Mid-trip Reflection: Louis Marshall

Louis Marshall
Louis Marshall

A lot of great leaders in this world are people who are confident in their public speaking and who trust in their ability to get things done. Susannah Wellford is one of these people but I was fascinated to learn how she got there. You’ll see why. She is a strong proponent of feminism and created the program Running Start, which aims to not only bring more women into the political sphere but prepare them for success in it.

When she walked into the room we stood up in respect of her presence. For a moment all that could be heard was the faint thump of a hydraulic jackhammer in the construction zone outside the window and the faint hum of the fan. When she started speaking, any assumption I had about her was thrown out the window, and probably destroyed with the rubble. She had an intelligent and easy-going way of speaking and a voice that was both soothing and understanding. As she answered our questions, she was thoughtful and decisive in her answers. She told us about the vulnerability she felt and still feels, and how she has learned to use it as a tool.

Speaking with Susannah Wellford
Speaking with Susannah Wellford

“The more you do these things that make your heart beat and make you nervous, the more powerful you feel,” she said. She told us about the value of disarming a crowd by admitting nervousness, how she learned to view her vulnerability as strength because it allowed her to be truthful with herself and other people. She told us that other people can immediately tell if you’re being yourself or not, and that was meaningful to me because I find that to be true in my life so far.

She also acknowledged that men and women have different strengths and weaknesses and her goal was to diversify the skill sets of people in politics in order to help people work across the aisle more. Young people seem to work better with bipartisanship, she said, and politics can benefit from that.

When we interviewed Alyse Nelson earlier in the week she told us about the “silent majority” of men who hold feminist beliefs but don’t see their place in the movement so they don’t act on it. I asked Susannah what place men hold in the movement, and she told us about men who already hold positions of power who are doing what they can to advance women in unequal areas, and assured us that we could help and didn’t need to feel awkward about concerning ourselves with the movement. I hope that I can contribute to this cause because it is crucial for us to reform the traditionalized gender roles of society and assess people for their abilities.

Louis, Ward, and Alex
Louis, Ward, and Alex

She also talked about her life as someone who was naturally introverted and she explained something that many people have trouble with, which is called the “Impostor Syndrome“. Both are things that I can strongly relate to. She talked the importance of taking time to recharge and the developing of self-confidence. The vulnerability she showed us was inspiring, and I will remember that in the future.

It seems to me that a majority of the inspiring people in this world are people that either aren’t aware of their own capabilities, or are too humble to admit them. A common theme I have noticed is that most of the people we are interviewing didn’t expect to be where they are now. That is entirely an amazing concept to me because I always got the feeling that successful people are the people who have plans for their lives. This makes me happy as someone who is passionate about too many things to choose one thing to spend my life doing. I hope I can become someone who embraces change.

I have also noticed a trend in what advice people give me. It always turns out to be; have good connections with people, or say yes to every opportunity and embrace one’s passions. Here is one example:

Yesterday, we were about to change trains in the subway to get to Dupont Circle, and I was close to the back of the group. The doors started closing, and I seized the opportunity. I told the subway doors: “Yes, I’ll take this opportunity,” and I pushed the doors apart and got on the subway, leaving others behind in my pursuit to make the train. On the train I witnessed a lady on a mobility scooter navigate out of the way of an exiting stroller. I told her that I was impressed, and she laughed and told me that communication was the key. I agreed and told her I would take that with me, and she smiled. She then asked me about the pink pin I wore on my suit jacket that Congressman Earl Blumenauer gave us after our interview with him, and we talked about our trip. She was an extremely intelligent woman with bright eyes and a kind soul. She asked me if my experience in the interviews helped sharpen my discernment. She actually used the word discernment; I guess she speaks our language. We had to go shortly after and I think my biggest regret is not asking for her email or something because she was one of the most passionate and genuine people I have met. It made me realize that the most life-changing experiences happen when you embrace change and say yes to opportunities in fleeting moments. Thanks anonymous Metro Lady; you will be missed.

  • Tiffany

    Great stories and connections, Louis. I’m so impressed with the insights you are taking away from the trip and from your conversations with people like Wellford.