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My Day with Eleanor Roosevelt’s Grandaughter

April Lara and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

April Lara and Anne Eleanor Roosevelt

“My grandmother would have loved this school.”

That is how Anna Eleanor Roosevelt started her key note speech at the annual fundraiser for the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School (YWLCS) that I had the privilege of attending this past Wednesday.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s granddaughter, Anne is thoughtful, kind, inspirational and has the same energizer tendencies as her grandmother.  Anna was one of twenty-five grandchildren who as she put it “not only had to share my grandmother with my siblings and cousins, I had to share her with the whole world.”

Anna knew how important education was to her grandmother so in keeping the Roosevelt legacy alive, she wanted to inspire and support the girls at YWLCS. After all, Eleanor also went to an all-girls high school which is where she first learned and practiced leadership skills. Eleanor believed in the future because she believed in young people and anytime she had the chance to listen and find ways to help young people, she did.

A little about YWLCS:
The YWLCS started in 1999 when twenty-three dynamic women business and civic leaders wanted to create better opportunities for girls to be successful, especially given the low graduation rates and lack of career success that was predominant in the inner city schools. It is the only all-girls public school in the city of Chicago.

The reason Eleanor Roosevelt would have loved this school, Anna told me, is because all girls can be included. Any young girl has the opportunity to attend no matter what her background, how much money her parents make, what neighborhood she lives in or how good her grades were in grammar school. Eleanor believed “It is better for everyone when it is better for everyone.”

YWLCS is well-run school with effective leadership and caring teachers, who hold a high expectation and support girls in all aspects of their development. This is a school where it is not unusual for a student to come in a grade or two behind. Some come from neighborhoods where hearing gun violence is part of their every day life.

A few accomplishments include:

• Two seniors were awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship. One student will be attending Barnard another will be attending Stanford. This scholarship covers full tuition and expenses for not only undergraduate work, but for master and doctorate level degrees, too.

• 100% of the 2015 graduating class have been accepted into a college.

• The event included a showcase by the students highlighting the school groups, clubs and lessons learned. Students presented intelligently, articulating the issues facing their future yet looking forward with great optimism, empowered to take the lead.

• When I asked a student about the Ferguson and Baltimore protests and what she thought, her impromptu answer hit the mark: Fighting violence with violence is wrong and there is a need for someone to step up and lead.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt shared with the audience what she learned about leadership from her grandmother:

Listening: Eleanor was a great listener. She was keenly interested in what everyone had to say. Anna said that she knew her grandmother was listening – really listening – so she paid a lot more attention to what she was going to say. An interesting thought: If we knew people were really listening to us, how might we change what we say or talk about.

Being open minded: People have the right to their opinions and how we deal with the conflict when we do not agree is important to our leadership ability. Many times we let our egos get in the way which stunts our growth in so many ways. Eleanor said “There is not human being from whom we cannot learn something if we are interested enough to dig deep.”

Not being afraid to make or admit mistakes:  It is ok to say we were wrong. Mistakes are meant to be made. We learn and grow from mistakes. A thought to ponder: Are we playing a big enough game if we are not making any mistakes?

Influencing and persuading:   Eleanor always promoted peace, fairness and progress. She was a masterful politician. Much of this came from her ability to listen and be open minded. She knew if you want to be interesting, be interested first.

Anna talked about how her grandmother supported her using the following recipe:
• Listening
• Supporting
• Guiding
• Letting go

Eleanor and granddaughter Anna Eleanor RooseveltThis same recipe is being used by the YWLCS. When twenty-three ladies decided to build a school, they showed the world that coming together and providing vision and care, anything is possible. In an Eleanor Roosevelt way, they believed in the beauty of their dreams.

Why not take action and believe in the beauty of our dreams. We can change the world.

What are your dreams? Or, in Eleanor’s words: What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?”

If you would like to learn more about YWLCS or to donate

Eleanor Roosevelt with a few of her grandchildren.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I was eight years old when Martin Luther King Jr. died.  I remember being off school the day of his funeral.  I knew he was an important figure and a well known man.  I remember there was a lot of controversy and fear around him, too.  As I grew older I had a greater appreciation for his role building awareness of the Civil Rights movement.

Recently I spent a lot of time reading and researching Martin Luther King Jr. for my upcoming book:  Just Lead:  Embracing the 5 Universal Attributes of Great Leaders.   We hear his name, we associate it with the Civil Rights Movement yet I wanted to know more.  It took 100 years for changes to made, I wanted to know exactly how he did it.

