Are You Listening

Michaela WalshDuring the summers of 2000 to 2007 I helped design and sponsor a six week program, held at Manhattanville College, for undergraduate women from developing and less developed communities who had never travelled outside their countries. The Global Student Leadership (GSL) program recruited students from Africa, Eastern Europe, Central and Latin America, the Caribbean, and the US.

During the 17 years since the formal program I remained in contact with many of these young women, acting as Godmother to their children, mentor to some, and occasionally visiting them in their homes. Over the past few years I became obsessed with knowing if the GSL methodology that we created ‘worked.’ I wanted to see these young friends and colleagues again, to know who they had become, where their lives had taken them, and if they were leaders. With the help of some student interns, I updated emails and was able to contact about 120 GSL alums.

Then an extraordinary thing happened. The new President at Manhattanville, Michael Geisler, the new Provost, Lisa Dolling and Elizabeth McCormack agreed to host a reunion. I am truly grateful to them for this far sighted action. And, thanks to friends and colleagues everywhere who agreed to help. Initially about  50 GSL alums planned to come to Manhattanville the first week in June, paying their own travel costs. Some plans changed and there were some delays around the now difficult visa situation. In the end 28 alums from 20 countries gathered for a joyful and memorable time in their busy lives.

As we were planning the reunion, I became concerned that not all the students had been at Manhattanville at the same time, they might not connect easily with one another. To my delight, the moment they arrived at the campus, filled with their individual memories about GSL, we saw instant bonding and great enthusiasm from each one.

For me, this was a dream come true. Beyond my wildest hope, we can now say that the GSL methodology developed over eight years and across 20 cultures was real and convincing.

High points of the weekend:

  • Returning to the familiar and beautiful campus, memories of GSL created an instant bond and excitement for everyone.
  • Early morning (6 am) workouts on the quad in front of the Castle for ten energetic young women led by one of the alums.
  • Enthusiastic and honest sharing of their successes and their difficulties, as well as their life dreams, openly standing up and declaring their experience. Fortunately, Manhattanville faculty and original teachers were in the audience.
  • Late night gossip, reminiscence, and phone and text contact with alums not able to attend.
  • Special visits from one of the founding contributors of the initial GSL program and original teachers.
  • Thanks to GSL co-­‐creator Susan Stehlik, who organized a day at NYU Stern Business School with lectures about global communication (now a hard science), stories from five professors, and the Dean, about their personal commitments to networking and building student confidence. (Each presentation began with a favorite song, not with respective degrees!)
  • The closing reception hosted by President Geisler with a surprise set of formal presentations from many participants.

For me, the true value was time together in the familiar environment, confirming old memories – an opportunity for real sharing. It was time for building trust, with no need for competition.

When I asked-­‐ “what was the common theme from the GSL experience”, there was a strong consensus. “It taught us how to think bigger than we had learned.” And the weekend reunion had done the same. “GSL network has to continue.” I made clear that the future is not something I would manage or direct, but it is an opportunity for them to come together to continue as they want and need.

All of us who had helped assured the women we would support them. Revenue from a small flea market was assigned to cover the cost of a domain name and a website. The women selected a leader, one woman assumed management of the database, another agreed to manage the website. Another stated that all this had to be coordinated within thirty days – or the momentum would be lost.

I again say THANK YOU to each and every person who helped create a new dream—a global network of young women assuming local leadership roles and sharing their stories, their skills and know-­‐how. The fields cover medicine, environmental management, media and communication, government, politics, policies, technology development and business.

I believe their voices together will help build a peaceful global future for us all.

“Acting local and sharing global” is a new adaptation to my own much earlier commitment of “Thinking global and acting local.”

ARE WE LISTENING TO THEM?

 

Michaela Walsh
July 2017

DON’T BE REVERENT – BE RELEVANT – WELCOME TO 2017

JANUARY 21, 2017 – A MOMENT IN HISTORY:
When people ask about WOMENS MARCH ON WASHINGTON:
It’s Priorities: EVERYTHING.
Who was it for: EVERYONE.
One friend said they did not think it was organized:

HOW ABOUT THAT GLOBAL IMPACT!

The past month has been one of recovery and hope for healing – of mind and body. Thanks to my unfortunate fall, and first ever emergency ER visit, added to the sadness of my brothers illness and death, and the struggle recovering from our election results, I have been trying to determine what the rest of the year will ask of me – what challenges we will face helping create a new future that is on the design board. I do not know anyone who has an understanding of where our world is going, what we believe in or what we believe is our work forward.

