Wow, what an amazing event for those attending the 3rd HWW Annual State Capitol Garden Party, on June 25th. Women were drawn to the Womens’ Suffrage Memorial Garden by the drumbeat of the Mu Daiko Drummers. Enthusiasm grew as women networked, connected and learned about the many organizations at the vendor tables full of great take aways.
HWW founder and CEO, Nancy Stephan welcomed women to the Garden Party and began the program with an Honoring Circle. Women circled up to be seen and heard in the powerful energy of the Womens’ Suffrage Memorial Garden. Each shared her name and one thing she does to honor herself. To energize and connect everyone, HWW board member, Yvette Trotman got them moving to upbeat music and back to their seats.
Robyne Robinson, Master of Ceremonies, entrepreneur, artist and award-winning former TV news anchor kicked off the program: “Thriving Together: Reaching Across Generations and Cultures.” Singer, Thomasina Petrus, received a plug for her amazing cashew brittle as she entered the stage. Those attending enjoyed the samplings as she sang the jazzy “Take 5.”
Women sat spellbound as Sue K. Hammersmith, President, Metropolitan State University read her thought provoking poem, “Everywoman, In Black and White”.
Jocelyn Sims, Principal, Battle Creek Middle School, shared how impactful the Honoring Leaders of Tomorrow, middle school mentoring program facilitated by HWW has influenced her students and encouraged Garden Party attendees to sign up to become mentors. Amelia Hardy, 3M Company, a mentor alum, and Jackie Boogaard, mentee alum, of the Art of Honoring Leadership Development mentoring program for 1st generation college students of color spoke about their career changing experiences in the program and the outstanding benefits they've received as mentor and mentee.
Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Amy Koch were honored for their leadership and contributions to help Minnesota women thrive. Allison O’Toole accepted the award for Senator Klobuchar. Senator Koch, shared her experience of her first time on the Senate floor when she addressed the house; she pointed out that the gold quadriga (the horse and chariot) on the State Capitol building is being lead by two women. It is fitting because, for the first time several major roles in Minnesota government are held by women, including her role as the GOP majority leader. Her message echoing that of the Garden Party, “Girls can be anything too.”
Robyne Robinson panel moderator, Elizabeth B. Kautz, Mayor of Burnsville, MN, Susan K. Nestegard, President, Global Health Care, Ecolab, Inc. and Suzanne Koepplinger, MA, Executive Director of Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center each shared her personal story. Robyne’s journey started humbly on a Greyhound Bus, arriving from Chicago without a job. She shares her story because , “You never know when your story will touch someone’s life”. Stopped by a man at the Salvation Army early in her career as a news anchor, she shared her story and encouraged him to believe, he could pull himself out of any situation. Five years later at the TV station, Robyne received a letter from the man saying her five minute conversation with him changed his life: he stopped drinking, met a woman and got married, and really turned his life around. Her point, we each have a story that needs to be shared; we never know who it might touch.
Susan Nestegard, President of Global Healthcare at Ecolab Inc, shared that her childhood was marked by an unemployed, absentee father and a hardworking mother who was unable to provide for their family. Susan learned early on to work hard and provide for herself: at age 12 she was shopping for her own toothpaste and toilet paper. When her high school guidance counselor asked her about college, Susan hadn’t even considered it; she did not think she could go. He suggested she think about becoming a chemical engineer. Due to his suggestion and his guidance regarding financial aid; Susan went to college and studied to become a chemical engineer. Starting her first job as a chemical engineer she was struck by how much money her starting salary was and wondered why more women did not pursue careers as engineers. Committed to helping women thrive, Susan engages and supports women however she can.
Suzanne Koepplinger, Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, comes from a racially mixed background and has strongly felt a connection to her mixed heritage throughout her life. She is a survivor of domestic abuse and rescued from that relationship by police officers and social workers. Upon healing from her past, Suzanne chose to take her experience and turn it into something productive by going back to school. Frightened, by believing she was not smart enough; she chose the only program she did not have to test into. Once in school, she felt empowered, found her voice, and realized she was smart enough. She completed a master’s degree in leadership and went on to help other Indian women in her community.
Elizabeth Kautz, Mayor of Burnsville, MN grew up in a loving and nurturing, value-based household with a strong, Caucasian, businessman father and a Samoan mother. Though her heritage is mixed, when people consider her race, they see her Samoan mother. Elizabeth’s father passed away during her late teens; as the oldest of eight siblings she became in charge of taking care of the household and her grief-stricken mother. When it was time for her to go to college, she listened to the advice of her father to pursue higher education and always give back; even though her mother did not want her to leave the family. Elizabeth’s choice to leave for college; inspired her mother to reconnect with her life. Elizabeth has set her goals high by following the values, wisdom, and example from her family. She understood the value of focusing on the end product and the hard work it takes to get there, and refused to close her mind to potential solutions to even the most difficult problems. Elizabeth continues to inspire and support women to believe they can; go through the tough stuff to make a difference and give back!
After panel introductions; the audience formed circles of three to address three things: what are the barriers to thriving women need to overcome; how do we start talking about the “tough stuff” happening in Minnesota; and what is one immediate action you can take to assist women on how to thrive. Conversations were passionate and inspiring, some of which were captured on note cards (click here to read the responses). Many common themes echoed in the audiences’ comments and panel responses. An example; we need to stop sending negative messages to our daughters and ourselves and using negative language regarding women’s roles, voices, self-worth, and abilities. It’s time to ask for help, support each other, and focus on building our community. As women, we need to set examples of positive behavior, take more leadership roles and increase the visibility of women’s achievements and unique stories.
Inspiring and empowering, Thomasina ended the program with her rendition of “Our Day Will Come.” Though there is a long way to go, thru the panelist’s amazing stories, small group conversations, and actions women committed to; women left energized to help themselves and other women thrive.
Thanks to you, our amazing Emcee and panelists Robyne Robinson, Elizabeth Kautz, Susan Nestegard, and Suzanne Koepplinger. Our performers: Sue Hammersmith, Thomasina Petrus, and the Mu Daiko Drummers for making our Garden Party an outstanding success and experience!
Thank you 3M Company, Wells Fargo, HealthPartners Institute for Medical Education, Metropolitan State University, Battle Creek Middle School, CHS Inc, and the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx our Supporting Sponsors of the 3rd Annual State Capitol Garden Party. We thank our Collaborating Sponsors: Amnesty International, Coldwater Creek, Girl Scouts River Valley, Twin Cities Rise, and William Mitchell College of Law; and the Participating Sponsors: A. F. Image, Aspire Chiropractic, Consult Imago, House of Talents, MJAS LLC, One Dish at A Time, Program of Academic Exchange, and UXL. Without all of your support, there could be no Garden Party!
Thanks to you, all of our participants for bringing your energy and uniqueness to this inspiring event.
Please put next year’s Garden Party, June 23, 2012, on your calendar! We want you to join us!