It’s been a very long week. We’ve woken up pretty early every morning and stayed up pretty late every night, either working on interviews or hanging out past bedtime. Every day we have had interviews to go to, places to be, and that requires walking and riding the metro. Walking and riding the metro require most of our attention and that can be in short supply sometimes. Everyone has been tired, hot, and grumpy at one point or another. On top of that, our group contracted the “plague”. So far seven people have experienced symptoms of this “hostel flu” and the rest of us have witnessed the horrors.
But our trip so far has been fun, interesting, and inspiring. It takes a lot of work to write up an adequate interview and I’ll admit I haven’t put 100% of my energy into making all of them great. I am thankful I have some hardworking, diligent friends who have at times worked until one o’clock in the morning to make the interviews engaging ones. It also takes energy to be in the interview; to pay attention, to be mindful of posture, to answer questions we are asked. But when I get past all of that, I am able to listen and learn a lot.
One of my favorite interviews so far has been with Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. When she came into the room, she immediately shook all of our hands and wanted to know our names. We had a lot of laughs with her and even got a high-five out of the experience.
My favorite part of the interview is when the interviewee gives us advice. There has been some short-term and long-term advice that has really stuck with me. Congressman Sam Farr advised us to follow our hearts. He said, “There isn’t anyone who has followed their heart and hasn’t ended up OK.” Although I’ve heard this kind of advice before, from Disney movies, from teachers, and even from my parents, the laidback importance of his statement had a profound impact on me. What I understood from him is that if we stay true to what we believe in and focus on our goals, we will be happy campers in the long run. Hearing this, at this time in my life, is what I need to be confident in the goals I have set for myself. It is wonderful knowing that I will be all right as long as I stay true to what I believe in and try to do what I love.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich gave us some short-term and long-term advice when he told us to find out how to help, how to be a part of the community. It was perfect advice for our current situation. There are always chores to be done and sickness in the group added to the amount of help that was needed. The more that people followed Congressman Kucinich’s advice, the more efficient we were as a group.
Now we’re actually on vacation up in the mountains. We even got our tan on. It’s beautiful up here and I already feel as though this week never happened. But tomorrow we’ll be heading back to continue the work and the process. It’s still hard to believe that we’re more than half way through this trip that we’ve been planning and working for all year. I know by the end I still won’t believe we actually did it. But we will have done it. We are doing it. And in my opinion, despite a few setbacks, we’re rocking at it.
Over the past week my classmates and I have had the privilege of meeting with countless leaders. We’ve interviewed individuals such as Layli Miller-Muro, Susannah Shakow, and Alyse Nelson. With each new encounter, I have learned of yet another quality that a leader should possess.
From Layli Miller-Muro I learned about the importance of confidence. She spoke with direct intention and a bit of humor. She wasn’t afraid to share personal stories with us. She told us that her energy to create change comes from her anger at injustice; that’s how she has the strength to make a difference. When I left the interview, I felt inspired to channel my future negative reactions towards change, just as Layli Miller-Muro has done.
Susannah Shakow taught me the importance of showing interest. During our interview she kept each individual engaged, simply by inquiring about our opinions. Her effort to capture our curiosity and inspire our minds was obvious through her enthusiastic explanations. This quality is necessary in a leader because in order for a true democracy to work everyone must be engaged so their voice is heard.
Alyse Nelson introduced the quality of empathy. She told us, “Empathy is one of the most important leadership skills.” Alyse Nelson explained that in order to be a good leader, one must know what their people are going through. This is important because a leader cannot represent the people if they don’t know the people. After interviewing Alyse Nelson, I wished that more people were spreading this message.
Washington D.C. is full of leaders, however, as Layli Miller-Muro said, “Many people aspire to be leaders, but they don’t always aspire to be good leaders.” These three women have the traits that create good leaders. Their confidence, enthusiasm, and empathy are qualities young aspiring leaders should look to for guidance.