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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Who wants to be a Half-a-Billionaire!

A week ago today, I got the chance to hear Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, speak in Chicago.  For those of you who may not know, UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and their mission is to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.  They are kind of a big deal.

Ms. Bokova spoke on “Girls’ Education: A High Return on Investment,” and it proved to be an interesting look into the process of fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals… We definitely have a LONG way to go, but UNESCO’s efforts are helping bring about significant advance.

In her speech Bokova stated that “literacy is a security issue,” and with two- thirds of children in conflict areas illiterate, this statement could not be more relevant.  An example of a way UNESCO is helping bring about progress is through their  “10,000 Principals Leadership Program,” which is designed to train 10,000 school principals starting in Ghana, Kenya, and India over the course of four years.  A report on the program states that it will “will improve the skills of those school leaders and the multiplier effect will benefit thousands of teachers and up to 10 million children.”  When telling us about this initiative, she was quick to point out that these new principals will be trained in gender inclusivity in education, which will definitely change the way populations think about educating their daughters.  The implications of this gender- sensitive and inclusive training cannot be overstated!   How exciting!

“Sometimes we think that equality is a given, that we shouldn’t work for women’s empowerment, but we don’t need to stand still… I do believe that girls and women have the power to change the world,” Bokova stated.

Irina Bokova made it clear that girls education is her passion.  At one point she told us that if she had a half of a billion dollars, she would “put it in girls education. No question.”

I was thoroughly inspired, and after the rousing applause, my friend, Karoline, and I made our way to the front to shake Ms. Bokova’s hand.   When our moment finally came, I stuck my hand out and said, “Hello, Ms. Bokova!  My name is Lily, this is Karoline, and we are two young women who want to change the world.” For the first time that day that I can remember, she smiled, and while still shaking hands she said to us “Wonderful!  Changing the world as a young woman is so much easier than people think.  Keep going.” 

So, young women in the world, let’s do what Ms. Bokova tells us and KEEP GOING!

Celebrities gotta go, too

While at the Women in the World conference in NYC last week, it was really easy to become star struck.  Even walking through the metal detectors at 8am the day of the conference caused me to shake with star dazzlement… I was about to be in a room with Meryl Streep AND Hillary Clinton.  Wow.  I felt like a puppy about to be adopted by these powerful, famous, inspiring women… literally panting.  After the flood gates were opened to the theater and I rushed to the eighth row, it was all I could do to slow my heart rate.  Just as I began acclimating to this heightened altitude of women world leaders, my new friend, Lydia, leaned over and said, “Lily, look behind us.” Amber Tamblyn and America Ferrera.  Sitting one. row. away.  I could barely contain my excitement, and, unlike the cool New Yorker I hope to be very soon, I ran over immediately to shake their hands.  They were kind, polite, and even signed my journal, but this interaction made me start to realize something very important: the community, the work, is more important than the celebrity, and I think Amber and America realized that.

With this instructive (and embarrassing) interaction out of the way, Tina Brown, one of the founders of Women in the World and the editor-in-cheif of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, got up and opened the conference with a call to arms for all people to embrace the sentiments expressed by previous Women in the World speakers, such as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, who said that women need to “stop being politely angry,” and Madeline Albright who stated that “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”  A new phase of inspiration and action had begun.

While dozens of women world leaders took the stage, my mind kept coming back to the issue of celebrity.  Most of the women in this huge Lincoln Center theater were not famous by American standards.  Those who surrounded me and those on the stage were not women that I would probably stop for an autograph; however, they are the women and girls making an impact.  This idea was humbling and made me excited at the potential of every girl in the world.

During a break, I went to wait in the short line to the secret, private bathroom in the huge complex (tipped off by my usher friend, Elizabeth).  Diane von Furstenberg came and stood behind me.  “Oh no, this bathroom used to be my secret,” she said.  “I guess the secret is out,” I calmly responded. Then, I looked over to my left where the NBC nightly news hosts were hanging out, and I saw Kamala Harris (Attorney General to California) walk by.  I left my spot in line to speak to this lovely and amazing human being, and by the end of our brief conversation she took my hands and said, “We are all in this together, aren’t we?!”  Yes ma’am!  I floated back into the line, this time right behind Diane.  She entered the bathroom, and before I could blink this older woman charged the door, flung it open, and Diane’s and my mouths became agape… the poor woman thought there was no one in the stall.   I am telling you, there is no better way to shed star-struck-syndrome like seeing one of them on the toilet.

