlog of mail in 3 months.
After resolving the immense mail backlog in Birmingham, the 6888th Battalion sailed to France for their next assignment in Rouen. They encountered undelivered mail dating back two to three years, which the Battalion again successfully processed and cleared in just three months.
Upon concluding their final assignment in Paris, the last of the Battalion returned to the United States by ship and was disbanded in March 1946 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. There were no parades, public appreciation, or official recognition of their accomplishments.
Adhering to the motto, “No mail, low morale,” the Battalion provided essential support to the U.S. military in the European Theater of Operations by linking service members to their loved ones back home. The 6888th achieved unprecedented success and efficiency in solving the military’s postal problems. The Battalion was the largest contingent of African American women to ever serve overseas, dispelling stereotypes and representing a change in racial and gender roles in the military.
It was not until nearly 80 years later that the 6888th received the well-deserved recognition for their service to the United States. In March 2022, the Battalion became the only women’s military unit to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, which was first awarded to General George Washington in 1776.
The 6888th has a very special significance for me. My mother, Private First Class Annie Knight (Jordan), was one of those brave Battalion soldiers. As kids, my siblings and I always knew that she was in the Women’s Army Corps (something about which she was extremely proud). She mentioned to us that she did Morse code. We just thought of that as being like another language of sorts. It was not until Fall 2022 that we understood that her enlistment classification was not military postal worker. In fact, mom was in a special category called “Cryptographic Code Compiler.” Cryptographers, also known as code breakers, were secretly trained to crack code that provided intelligence information for the Army. Very little is known of the Black women who served in this capacity.
As I learned more about the 6888th, I began to think about how many ”hidden figures” there are and wonder how we might ensure that their stories are shared and their legacies known. I asked questions like, “What inspired these 855 African American women to enlist and pursue the 6888th?” “What gave them the internal fortitude to take on unknown ventures in a dangerous foreign land?” “What made them so different?” and “How did that very difference change the course of their lives post-military service and influence their legacies?”
So, in 2022, I became a first-time podcaster: NextUs818 Podcast is a reflective platform for connecting past successes with future progress in the African American community. There are many African American heroes—some known and many unsung men and women—who helped build this country. Some were the first or only in their fields of endeavor, like the 6888th. Yet little is known about how their unique journeys influenced the trajectory of their familial legacies…such as their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews. The NextUs818 Podcast introduces the multi-generational descendants of these heroes. On the first and third Wednesdays of each month, I interview descendants of an African American hero and explore family lore, traditions, and values, and how the descendant’s journey was directly impacted.
The inaugural season of the NextUS818 Podcast features the descendants of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Now 14 episodes in, 4 themes have emerged to help me better understand what inspired the 6888th soldiers and how their service has influenced subsequent generations: patriotism, fearlessness, adventurousness, and unwavering commitment to lifelong learning.
Patriotism: Despite the rampant racial and gender discrimination of early 1940s America, these women were exceptionally patriotic. With the country at war, they felt that it was their DUTY to contribute to the war efforts against the Hitler regime. They eagerly embraced this chance to serve.
Fearlessness: The notion of a young African American woman going into war zones would be darn right scary, even today. Yet these brave women exhibited a remarkable degree of fearlessness.
Adventurousness: Not only did these women demonstrate fearlessness, but they were excited to explore the unknown. As kids, mom always spoke about her adventures, especially once the Battalion moved on to France. In all the stories I heard about the women, they saw serving in the Army as a way of giving them broad exposure and opening post-military opportunities otherwise unavailable to them.
In the NextUs818 Podcast, I enjoy hearing the stories of the soldiers’ civilian lives after World War II. The women of the 6888th were college graduates, teachers, nurses, college deans, and entrepreneurs. As important, they influenced the trajectory of their children and grandchildren who, among other things, are PhDs, physicians, engineers, lawyers, educators, professional musicians, and financial and advertising executives. All of the descendants with whom I have spoken emphasize that their successes are directly attributable to the foundation laid by the women of the 6888th. From them, they learned how to be focused, tenacious, and how to persevere under adverse circumstances. They learned how to survive and thrive. So when we are tempted to live in the moment and think we got here solely on our merit, we must never forget those shoulders on which we stand!