Martin Luther King Jr.  branded the soul of the movement and spoke to our moral conscious.  He helped the world think of the civil rights issue not as a “black” problem but as a problem for mankind.  He had an incredible capacity for forgiveness and empathy.  His speeches always talked about getting along and living like brothers and sisters no matter what race, religion, or belief system.

He was a master story teller. His sound bites are etched in our memory:  I have a dream, Free at last,  I have been to the mountain top, We shall overcome.  He painted a picture of hope and what life would look  when we “got to the promised land.”  People remembered what he said – and they pictured it in their mind.

He was jailed over 20 times, stabbed in chest, his house bombed, and he was a continuous target of violence but he never backed down from his non-violent approach.  At one time he owned a gun but soon got rid of it.  He believed owning a gun was inappropriate for a crusader of non-violence.

We celebrate today because we cannot forget what he did to bring awareness to the injustices happening in our country

We celebrate today because Martin Luther King Jr.  still reminds us we are all part of the American Dream.

We celebrate today to honor a man who courageously fought for humanity.

Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by bringing out your best today.  Forgive each other, love each other and keep his hope alive.

Enjoy watching his famous I have a Dream speech.


What will you do today to honor Martin Luther King Jr.?

Help for Miss Florida: A Final Question Solution

I have to confess:  I love watching the beauty pageants!  The beauty!  The glamour!  I have been watching the pageants since I was a young girl –a TV highlight in my home.  How pageants have evolved from big hair and similarity to natural beauty and diversity.

I appreciate the hard work and dedication to takes to get to the final night, as in the case last night on Miss America. One winner from each state earned a spot as a contestant vying for the crown to become the next winner:  Miss America 2014.

For those who are unfamiliar with the pageants, being the winner of the night comes down to that last question written by one of the judges.  Contestants hopefully displaying their composure, come up with the best insightful answer to the question in less than a minute.  It is not about a right or wrong answer, it is about showcasing the authentic you that propels you to victory.  As I watch and listen to the questions, I ponder what would I say?  How would I answer that question?  For those who missed the show, here is a brief rundown of the topics asked to each of the final five contestants last night:

Miley Cyrus has caused a media sensation…Do you think she was over the top with her twerking?

-Julie Chen admitted to having plastic surgery to make her eyes less Asian.  What do you think?

-Should political wives stand by their cheating, scandalous husbands?

-What do you think we should do about Syria?

-Finally, taking off from the Martin Luther King, Jr. 50th anniversary of the “I had a dream” speech, what should the country do to address high unemployment, low incomes and incarceration rates among minorities?

 Watch the 4 minute question and answer here:

We sit in the comforts of our home and reflect and mull over our feelings on each topic, these girls are being watched by millions of people and have less than a minute to get composed and answer the questions.

Miss Florida, unfortunately, missed the point and did not answer the question.  Led me to thinking:  How WOULD I answer this question?

It all came down to empathy:  Teaching and learning empathy.  In actuality, using empathy as the base answer would have allowed any contestant to provide an insightful response.  Social cooperation is impossible without empathy.

Understanding no matter who we are, no matter our differences, we all have a special gift to offer the world and each other. Imagine a world where we banished judgment.   After all, being judged is what makes us afraid to be authentic.  Who are we to judge others?  How do we really know the circumstances others are in or the choices they are making — our liking it or not.  In other words, how would it feel to walk in their shoes?

So begin today by understanding and walking in someone elses shoes.   Open your heart to someone who is different than you.  Spend a few minutes getting to know that person a little better and you will find your mind in peace and love.

Please share who you “walked in someone else’s shoes” this week.

Who are you?

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You”        Dr. Seuss.

Here is a parenting tip:  Being true to yourself plants the seed of authenticity in your own children.
Are you someone who is appreciating every step of your journey? Or are you waiting for the destination? Wouldn’t it be great if today you began your journey finding joy in the smallest moment, forgiving someone, thanking someone, and truly appreciating every second of your day? Stop just for a moment today, shed what is false and become who you truly are. You are a magnificent creator of the universe. Find honor and joy in your own authenticity. There are many tools to help you find you. Start by identifying your strengths and values, take The Passion Test (read about my journey) or sign up for our parenting strategies monthly e-newsletter. Take the challenge: Who are you BEING with your life?

Watch this insightful video to look inside the distractions that get in the way of being your authentic self.