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Women's Leadership: The Politics of Community
Gail S. Schoettler, Lieutenant Governor of Colorad

My professional career in both the private and public sectors has provided many opportunities to discuss the evolving role of women in our society, and to think about the influences that helped me reach my goals. Women are justifiably proud of their traditional roles as wives, mothers and caregivers. But, in reaching for a fuller participation in the workings of our society, we encountered challenges that were tremendously daunting and would have been insurmountable, I suspect, without the encouragement of certain mentors who believed that women###s aspirations should be as unlimited as men###s.

Initially, I found those mentors in my parents, teachers and community leaders. My parents taught me to believe in myself, to value education and the rewards of hard work, and to preserve my integrity at all costs. Teachers taught me the job of learning as a lifetime pursuit, the empowerment of gaining and employing skills, and the enrichment we bring to our lives by setting high standards and striving to achieve them. Community leaders showed me by their actions the importance of giving back to the community and taught me that no society can prosper without the selfless contributions of volunteers.

Later, towering figures like Eleanor Roosevelt made a profound impression on me. Her vision of a just society and the influence she exerted on U.S. efforts toward that goal, not as an elected official but rather as a concerned citizen who made the most of her opportunities, were vivid examples of the power of ideas to influence change.

What I learned from each of them in one form or another is the important contribution that a well-prepared and committed individual, female or male, can make in helping to shape a better society.

As a woman in politics, always in the public eye, those lessons served me well. The qualities of leadership include vision, integrity, determination, knowing what you want and how to communicate its value to others who will support you, recognition of your strengths and weaknesses, and the resiliency to weather the ups and downs of life without wavering in your commitment.

The solid foundation my mentors provided enabled me to learn and grow from my experiences. I learned that chaos is opportunity and that one secret of success is turning negatives into positives. By focusing on solutions rather than differences, the dynamics of opposing groups can produce remarkable results.

I###ve also learned that how I spend my leisure time can effectively influence my ability to accomplish. So, I climb Colorado###s highest peaks (more than half of the Fourteeners so far) because it###s great to remind oneself of what it looks like from the summit. I cook elaborate meals for my family and friends whenever time permits because it###s worth remembering what well-blended ingredients graciously served can do for contentment and peace of mind.

Throughout my career, I###ve tried to represent the best interests of all people, but particularly I have worked on issues that will enable women to realize their full potential. In focusing on the importance of an excellent education, of full gender equity in education and in the workplace, of the vast and badly needed contribution that 52% of the people in this country can make if we break down artificial barriers, I###ve tried to do for others what so many people did for me. They gave me a chance, an example and an appreciation for what I could do if I tried. If I can do the same for the generations that follow, I###ll have enjoyed a highly successful career.

Gail S. Schoettler is Lieutenant Governor of Colorado and the Democratic candidate for the office of Governor. She has served as the State Treasurer, President of the Douglas County (CO) Board of Education, executive director of the Colorado Department of Personnel, and has been a successful businesswoman. She has also served on numerous boards of profit and non-profit institutions. She holds a BA with honors in Economics from Stanford University and both MA and Ph.D. degrees in History from the University of California at Santa Barbara.