Five final notes:
Fort Lee Redesignation: The U.S. Department of Defense has made a commitment to rename military bases named after individuals associated with the Confederacy and other dark periods in American history. On April 27, 2023, Fort Robert E. Lee will be renamed “Fort Gregg–Adams” in honor of two trailblazing African American officers: Retired Lt. General Arthur Gregg and the late Lt. Col. Charity Adams (commander of the 6888th Battalion).
6888th Legacy Tour: A group of 6888th descendants and advocates will return to Scotland, England, and France, walking on the grounds where the brave soldiers made history as part of an upcoming 6888th Legacy Tour.
Carmen Jordan-Cox, PhD, is a retired university vice president and judge/magistrate. Currently, she is producer and host of NextUs818 Podcast and a freelance curator of stories about descendants of World War II soldiers.
I’ve heard women I consider to be inspirational role models talk about having what is known as imposter syndrome, so when I came across the article “Why Everyone Feels Like They’re faking It” in the February 13 & 20 issue of The New Yorker, I was eager to read it. I have also heard women diagnose other women’s perceived lack of confidence as imposter syndrome. Because I’ve heard such comments so often, it seemed like a club to which a lot of women belonged. I never have heard a man say that he was a member of this club.
The concept was originally called “Impostor Phenomenon” by the two women who explored the idea and wrote the first paper on it. These women bristle at the current “Imposter Syndrome” nomenclature because they didn’t see what they were exploring as a pathological disorder.
The idea behind the phenomenon or syndrome is one’s feeling that they are a fraud or phony because it seems others are fooled into thinking the person is better than they assess themselves to be. Having to mask who one thinks she is, or her real self in regard to skills and abilities, is said to elicit feelings of inadequacy or lack of confidence. Therefore, one is an imposter in one’s own assessment.
The underlying original theoretical assumption or concept for one feeling this way was based on the experiences of the authors, themselves, and the women they interviewed. They concluded that the root cause of this phenomenon was the “disjunction between the messages received” from one’s family, in reference to abilities, and the messages one feared receiving from the world if the world could see behind the mask. The messages from the family could be positive or negative. When there was high praise at home, the women would seek external validation all the while doubting the veracity of the validation. If the messages from family were negative, the women would seek the positive validation that they didn’t receive at home.
As I read the article, I kept thinking about how I had never been able to relate to the feeling of masking or being an imposter or fraud as some have described their feelings. It’s not that I don’t experience a crisis of confidence sometimes. I just never felt that I was masking who I am. When I lacked confidence, everybody knew it because I didn’t try to hide it. If anything, I have been self-deprecating rather than pretending to be better than I think I am. I never felt like a fraud. What I did feel was that others underestimated me, and I had the burden of continuing to prove that I was competent and much more than their estimate of me.
As I continued to read the article, my feelings were validated in a reported exchange between two White women where the conclusion was that feeling like an impostor was a “white-lady thing” because their competence was taken for granted, causing unease if one were not as competent as might be assumed.
Apparently, my feelings reflect the feelings of some other women of color. As a Black woman, no amount of masking removes the racial bias, implicit or not, that colors every interaction regardless of the color of the person with whom you are interacting. Instead of feeling as if you were an imposter, it was most likely the case that others believed you, as a woman of color, to be an imposter rather than possess the requisite skills, abilities, and qualifications.
This is not to say that some people of color do not have fears of being unmasked to reveal inadequacies. The author of The New Yorker article mentions that research studies have repeatedly shown that imposter syndrome disproportionately affects people of color.
Some women are taking to task the idea of imposter syndrome. In an article published by the Harvard Business Review,Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey argue that the label implies a crisis of self-confidence among women, failing to recognize real obstacles professional women—especially women of color—face. Tulshyan and Burey write, “Imposter syndrome directs our view toward fixing women at work instead of fixing the places where women work.”
Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes authored the original work on what they called impostor phenomenon in 1978. In interviews for The New Yorker article, they agree with many of the critiques, given the fact that the “original sample and parameters were limited.” Their focus was primarily on “family dynamics and gender socialization rather than on systemic racism and other legacies of inequality.”
