Shirley Franklin

Young, Gifted and Ready to Lead - March 21, 2008

Shirley Franklin
March 21, 2008— Atlanta, Georgia
Shirley Clarke Franklin Lecture Series (inaugural lecture)
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This is a great time to talk about how young, smart and gifted young women can lead because March is National Women’s History Month

National Women’s History Month dates back to March 8, 1857, when women from New York City factories staged a protest over working conditions. International Women’s Day was first observed in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1981 that Congress established National Women’s History Week to be commemorated the second week of March. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month. Every year since, Congress has passed a resolution for Women’s History Month, and the president has issued a proclamation.

I also like this school because

  • It is named after a great Atlantan, Coretta Scott King who dedicated her life to the civil and human rights campaign long after her husband. Martin Luther King’s assassination

  • And it reminds me of the all-girls school that I attended in Philadelphia.

Since this is Women’s History Month, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about leadership and some young women in history have helped to change our world.

  • Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education was the legal case which desegregated schools and allowed African American students to attend schools with white children and white children to attend with Black children. At that time, the law was that African American children had to go to school with other African Americans and white students had to go to school with whites. In order for students to be able to choose their schools, a family had to sue the school district. The courageous young girl who changed public education access in America was Linda Brown, a third grader, who had to walk 21 blocks to her school bus stop to ride to Monroe Elementary, her segregated black school one mile away, while Sumner Elementary, a white school, was only seven blocks from her house but she could not attend.

As we celebrate “Young, Gifted and Ready to Lead” let us not forget Linda Brown.

  • Anne Frank, was a German-born Jewish girl who wrote a diary while in hiding with her family, in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. As persecutions against the Jewish population increased, the family went into hiding in her father’s office building. After two years, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Seven months after her arrest, Anne Frank died of typhus in a concentration camp. The diary, which was given to Anne on her 13th birthday, chronicles her young life from June 12, 1942 until August 1, 1944. Anne Frank has been acknowledged for the quality of her writing, and has become one of the most renowned and discussed of Holocaust victims. Many of you may have already read the Dairy of Anne Frank.

As we celebrate “Young, Gifted and Ready to Lead” let us not forget Anne Frank.

Both of these young girls like many of you probably never planned to become part of history but their courageous and dramatic contributions have inspired many.

My mother was a teacher and she instilled in me that one of the most important assets in life was an education. When I attended Philadelphia’s Girls School, I saw women teaching every subject, they lead the school and all my classmates were girls. So everywhere I looked in school I saw role models and I believed that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I put my mind to it.

But even though I was confident and smart as a young student, I was also shy and not very outspoken.

When I decided to run for office, my former bosses had to convince me that I could actually do it because I wasn’t sure and I was kinda afraid I couldn’t do a good job.

So I didn’t really feel like Linda Brown or Anne Frank but I believed that if I ran for office, that I was going to-run-to-win. I owed that to my daughters and other young girls that I met but I also owed a debt to all the women who sacrificed so that I would even dare to become the first female mayor in a southern city…..women like Coretta King, Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune and so many others.

As Mayor I have learned that there are some good qualities that I think are critical to becoming a good leader.

Leaders help their classmates and teammates become better. They don’t just tell people what to do they encourage and inspire them to do better.

  • Good leaders know the difference between right and wrong and they are not afraid to stand up for they believe in

  • Intelligence-leaders who are smart, who study and who excel academically are more likely to be self-confident and responsible—this doesn’t mean that you know everything but you strive for academic excellence

  • Take responsibility for themselves and their decisions—they do not blame others for their shortcomings or mistakes

  • Leaders consistently work to improve their communication skills, so that they don’t just talk but they also listen.

There are a lot of ways you can nurture your leadership skills and help to prepare you for high school, college and your careers. I encourage you to join organizations like the Girl Scouts, YWCA, your churches, synagogues, temples, sports teams, and volunteer groups that will help you become a more effective team member and leader.

As I close this inaugural lecture I want to leave you all with these words.

"Mediocre leaders tell. Superior leaders demonstrate. Good leaders explain. Great leaders inspire. Be bold and valiant."

Thank you.

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