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Sunday, October 31, 2010
Architects for Change
“… be the change you wish to see…”
- Mahatma Gandhi
As mentioned in last week’s blog entry, “Living the Dream,” I attended a tremendous women’s conference this past week in Long Beach, California. The speakers – including Michelle Obama, Maria Shriver, Paula Deen, Mary J. Blige, Martha Beck, Tony Robbins, Sally Field, and Deepak Chopra – echoed the conference’s theme, “It’s Time…” and called for the 30,000 women in attendance to be architects for change in our own lives.
The highlight of the event was the Minerva Awards, where 5 distinguished women were honored for their service to humanity, including The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor and my personal role model Oprah Winfrey. They need no introduction… both are known not only for all they’ve accomplished in law and media/entertainment (respectively), but also for redefining what women are capable of achieving. As awe-struck as I was to be in the company of these remarkable women, it was the selflessness and leadership of the other 3 lesser-known award recipients that really moved me.
Carolyn Blashek, heartbroken by the events of 9/11, wanted to help in the war effort, but was too old to enlist. As she thought about the soldiers – who were thousands of miles from home – she remembered the joy her children felt from receiving care packages while away at summer camp. “Operation Gratitude,” the nation’s largest civilian military aid organization, was born! To date, over 550,000 packages filled with toiletries, music, DVDs, sweets and love have been sent to soldiers overseas, each with a personal letter of thanks from the organization’s thousands of volunteers.
Oral Lee Brown, aka “Mama Brown,” was a teacher in a tough Oakland, California school district. Touched by a student with huge potential but little support, she pledged to her entire class that if they maintained at least a C average and stayed out of trouble through high school, she would put them through college. Ms. Brown made good on that promise and has since formed the “Oral Lee Brown Foundation” which targets, mentors and provides full college tuition to at-risk youth in the Oakland area. Today, the foundation has aided almost 200 students, and counting.
Sister Terry Dodge works tirelessly to rehabilitate women as they leave the prison system. She believes that without essential skills for survival “on the outside,” most will inevitably be re-incarcerated. Ms. Dodge runs “Crossroads” in Claremont, California which provides substance abuse programs, reading and writing skills, job-readiness assistance, personal banking know-how, and essential training on how to engage in communal living, cook and socialize. She does not judge the women for their prior misdeeds, but rather encourages them to look forward to a brighter tomorrow.
I’m sure you can see why I was so enthralled by these extraordinary architects for change! Their stories remind each of us that we do indeed have the power to be the change we wish to see.
You can view The Minerva Awards at www.WomensConference.org.
Your comments are welcome.