Being a Black woman may not be the only reason that I’ve not felt like an imposter. My experience may be related to my generation. The author of TheNew Yorker article on imposter syndrome notes that she asked her mother who is 78 if the concept of imposter syndrome resonated with her and her mother said that it did not. For further explanation, her mother expressed feelings similar to the ones I expressed above, namely that women in her generation (and mine) “were likelier to feel the opposite—that we were being underestimated.”
My cousin, Mattie Butler, passed a couple of weeks ago. She was small in stature and physical features but huge in courage and compassion. She was a saving grace and a rescuer. Everyone in the family and otherwise had a code to use when they needed serious help: “Call Mattie.”
We’re all elated that she was recognized for one of her greatest accomplishments before she passed:
Woodlawn was once neglected, disinvested, and considered a dangerous south side Chicago area beset by violence, and filled with at-risk, in need of repair properties. But a determined, fierce neighborhood advocate, Mattie Butler, stood tall, confronted, challenged, and changed the prevailing deceptive narrative with her community building and investment efforts. Throughout her life, the indomitable warrior fought for social equality and housing affordability for marginalized residents.…
Many of us grew up and often heard our elders declare, “Give me my flowers and accolades while I can enjoy and remember them.”
Recently, Mattie Butler was the surprised and elated beneficiary of such an effort because whatever she’s done for others, it’s always done exactly right. Butler was recognized for vital contributions to the same Woodlawn community, during her more than 45-year residency. Two newly renovated affordable rental apartment buildings were named in her honor.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined 1st District Congressman Bobby Rush, Chicago Housing Department Commissioner Marisa Novara, other public officials, religious and community leaders and scores of local residents on May 26, 2022, highlighting affordable housing opportunities for Woodlawn residents during a news conference celebrating the meritorious work of advocate Mattie Butler.
“Thanks to Ms. Butler’s strong leadership, we generated a workable Policy Roadmap which reflects our shared vision for Woodlawn’s future. Preservation of housing affordability was key. Further, the inclusive, open process incorporated input and feedback from diverse local community stakeholders, residents, governmental agencies, non-profit, civic, religious, and private sector partners. She commands my utmost appreciation and respect,” said Mayor Lightfoot….
Congressman Bobby Rush who has partnered on grassroots initiatives with Butler and WECAN for years, laughingly recalled, “Over the years, as an activist, former Black Panther, Chicago Alderman, and U.S. Congressperson, I’ve confronted formidable high-profile and little-known opponents. However, I admire and refuse to tangle with Mattie Butler. She has a deceptively warm and sweet demeanor – at first. She’s always armed with irrefutable facts, figures, and contingents of devoted supporters, remaining staunchly unafraid. Mattie’s a strong social advocate, a modern-day Harriet Tubman. I will always respect that.”…
Reverend Dr. Byron T. Brazier, pastor of Woodlawn’s Apostolic Church of God praised Butler’s tenacious, dynamic spirit. “She’s been WECAN’s driving force, developing housing for neighbors, the homeless, organizing drug rehabilitation programs, delinquency prevention, numerous education, and support services programs, launching a food pantry serving hundreds of people. Butler also greatly influences developing sustainable local, statewide, and national public policy initiatives.”…
Acclaimed Black author James Baldwin once expressed: “Your crown is already bought and paid for…All you must do is put it on your head.”
Mattie Butler’s crown of successful achievement rests comfortably and regally on her deserving head. Equally important, she’s alive to receive it. Grateful Woodlawn locals believe it will forever stay there. She’s always stood for them. A few days ago, they returned the favor, standing united to praise and illuminate her altruistic, benevolence. What a profound living legacy.
The epiphany I experienced upon announcing my wish to write a book on student affairs and social movements became a goal to pursue. (read part 1: Student Affairs and Social Change)
Despite feeling discouraged because of the initial reception to my book idea, I kept talking with people about the dream.
On a bright spring day in 2000, I had breakfast with Bud Thomas and John Blackburn at the hotel across the street from the NASPA office on Connecticut Avenue. They wanted to talk about their plans as Board members of the NASPA Foundation.
After discussions about the business of the NASPA Foundation, the conversation turned to their experiences as chief student affairs administrators at the University of Maryland College Park and the University of Alabama, respectively.
