On Anne's Mind


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Getting Beyond Gender, to Agenda

May 20, 2009

I’ve been politically active for decades.   Have worked hard for candidates I believed in.  Gave as much money as my budget could bear.  Dialed at least a thousand phone calls.   Knocked on doors.  Served as precinct captain.  Even turned my house into a bustling,  “get-out-the-vote headquarters” on election day.  And I’ve been on the “we need more women in political office” bandwagon for at least a decade. 

The one thing I haven’t done is stick my neck out and run for office myself.  Until now.   I’ve just pulled my petitions and started to gather signatures to get my name on the ballot this November for City Council in Auburn Hills, a rapidly changing, once rural, community 30 minutes north of Detroit, Michigan.  

Our former Mayor, one of several people who have repeatedly asked me to run, finally got to me when she said, “Anne you ought to practice what you preach.”  What’s my answer to that? Another friend pushed me closer to the political tipping point a few weeks earlier.   Dr. Glenda Price, president emeritus of Marygrove College, speaking to an audience of professional women advised, “When someone that you respect says, ‘You know, you really ought to consider . . . ,' then you really should give it serious consideration.”  I thought she was talking directly to me.

So why has it taken me so long to do what I’ve been urging other women to do for years?

Marie Wilson, founding president of The White House Project, says I’m pretty typical.  Regardless of their credentials, women rarely wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "I think I’ll run for office.”   Men have been doing that for centuries.  “Women,” Wilson says, “need to be invited, urged, recruited.”  That’s why every single speech she gives, Wilson urges,  “Don’t let a day go by without saying to at least one woman, “You should really run for that open seat in the Legislature.”  Or, “I hope you’re throwing your name in the hat for . . . (fill in the blank)."  Etc. Etc. Etc.

The White House Project, in case you haven’t heard, is a national, non--partisan organization founded in 2004 to train and mobilize a richly diverse, critical mass of women into public leadership – from local offices to the Oval Office.  So far, their leadership trainings have opened doors to political leadership for over 6,000 American women.  And they’re just getting warmed up.

 Last Saturday, I participated in an intense, day-long “Debate Boot Camp” training for candidates, sponsored by the Michigan office of The White House Project.  From the moment I met the 20-something other women in the training, I knew I had walked into something powerful.  First, it was the most diverse group of women I’ve worked with in a long time – perhaps ever.  Generationally, racially and professionally.  Our common denominators were:  1) A strong desire to make a difference on our watch; and 2) The willingness to raise our voices and risk challenge, criticism and even defeat.

That’s relatively new stuff for women.  For all of our professional achievements, we’re still slogging our way through some pretty thick cultural muck when it comes to raising our hands to Lead. How many times have you heard or even thought to yourself, “Women don’t support one another.”  Or, “Women are their own worst enemies.”  Those refrains are so old they’re getting moldy.

There was none of that at the White House Project training, which included plenty of frank, constructive feedback -- wrapped in encouragement – that each participant received from the other women in the training. By the end of the day, not only had we learned how to use our personal stories to build authenticity with voters  and “pivot” when answering off-the-wall questions, we each seemed to stand a little taller when we left.  But the best part was the strong sense of Sisterhood that built throughout the day.  I haven’t felt that elixir in decades. 

Time magazine claims,  in this week’s cover story on The Future of Work, that “women will rule business.”   We’re on the verge of another big surge for women in this country.  This time into leadership.  But it’s going to take more than millions of individual achievers all fighting for her piece of the action.  Major cultural change requires collective momentum headed in the same direction.   Have you asked yourself lately, 'How am I moving out of my comfort zone and encouraging other women to stretch to their heightest levels, too?"  

 A great way to start is to rent the fabulous and fun documentary, "What's Your Point, Honey," which puts a face on young women already eyeing the presidency for 2024.  Invite your favorite 20-somethings, teens and tweens (daughters, nieces, granddaughters, little sisters?) to watch it with you.  Start planting political ambitions early for the next generations.  It's time to get beyond gender and get on with a new agenda.   

