“We are here to radically change the part of the planet you inhabit.”

Participants in the Chicago core seminar "Write to Change The World" at Medill's Chicago newsroom

This was definitely not your typical June Saturday.

We came, we saw and we conquered reticence, reluctance and any apology for striving to contribute to the world’s conversation and walk through “the front door into the marketplace of ideas.”

As participants in a day-long core seminar with The OpEd Project, more than 30 thought leaders convened at the Chicago newsroom of the Medill School at Northwestern University to do nothing less than attempt to change the world with words.

Seminar leader Katherine Lanpher, an award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster (full disclosure is she is a good friend), urged each one of the academics, business leaders, documentarians, authors and activists to own our expertise. It proved a confronting and oddly confrontational exercise.

A business owner of a $50 million company described herself intitially as someone who “works in a family business.” A therapist was reluctant to say how many families she had helped in 40 years of practice. An aspiring cookbook author played down her years of kitchen experience.

Lanpher was having none of it. She questioned each person in the room until he or she could adequately articulate a specific expertise. We applauded the aha moments of empowerment.

“The next time your instinct is to not own your expertise, think about other people,” Lanpher said, “This is always about other people.”

Katherine Lanpher

Also participating as a sponsor was Donna Gutman, founder of Women of the World, who encouraged members of her organization to dive into the challenges head-on.

Even if some of the participants came to The OpEd Project convinced it was about writing opinion and editorial pieces, they left with a more complicated conviction.

It is at first about creating “an evidence-based argument that is timely and of public value,” Lanpher said. And from that, comes a larger discourse that can lead to systemic change.

The day was about elevating new ideas and insights to a wider discussion with the goal of instituting real differences– in mindsets, laws, attitudes, trends, policies.

“If you don’t know what outcome you want, no one is going to imagine it for you,” Lanpher said.

The mission of The OpEd Project, with a Chicago office soon to be run by Deborah Siegel, and expanding to think tanks, non-profits, coporations and universities in addition to public training forums, “is an initiative to expand public debate, with an immediate focus on enlarging the pool, of women experts who are accessing the opinion forums.” That is the goal, according to founder Catherine Orenstein, also on hand in Chicago Saturday and helping facilitate the workshop.

“If you say things of consequence,” Orenstein said, “there may be consequences, but if you do not say anything, you will be inconsequential.”

Lanpher explained about the structure of a logical argument and the need “not to be right, but effective.”

Orenstein spoke about work “that opens a conversation instead of closes one.”

I listened intently. I am not a wallflower at the party of public debate. I have been a journalist writing opinion pieces and nonfiction books for more than three decades. I have been teaching journalism at The Medill School for more than 15 years, leading writing workshops for more than 15 years. I have given more than 200 keynotes across the country in the past 20 years. So I don’t need a lot of coaxing to speak my mind.

But, like so many of us, I have had setbacks and rejection in my professional life.

So something Lanpher said in an eight-hour incredibly inspiring day hit me between the eyeballs. So much so that I want to put it on a t-shirt, or at the very least on a Post-It on my bathroom mirror.

“You are all sitting on a solution for something,” Lanpher said.

Then, reminding everyone to persevere, she advised us with what may just become my life mantra:”No is a bump on the way to yes.”


Filed under Uncategorized

4 responses to ““We are here to radically change the part of the planet you inhabit.”

  1. With havin so much content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation?
    My site has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any methods to help reduce content from being stolen? I’d
    definitely appreciate it.

  2. Yes! Finally something about carpet water.

  3. hello there and thank you for your info – I have certainly picked up
    anything new from right here. I did however expertise a few
    technical points using this web site, since I experienced to reload the web site many times previous to I could get
    it to load properly. I had been wondering if your hosting is OK?

    Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will sometimes affect your
    placement in google and can damage your high quality score if
    advertising and marketing with Adwords. Anyway I’m adding this RSS to my e-mail and can look out for a lot more of your respective interesting content. Make sure you update this again very soon.

  4. Hello colleagues, its impressive article concerning cultureand completely explained,
    keep it up all the time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s