Monday, May 19, 2014
Jones Commons, N300 Lindquist Center
It is my very great honor to help welcome this marvelous group to the University of Iowa as you embark on a week of learning and leadership.
For their part in making this tremendous program happen, I would like to thank the Iowa NEW Leadership organizers, the Women’s Resource and Action Center, and our faculty-in-residence who will be leading you this week. I would especially like to thank you, the young women who have chosen to dedicate this week to exploration of leadership, empowerment, and diversity. You have made both a wise and bold choice to be part of this institute, and I offer my gratitude for your interest in empowering yourselves and our society through new visions of leadership.
You don’t need me to tell you that the world is swiftly changing. Technological advancements, globalization, environmental challenges: these and many more conditions of our world today are making it more and more urgent that we understand and practice diversity, that our leaders at all levels represent the diversity of our society, and that our society respect and embrace the full diversity of the world. Many sectors of the world, geographic and institutional, have not yet fully embraced the diversity of the world even as it exists now. Here in the state of Iowa, we have yet to elect a woman governor or a female representative to our national legislative delegation. Nationwide, less than one-quarter of all elected officials are women. Women currently hold only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 CEO positions. When you add in a minority demographic to those numbers, they obviously plummet even further.
So clearly we have a lot of work to do. Not to put too much pressure on you, but the future of our society, if it is to be a truly representative and fully empowered society, lies in your hands, the hands of young people who know both the challenges and wonderful opportunities that are before us, young people who are eager to learn and work toward a better world for all.
The leadership you need to learn and practice is complex and multifaceted. Your curriculum this week reflects that: strategic communication, policy analysis, philanthropy, negotiation, community development, professional sustainability, networking, engagement with difference, and productive conflict and collaboration.
Wow.  That is quite a plateful. But you have remarkable teachers to guide you, amazing coordinators and administrators to make sure everything happens smoothly, and, most importantly, each other, a group of talented, visionary, and eager young women who are ready to support each other, learn from each other, and take on the world. So don’t forget that you yourselves are bringing much to the table at this institute, experiences and ideas to share that are just as important as what your faculty and leaders are here to share with you.
Seventy-five years ago this year, the great American singer Marian Anderson performed a historic concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for her to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall because she was African American. Because of both her talents and her experiences, Marian Anderson became not only one of the greatest singers of the twentieth-century but also an important leader. She worked as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and as a goodwill ambassador for the US Department of State, giving concerts all over the world. She participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, singing at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. She was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991. Her unique and, sadly, often discriminatory experience helped forge a great cultural and social leader. As Miss Anderson once said, “Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.” So, again, be sure to bring your own very valuable experiences, both positive and negative, and your own understandings of how your leadership will support and affect others to the discussion this week.
Thank you again for joining us here on campus this week, for participating in the Iowa NEW Leadership institute, and for the great changes you will bring to our world in the future.