Language Is Important

Interview with Ambassador Melanne Verveer

Melanne Verveer
Fiona Burgess

If I had been asked at the beginning of the year what I thought our trip to Washington, D.C. would look like it certainly wouldn’t be online interviews in the middle of a pandemic. The DC learning journey is something I have been looking forward to since my brother went in 2016. I am fascinated by politics, government, and diplomacy. While I am disappointed that we couldn’t travel as a class, and gain the experience of being in the heart of our government, I am thrilled to be able to spend this week speaking to so many inspiring leaders.

This morning we were incredibly lucky to interview Ambassador Melanne Verveer. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. In addition to this role, she has spent her career fighting for women’s rights and equality and held numerous governmental positions. Our interview led to various topics on women’s issues, however, what really stuck with me was her discussion on building trust through dialogue and gaining respect through listening and understanding different perspectives. Especially in our current political climate, I see it as essential that we look towards connection with one another rather than division. As Melanne Verveer explained, if you want to build connections or get others to understand your side of an argument, “Language is important, communication is important, who you talk to is important.”

I plan to let myself listen and be guided by such wise words as I begin my intended education and career in international relations.


Corey Mensinger

Today we had the opportunity to interview Ambassador Melanne Verveer. After talking with her a bit about our interview with Secretary George Shultz the previous day, we started to ask her our prepared questions. Each answer she provided was enriching. She talked about women’s rights and equality, and how these issues applied to the current state of the country, and around the world. She talked about closing the gap between men and women in areas such as education, work and pay, and also politics and government. It was very clear how important women’s rights are to her, and it was amazing to hear her speak about something she was so passionate about.

What struck me the most was the advice she gave us about contributing to our society. She told us to keep doing what we want to do that will help our community. She also shared with us examples she has heard about students who are helping their communities during the COVID-19 crises. She said the fact that we want to help is enough of a start. That inspires me to work hard and do more for the communities I am a part of. It was empowering to hear her talk, and doing this interview, alongside our interview yesterday with Secretary Shultz, has made me very excited for the interviews to come.


Oliver Mensinger

Getting to interview Melanne Verveer was an unbelievable experience. She gave strong answers to all of our questions and she was very inspiring. She talked about what is holding people back from accepting women’s rights, her work with Hillary Clinton, and how we have definitely made progress towards gender equality.

I was honestly very scared going into the interview with her even though we had many questions prepared. Despite my nervousness, the interview went well.   I really respect how she took each question and gave us a solid, satisfying answer. It is impressive to look at all the work she has done. After this interview, I feel more prepared for the interviews to come.


Kira Kaplan

We were all bustling; a Zoom call carrying 30 teenagers is bound to have some movement. Everyone was feeling fidgety, either from excitement or nerves, or often both. She had joined the call, unbeknownst to most of us. I heard her before I saw her.

 “Hi everybody!” She announced herself with such purpose, as if to say, “I am here, and you’d better listen to me!” At once every eye followed her. There was a strength to her presence that seemed to resonate (even with the thousands of miles between us). That was the start of what I knew was going to be a great interview. 

Kira asks a question on Zoom

I have to say, what I found the most inspiring about Melanne Verveer wasn’t what she said, although there were plenty of gems to fill a vault, but rather how she carried herself. In talking to strong individuals and leaders, both in my personal life and in interviews, I’ve noticed a difference in the way that many men and women carry themselves. I see that some men are convinced from years of masculine power that their opinion has its rightful place. However, many women seem more reserved. They talk from years of oppression and imbalance, posing their opinions with some hesitance, providing an escape route if things get messy. While these approaches are in no ways rigid, there are outspoken women and more reserved men, in my experience this often is the case. To see Melanne Verveer come into the interview with such assurance that this was her place to be was truly awe-inspiring. She carried herself with a form of dignity. Every word out of her mouth was spoken with strength and commitment. There was no hesitance or reserve in the way she commanded herself or the room. She was someone who had confidence in herself, and would not be pushed around. She was an inspiration to how I wish to move forward in the world, with strength, courage, and a belief in myself.


Cecilia Rothman Salado

It is safe to say that many of us were probably feeling a bit nervous for this interview because although yesterday’s interview with George Shultz was amazing, we had some technical difficulties. However, I am happy to say that the interview that we had with Melanna Verveer today went smoothly and she enlightened all of us with her brilliant responses to our questions. 

I would say that the answer that resonated with me the most was her response to our very first question, “Has the Covid crisis impacted or changed your work in the world or the agenda in your work at Georgetown in any way?” Her response made me realize just how much women have been affected during this crisis. It is obvious that people all over the world, no matter their background, are being affected by this crisis in some shape or form. But Melanne Verveer made me realize just how hard women have it. To start things with, women don’t hold a majority of higher paying jobs. So, as this virus continues to take people’s job, lots of women aren’t feeling the stability and the comfort that other people feel with higher paying jobs. Another thing that she pointed out was the fact that women are mainly holding the burden of the care. There are many women that hold  high demand jobs right now, such jobs in the medical field (91% of nurses are women), or jobs as caregivers. These jobs require interacting with other people which puts these women and their families in danger.  In addition, as well as caring for others, many women take on more of the burden of caring for their families.  Melanne Verveer also shared the horrifying fact that since the shelter in place,  domestic violence in households has gone way up, putting many women in danger. All of these factors made it clear to me that women have it very rough during these times.

Melanne Verveer also said something that brought us hope. She told us that because of this pandemic, we are given the opportunity to build back society better than it was before. Hopefully we will because we are now seeing the many inequalities first hand. We can build back and make this world a safer, healthier, and happier place for women all over the world. Something good can come out of something terrible.