The student affairs and civil rights book had not been on my mind at this breakfast meeting. However, when John Blackburn said that he was the Dean in Student Affairs from 1956 to 1969 at the University of Alabama, it was as if a door opened that I had been trying to enter. John and I had several conversations after this pivotal breakfast meeting.
I learned that during the fraught months and days around integrating southern universities, John was literally on the front lines. In fact, he played a major role in the relatively peaceful entrance of James Hood and Vivian Malone as the first African American students to integrate the University of Alabama. While Governor George Wallace was blocking the doors, John Blackburn was setting up the student leadership social infrastructure to bring Hood and Malone into the academic community of the University.
When I told John about the thoughts I had about a book on the experiences of student affairs administrators during the civil rights era, he told me that the only way my idea would have legs was if I had conversations not only with him but with a sterling group of senior and retired chief student affairs officers such as James J. Rhatigan, now vice president emeritus of student affairs at Wichita State University; James Appleton, now president emeritus at University of the Redlands; and Dave Ambler, now vice chancellor emeritus at University of Kansas.
What I heard during these conversations made it impossible not to follow through on this project. This book had to be written. I floundered for a while about how to move forward in making the book a reality. I talked with some of my professors at Drew University about how to get started. I talked with NASPA staff and Board members about what such an undertaking would require. Unlike my initial conversations about the idea at the beginning of the year, these new conversations were much more encouraging because I had the support of some of the most respected senior administrators in the field of student affairs.
Energized and motivated, on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 3, 2000, I made a phone call to NASPA Historian Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle. Hearing my enthusiasm for this publication, she graciously agreed to help find a way to further explore the idea even though she was busy working on her dissertation at the time. She said that two of her colleagues, Lisa Wolf-Wendel and Susan B. Twombly, might have interest in this topic as well. She gave me their phone numbers and I could feel the momentum of my intentions.
With a lot of hope, faith, and hard work on the part of the authors and others, three years after my phone call on May 3, 2000, the book, Reflecting Back, Looking Forward: Civil Rights and Student Affairs was published by NASPA in 2004 marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision to outlaw segregation in public schools.
This historically rich and relevant book includes 18 first-person narratives from senior student affairs administrators, current and retired, from all over the country and from all types of colleges and universities.
In addition to recording the history of the remembered experiences of Student Affairs professionals, the hope was that there would be lessons learned that would be helpful to Student Affairs professionals today and in the future.
Even though the political and judicial environments are different in many aspects today, there are lessons to be studied and learned from the narratives in this book. An example of the climate in which student affairs professionals are working today is the court decision to charge Oberlin College and Conservatory $36.59 million for punitive damages as a result of a 2016 protest that Oberlin students staged at a local bakery. The College argued unsuccessfully that they should not be held liable for failing to censor the speech of its students.
I sincerely appreciate all those who made contributions to this work through sharing their personal experiences related to student activism. And I will be forever indebted to Lisa Wolf-Wendel who took the lead in working with her co-authors—Susan B. Twombly, Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle, Kelly Ward, and Joy L. Gaston-Gayles*—and for the entire team’s incredible contribution to higher education. I also appreciate the team’s pressing the project forward with the urgency necessitated by gathering the stories from these student affairs leaders while they were still here to tell them first-hand. In addition to the passing of so many of those featured in the book, we also lost co-author Kelly Ward to a tragic accident in 2018.
The lessons I learned from this experience are, first, to dare to take the initiative to pursue your ideas and, second, to have faith that your power of will can motivate others to share your dream and make it a reality.
* Lisa Wolf-Wendel is currently Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies and Professor of Higher Education Administration in the School of Education at the University of Kansas. Susan B. Twombly is Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies in the School of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Kansas. Kathryn Tuttle is Associate Vice Provost Emerita at the University of Kansas. At the time of her passing, Kelly Ward was Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Professor of Higher Education at Washington State University. Joy L. Gaston-Gayles is Professor & Senior Advisor for the Advancement of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at North Carolina State College of Education.
If you’re like me, it’s easier to recall the slights, humiliations, put-downs, and general meanness experienced than the kind, gracious, generous, and loving messages received.
In my quest to clear my memento cache, I discovered that I had squirreled away some of the kind messages that I’d received.
