Melanne Verveer is the Executive Director of the Institute for Women, Peace, and Security at Georgetown University. She has also served as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Hillary Clinton during the Clinton Administration. She is a co-founder of the NGO Vital Voices.
Passion is not a word that can be used lightly. To be truly passionate about something is to feel for it with your whole heart and mind. A passion is not simply an interest or pastime—a passion is something you live for, something that defines your life.
Melanne Verveer exemplifies exactly what it means to be passionate. As the first ever Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues and the current Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Ambassador Verveer is extremely active in the movement for women’s empowerment around the world. From her opening statement, right up to the last moment of the interview, her inner fire shone through as she spoke about everything from the role education plays in women’s progress, to the confidence gap between men and women. I sat one seat away from Ambassador Verveer and I found myself leaning forward to get closer to this presence, this woman with such determination and belief in the work to which she has dedicated her life.
In response to a question about how to revive a sense of urgency in dealing with women’s issues, Melanne Verveer told us about Hillary Clinton’s awe-inspiring speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. It was at this event that Hillary proclaimed, “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.” Ambassador Verveer described how at these words the room full of normally reserved diplomats exploded into applause. Women banged their fists on the tables in approval as they were swept up in Hillary Clinton’s bold statement that resonated with them so deeply. As Melanne Verveer told the story, I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with the truth of Hillary Clinton’s words, feeling for myself exactly what those women must have felt as they listened to the speech.
It was then that I was struck by the word—passion. Passion is a driving force in our world, a virtually limitless source of power that can unite people through their ability to care deeply about what is meaningful to them. The reaction that Ambassador Verveer described is passion in its raw state; an uncontrollable emotion that when tapped into can become an unstoppable force towards change.
Melanne Verveer closed with one sentence of advice that solidified my take-away from the interview. She said, “Go with your heart, and go with your passions.” As long as I find my passion and use it as my driving force, I will be able to leave my mark on the world. All that’s left for me to do now is to find out what that passion is.
“Talent is universal. Opportunity is not.” When Melanne Verveer said this, I was taken back to an interview we had a few months earlier with Emmanuel Ivorgba, a man on the front lines of a movement for equality and pluralism in Nigeria. He said, “If you used 10% of the information available to you, you would turn the sky to heaven.” We have many privileges that we don’t even think about, such as writing utensils and access to the internet. Millions of people are not as lucky as I am. I must make the most of my good fortune.
The fact that two people, from opposite sides of the world, have such similar views about opportunity solidified the importance of the theme in my life. It made me realize that it is imperative that I take the exceptional opportunities given to me and use them to their fullest potential. As someone who has the privilege to receive such a unique and incredible education, the responsibility falls upon me, and people like me, to enact the changes we are passionate about. Ambassador Verveer inspired me to fully employ the plethora of opportunities I am given in order to bring about the change I believe in.