In one of the first workshops of the seminar, I learned about the concept of ‘shared vulnerability’, a fear that every individual in a group has of saying something that others might not find to be truthful or valuable. By addressing these fears right at the start of the program, our facilitator, Noah Bopp, helped create a sense of togetherness and put us all on the same platform, a platform on which we learned to empathize with the person sitting next to us. We learned that we were all here to learn and that learning could only happen in an environment of trust and mutual respect.
We also had regular check-ins and check-outs through the program where we could describe to others how we were feeling. This activity helped each of us become more receptive to others and led to the building of a cogent group. Yes, we were indeed a very cogent group. It felt like I was part of a buzzing ball of energy, something so alive that it could take on anything in its path. It is the sense of ownership that we all had which made our group so special. Although we were from different cultures, the diversity added, rather than subtracted, from the power we felt as a team.
Some of my most memorable experiences from the program include giving a speech to Lissa Muscatine, Hillary Clinton’s former speechwriter, who not only appreciated, but also critiqued our speeches to show to us how speechwriting is a dedicated process that has its rights and wrongs. Meeting Rachel Maddow and watching her prepare for her show allowed me to witness an entire process of debating ideas, elucidating their relevance, making connections and presenting them as words of action. I also learned how work can demand one to be spontaneous and the ability to adapt and improvise can take one a long way. Maddow, who had prepared material on a set of issues for that night’s show, had to scratch out most of it and incorporate news on the sudden death of Robin Williams. Watching her be so open to making changes to the script and take charge of the situation was very inspirational.
Moreover, we also went to the U.S. State Department and presented a memo where we identified areas of conflict in our countries and recommended solutions. These solutions involved sharing knowledge about any initiatives, big and small, which we thought could be made more valuable through support. This was yet another challenging but exciting experience as it allowed us as young female leaders to give weight to our knowledge and actions.
At the final ceremony as we wrapped up our ALI journey, I realized that the biggest lesson I learned from this program is that my choices have consequences, sometimes even halfway across the world. Jaime and Kim’s initiative to start the Andi Leadership Institute Program is kind of like a bigger Capstone version of our eight mini-Capstones and if they have been able to make me realize how much potential I possess to bring effective, positive change, then I can also keep the cycle of empowerment going! This gets me so excited, as I know there are fifteen other young female peace builders alongside myself who are thinking in the same way and the prospect of being connected to them (and all those that follow us) will get me to witness all the amazing things they do in their lives. I can thus safely conclude my blog by saying that this is indeed not the end of ALI; it is only just the beginning!