“You don’t have to be famous to be interesting, to matter, or to make a difference.”- Smart Girls at the Party

Please Watch… This. Is. Powerful.

Girls. Women. Will change the world.

WOMEN IN THE WORLD!

This past week I was surrounded by thousands of women who are changing the world.  Most wonderful week ever.  First at the Women in the Word conference, where 2,000 women and I heard the likes of the first female president of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, the Attorney General of California, Kamala Harris, Shelby Knox, Renee Montagne, Chelsea Clinton, and many, many others. The day was wrapped up by the insanely amazing Meryl Streep!  Meryl Streep’s speech is below… Did I mention that I was on the eighth row?  This day was so incredible.  At one point, Meryl Streep said that the world was “no longer going to be run by electricity, but by GIRL POWER!!!”  I was constantly energized, constantly inspired.  Along the way I met wonderful women who were all committed to changing the world for women and girls everywhere.

After Meryl, Secretary Clinton took the stage! and encapsulated the spirit of the event by saying that being a woman in the world “means never giving up, on yourself, your potential, your future. It means getting up, working hard and putting a country or a community on your back.” “ Be fearless, be committed, be audacious.”

After Hillary’s final words, the energy and excitement in the room was palpable.  To be in a space full of people who were empowered and ready to make change was one of the most amazing, inspiring experiences of my life, and it reminded me that change is possible, and that YOU can make it happen!

 

 

The dog has big ears.

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 Hello Smart people!  As you probably know, I had a meeting with an incredible person in Austin, TX last week.  This meeting was perfect, superb, awesome, and every other superlative you can think of.  So, on the way back to Dallas, TX, as the subject of dreams and their realization was bouncing around in my head, I, appropriately enough, saw this billboard.  Of course I had to take a picture while driving to savor this perfect encapsulation of my thoughts.  We’ve got to THINK BIG!

Three things that I took with me from that meeting in Austin: Be PERSISTENT. Be RESOURCEFUL. THINK BIG!  The woman that I met with is very successful and all around amazing.  She was so inspiring to be around!  In her career, she has not let “no’s” get her down!  She was persistent and incredibly resourceful in her pursuit of personally fulfilling work, and that has lead to her success!  What a model for us all!  Something that I took away from the meeting was that there are people who desire and can use your talents, ideas, and skills; you just have to go and find those people.

One of my very very smart friends told me the other day that “the only thing that holds you back is you not thinking big.”  I wholeheartedly agree, and encourage all of you today to be PERSISTENT, RESOURCEFUL, and to exercise those BIG THINKING muscles because, guess what? You can change the world.

Attack ya dreams…

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Today I am in Austin, TX to meet with a really smart woman living out loud.  Please stay tuned for the wisdom she will share that I will share with all of you!

I have driven almost 10 hours to get to Austin, most of the drive listening to Ira Glass getting real with his listeners in his radio show, “This American Life,” and I was reminded of an incredible truth: that we all have stories to tell and that those stories can empower, move, change, and incredibly effect the listener.  I heard stories ranging from a man going to the “Dark Shadows” Convention to accounts from kids who are making their way through the excruciating world of middle school.  The woman I am meeting with could be called, among other things, a professional story finder- she has been a producer on many projects in which her job was to find amazing, weird, lovely, moving, passionate people and stories to share them with the world.  To say that I am excited about this meeting would be an understatement.  I hope to learn how to better find stories of girls and how to better share them, and I look forward to hearing from this woman who is strong, smart, empowering.

Driving the 10 hours? Worth it.  What are dreams but to be attacked with action?  Women, attack those dreams, and in turn, I will try and attack mine!

Talk to you soon!

Lily