I worry however, meetings and conferences with younger students, colleagues, and friends from around the world have helped to challenge my thinking, gives me ideas for how to help the younger generation to find new ways to help support their ambitions and goals rather than those from the past. A CHALLENGE FOR SURE!

I have spent years trying to get students to understand:
“IF YOU DON’T HAVE A SEAT AT THE DESIGN TABLE, U R TOO LATE.”

Now that it is quite clear that the leadership of the system I have believed in, worked in and hoped for is no longer working for most people, its up to the younger generation to fight to be heard about what they want and work to define a new global system that does work for all.

Many tease me about my long-term struggle with files and papers. I am nearing the end of my challenge to eliminate unknown files and unwanted things from my life. Making room for time, new ideas, prayers and of course continuing to design my “LIFE AS AN ADVENTURE”.

I am grateful for knowing so many courageous and committed women in my life and continuing to share stories from all ages. One of the most exciting new contributions toward building new voices about the values and perspectives of women was launched by 2 courageous and committed women journalists

PASSBLUE is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalist on the United Nations,
Covering women’s issues, human rights, development international justice, peacekeeping and other matters before the world body.
PLEASE CONTRIBUTE IDEAS AND RESOURCES TO HELP KEEP IT ALIVE!

I am trying to refocus: more time for local volunteering, struggling with all the “on-line” technologies, thinking about new environments, adjusting to less multi-tasking, and learning to enjoy “JUST BEING”.

ESPECIALLY TO MY YOUNG FRIENDS who did not have access to Pres. Obama’s farewell address:

“Let me tell you, the generation coming up – unselfish altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in very corner of the country. You believe in a fair and just and inclusive America: you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s now something to fear but something to embrace: you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward, You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands.”

I BELIEVE TOO.

 

Michaela

Catchup – August 2016

20160527-MiichaelaWalsh

HOW DO I THANK MY LUCKY STARS?

I am so grateful for my good health, and I am seeking to understand this process of aging, of life and death that we all experience.

This year has been bittersweet; a year of wonderful adventures and travels.  I spent the summer examining old files, revisiting memories and special moments, and especially remembering times with friends and family and those who have gone.

Right now I am trying to move on from grief over my brother’s death, so I can celebrate his very special life.   This too is an adventure, but not one I expected or wished for!  He was my lifetime “anchor” and advisor from childhood.  And my chief critic.  I regret that he did not understand that I truly listened to him even when we did not agree.   I trusted him as my friend.

Unearthing files, photos and memories from the past eight decades of my life has produced new revelations and clarifications.  Some are worth sharing:

⊕ connecting  with over 100 former students from 1998- 2007,  plans for a  reunion  and the joy  of learning about their successful leadership roles.

⊕ a report I wrote in 1949 (aged 14)  about the State of Missouri, dedicated to Harry S Truman. It includes a most gracious “Thank you and Best Wishes from Harry S Truman, White House May 24, 1949.” I had a hard time remembering  when and how  this came about – but now it is off to the Truman Library

⊕ a quote from an unknown publication  (When Jane Jacobs Took On the World)
“The first half of the 1960’s produced a cluster of significant books written by authors who stepped boldly outside their fields.”   It helps to clarify for me why and how I had the courage to maintain my determination and belief in helping create a brand new concept for development  – ownership by women for women country by country:  “we know the problem, you have to create the solution, we will help you.”   This movement, country by country, is now a part of our global economy.   Where ever and whatever we did we relied on communities and networks of women and I am overjoyed at the thought of one more visit with some of those old friends and colleagues.

MichaelaWalsh-IMG_2239⊕ help from Barbara Crossette, an international journalist whom I have known and admired for many years.
An unexpected meeting with her resulted in help during a recent trip to Korea and to Vietnam. An introduction to her friend resulted in my joy of interviewing women in Hanoi’s flower market, street vendors, domestics, about how they finance their businesses.
See the article that appears in PASSBLUE.

These women reinforced my belief that the views and experience of women who work in “grassroots, local, bottom up economies” are essential to a sustainable global economy.  And I have renewed confidence that I am still challenged by learning from women around the world.

Please pray for my continued health and ability to grow and learn!!!!!!

Michaela