For me, this blog serves as a way to preserve parts of these messages kept for a rainy day. It is my hope that this encourages you to not only reflect on such messages you have received, but also to be the giver of such encouragement. Such messages go a long way in countering the negative messages, and often are treasured by the receiver far more than we know.
For instance, when I faced challenges in my leadership role, Mike affirmed that, “You, more than any single person, are responsible for the success of NASPA. I thank you for your amazing service to our Association and for your friendship over the years.”
And KC took it to another level:
Thank you very much for another year of progressive and excellent leadership at NASPA. You have had a wonderful and lasting impact especially with the new and young professionals who have become a part of the organization. Your leadership has been very “Heroic” meaning it is visionary, energizing, passionate, enduring, courageous, and loving. During my undergraduate years, I always heard and witnessed the Jesuits speaking and going on about “Heroic Leadership,” and I thought it was something unique to them as an order or religious organization. However, after witnessing you, your presence, and your leadership at and with NASPA, you too have it and are a “Heroic Leader.” You and your presence touch thousands in a very positive manner year in and year out. Thank you very much for leading and creating an organization that all members can be proud of and develop full ownership in. (December 31, 2007, KC)
Indeed, the messages from and about the young professionals like RW that I sought to mentor hold a special place in my heart:
Bless you! Thank you so much for supporting my efforts to pursue my education. I am very thankful for you taking time out of your hectic schedule to support me…. You are an amazing role model and mentor.
And when I wasn’t always sure how well a presentation had been received, messages like these made all the difference:
I can’t begin to describe the passion and sincerity with which luncheon participants described your presentation. They were deeply moved, and they were moved because you told them the truth in a manner that allowed them to hear it. However, after telling them the reality of these times we live in, you gave them reasons for and ways to keep hope alive. (December 2000, GE)
I really enjoyed my one-on-one visits with you and was grateful beyond words that you were our group leader. Your presentation Thursday really got me thinking, and I have been working hard on articulating my personal formula (which we hope to have our staff do as well later this summer). (July 30, 2007, JC)
And in those times when you wonder if others see the vision toward which you’re working as the leader of an organization, messages like the one from XR let you know that the sacrifices are paying off:
During your tenure NASPA has expanded internationally, grown in membership, significantly expanded its financial assets, and has become “the” voice of student development nationally. In addition, under your vision and leadership, NASPA has become our collective voice in Washington and on Capitol Hill—a role that becomes stronger as the years pass. (November 3, 2005)
And, finally, there are the messages that convey more than collegiality, but a true friendship and understanding of one as a person (down to the use of “integrity” as part of my FIRE mnemonic):
It is a pleasure working with you, Gwen. In addition to your high level of competency, and even, rational approach and warmth with people, you have a tremendous integrity that underlies all your work. I am so proud that you represent NASPA to the world—you make us look really good, and I consider myself fortunate to have this opportunity to come to know you and work with you. (December 17, 1998, KRH)
I just wanted to sincerely thank you for your support and friendship over the past few years. I truly enjoyed my time on the Board and have always been so impressed with the amount of passion and grace with which you do your work. I have learned so much by simply watching you and I sincerely hope we are able to stay connected. Thank you for everything and know how much you are appreciated. With much gratitude. (March 16, 2010, Pauline)
I am truly grateful for the support and friendship of so many over the years.
I must wean myself from reading opinion pieces about the 2022 midterms and the national election in 2024. I think there is too much being written and talked about outlining the perils the Democratic party faces. Democrats are even giving interviews disparaging their own party when they know that there are so many circumstances that could not be avoided or remedied regardless of what party had the majority in Congress or was in the White House.
I was chatting with a colleague who said that “lack of optimism was killing us, and losing faith keeps us from investing in the moment.”
Although there is an abundance of pessimism and resignation about the outcomes of the upcoming elections, I felt hopeful when I heard the dynamic speech that Michigan Democratic State Senator Mallory McMorrow made a couple of weeks ago. I think that if more Democrats would fight fearlessly with words of outrage against blatant attempts to limit and roll back freedoms for all people, supporters would be animated to vote against the scourge of hate that is infecting not only the United States but countries all around the world.
McMorrow’s speech energized me. It was not just what she said. It was that I believed her.