And by the way, it's never too late to run for office yourself.  Come on in, the water's fine -- so far.  

Let's Take Back Mother's Day

May 11, 2009

A few days before Mother's Day, I was privileged to talk with Marianne Williamson, internationally respected spiritual teacher, lecturer and author of numerous books.  She pointed out the irony of Mother's Day changing from a day for women to actively rally for peace to one of having breakfast in bed.

 Mother's Peace Day was created in 1872 by Juliette Ward Howe, who also wrote the lyrics for the Battle Hymn of the Republic. She was a peace activist and human rights advocate who was sickened by the carnage of the Civil War.   

Her heart would be heavy if she could see the violence that continues to paralyze human progress. 

But, I believe she would find hope in this Mother's Day video.  It calls on women to tap into the tremendous power and strength that we have as Mothers protecting our children.  It challengs us to expand that power and embrace our abilities and responsibility to "mother" all of the world's children.  Let's forget about breakfast in bed and spring into action.  Click here for inspiration. 

Marilyn French, author of The Women's Room, Made a Difference for Millions

May 11, 2009

We lost a brilliant thinker and clear, strong voice for women recently.   Author Marilyn French was a prolific writer and best-known for THE WOMEN'S ROOM, her 1977 novel, which sold over 20 million copies.  She clearly had her finger on the pulse of the frustration so many women were feeling and straining to change at that time.  Here are two excellent tributes to a woman who, in my book, epitomized:  making a difference on your watch.  The first is the NY Times obit and the second is re-printed from the Women's Media Center on the terrific blog of Gloria Feldt, a personal friend and the long-time CEO of Planned Parenthood. 

Women's Empowerment Movie List: For Inspiration

May 10, 2009

I love movies.  But I get so aggravated when I walk through Blockbuster Video with my high-school age son, Kevin, trying to find a movie that we can both watch together.  One of the things I've started to insist on is that the movie actually include some women in roles other than sex object or victim awaiting rescue.   That limits our choices dramatically. Recently, a friend shared with me a list she has been compiling of movies that are about women's lives.  What a concept!   I'm starting a Women's Movie Night with some of my friends so that we can work our way through this great list.   I pass it on to you to enjoy and share with others.  



A League of Their Own

Algeria:  Women at War

All About Eve

All About My Mother

American Quilt

American Violet

Antonia’s Line


Bend It Like Beckham

Between The Lines

Bring it On

Daughters of the Dust

Diary of a Mad Black Woman

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Dream Life of Angels


Entre Nous

Fried Green Tomatoes

Girl Interrupted

Heavenly Creatures


In Her Shoes

Iron Jawed Angels

Joy Luck Club

Little Women

Mean Girls

Medea’s Family Reunion

Memoirs of a Geisha

Notes on a Scandal

Pray the Devil Back to Hell (Steinem recommends)

Real Women Have Curves

Revolutionary Road (Steinem recommendation)

Sense and Sensibility


Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants

Soul Food

Steel Magnolias

The Color Purple

The Devil Wears Prada

The First Wives Club

The Red Lantern

The Sisters

The Space Between Us

The Whales of August
The Women

The Women of Brewster Place

Thelma & Louise

Three Women


Waiting to Exhale

Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown



Washington Post Leaders is Great Source of Inspiration

May 2, 2009

I've just discovered the Washington Post Leaders website, which regularly posts short and fascinating interviews with nationally respected leaders.   From CEOs, Harvard Business professors and well-known entrepreneurs, this is a great spot for inspiration and to trigger reflection on developing your own leadership style and strengths.  If there is one common theme it's this:  there is no leadership template.  Effective leaders are as diverse as the human race.  They post a new interview each day -- each less than five minutes.   From BET Founder Sheila Johnson, Leadership Gurus Warren Bennis and Marshall Goldsmith, Harvard Business professos Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Nancy Koehn to former Georgetown championship basketball coach John Thompson, Jr, it's a goldmine of wisdom.  Click here to check it out.


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