Vital Voices – Breakfast at the Cosmos Club
We began the morning by waking up to the small hurricane pounding on our window. Sluggishly, we crawled out of bed. We met downstairs for a speedy ten minute interview prep session. We hustled and bustled through the rain to the nearest Metro station a few blocks away. We arrived at the Cosmos Club and waited excitedly for the arrival of our two power women, Alyse Nelson Bloom and Maria Pacheco. Both women were incredibly inspiring because of their passion about what they did. Speaking with Maria was especially inspiring for me since she has taken a path similar to the one I aspire to create for myself. Maria is the general manager of Protectors of the Forest in Guatemala
and also has her hands in the United Nations. Her sincerity and humility helped to immediately form a sense of familiarity between with our group as she shared stories, experiences, and tears. This breakfast interview was a spectacular way to start off what promises to be a very inspiring ten days.
It is surreal to be here. For 8 years I have heard about this place, Washington, DC. I have watched students come back from this trip with a newfound sense of inspiration. I have always been curious about what causes the mental shift in these students. Today, I experienced why students come back so inspired. This morning we did our first two interviews. I was awe-struck by Maria Pacheco. She is an active member of the networking group Vital Voices. I was impressed with Maria’s ability to be genuine and sincere while speaking with us. She told about growing up in Guatemala and witnessing the many deaths in her village due to war. She told us of her fears, and of her desire to escape this bloody reality that did not recognize the worth and rights of women.
While listening to these incredible stories and looking into her eyes so full of strength and determination, I felt an overwhelming sense of inspiration. It was amazing to talk to a woman who had the courage to follow the hard path of helping thousands of women in Guatemala. As a teenaged girl growing up in California with a stable and supportive family, I have been shielded from the pain and reality that she faced as a woman in Guatemala, something that women are still facing today. I have been blessed with the opportunity of believing that I can do anything I set my mind to. This should be a basic right given to all, when in reality millions of people will never see the kind of opportunity I take for granted everyday. Today is only our first day and I am already full of inspiration. My parents are going to be surprised when I return home with a new sense of confidence and determination.
Susannah Shakow shared with us a story that sums up my impression of her. She told us about being laid off from her job at a law firm. She spent 5 minutes feeling sorry for herself before realizing that she could turn this into great opportunity. She decided to make a change and spend her time nurturing her passion: an organization she helped to create, WUF Pack. WUF stands for Women Under Forty, it is an organization that supports women under forty years of age who are running for office. With Mrs. Shakow’s commitment and willingness to seize opportunity, WUF Pack has grown into a wonderful organization.
Mrs. Shakow taught us that we cannot control what life will throw at us, but we can control how we react to it. When unexpected things happen, we must take the time to recognize the doors that have opened. There will be things in our life that will surprise us and turn our world around. In meeting Mrs. Shakow, we have had the opportunity to hear from a person who was able to push through her emotional reactions and find a new door open. It is inspiring. Change isn’t bad, it’s only different.
There’s nothing like the rush you get when you are racing out the door, down the rain soaked streets, and through the metro, trying to arrive in time for an interview that you found out about 5 minutes before. Just trying to make it to the Susannah Shakow interview was its own feat, but the actual interview made it all worth it. We only had a half hour to bombard her with questions and we made sure to use every minute to our advantage. Susannah Shakow was the embodied grace, knowledge, and passion. Her greatest strength was the balance she held effortlessly between her work and her family.
Instead of a formal interview, we were able to have a conversation with her. This made us realize how down to earth and real she is. What I most enjoyed about the meeting with Susannah was seeing that she deeply believed in what she was working towards. She is dedicated to finding and helping all women with interest in politics. She also works to spark interest in women as young as high school students. She has been an inspiration to our group and a great finale to our day of power women.
“The Last Mile”
We trekked through the DC jungle, complete with pouring rain and crazy metro adventures not to mention the miscalculation of the final destination. We were all soaking wet, losing all formation of our hairstyles that were a gamble in the first place.
We had trouble finding the room but once we walked in, we found Susannah Shakow sitting at a large oblong table. For those of you who have never seen Susannah, the most accurate way to describe her would be to compare her to someone like Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn, the kind of woman who personifies presence, poise and utter elegance.
I admit that towards the beginning of the interview I was wondering how this woman was in anyway significant compared to Maria Pacheco, basically a woman who stands in my future shoes (if all goes as planned!). I noticed that Susannah kept looking at her blackberry as if she was about to be late for something just a tad more important than the high school students in front of her, looking like wet dogs. But then she explained where she needed to be in 30 minutes; she needed to pick up her kids from school. I had forgotten that political women could have kids! They always seem to be hard and cold, not at all like the mothers I know. Susannah has managed to be a very successful lawyer, politician, businesswoman and mother. She has made a commitment to pick her kids up after school everyday and then do homework with them. I then saw what I was going to take away from the interview. Women can be incredibly successful in their careers, touch many lives and also be the mother that their children need, and do it with elegance.