Dee Dee Myers, L.H.D. ’05 Offers Keynote Address
During Centennial Weekend, a capacity crowd of William Smith alumnae and members of the HWS community gathered in the Vandervort Room for one purpose: to recognize the importance of women leaders and the efforts of several leaders in the William Smith community. The William Smith Alumnae Association Centennial Luncheon featured an awards ceremony followed by a keynote speech by political analyst and commentator Dee Dee Myers L.H.D. ’05.
“There’s no one better equipped to speak about women’s leadership with our students and the many alumnae, alumni and friends returning for Centennial weekend than Dee Dee Myers,” said President Mark D. Gearan. “As the first female White House Press Secretary and one of the youngest people to hold the position, Dee Dee knows the importance of female leadership.”
In the vanguard role for the Clinton Administration as political analyst and commentator, Myers gained the respect of the nation and media alike. She is the author of the recent New York Times bestseller, “Why Women Should Rule the World.”
“The most important premise of the book was that it’s not p.c.,” explained Myers. “The argument is about self-interest. Women having a role in leadership is the right thing because it’s in all of our best interest; we’re not asking for a favor.”
Applying her theory to all sectors, from business to health to politics, Myers supported her hypothesis that women deserve a place in top positions and have advanced nearly all areas they’ve guided. “But even with this panacea of progress that all of this portends, why am I still standing here? Why are we still talking about this issue?” she asked. “The reason is that there are a number of obstacles – both external and internal – standing in our way.
“The most obvious external obstacle for women is double standards,” Myers said. “Everything from blind auditions for rehearsals to blind résumé studies has proven that women are as qualified as men across the board, even in fields that we were once thought to be ‘incapable of.'”
Myers said that there are a number of things she things are needed in order to overcome obstacles.
“First, we need to change the way we think and talk about motherhood – the brain doesn’t simply go into hibernation; instead, it builds many essential qualities of leadership,” she said. “Also, women have to accept the choices that other women make – we have to understand that we’re all trying to balance the competing demands placed upon us; otherwise, we undermine each other’s credibility.”
Summing up her thoughts on the topic, Myers said: “There’s not always one solution to a problem. Often, women have additional solutions that male leaders would not be able to come up with, whether by way of intellect, intuition, compassion or intelligent understanding.”
Before joining the Clinton administration, Myers worked on a variety of local, state and national political campaigns. She served as press secretary during Dianne Feinstein’s 1990 gubernatorial bid in California, and worked on the presidential campaigns of Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and Vice President Walter F. Mondale. She also worked on the staffs of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and California State Senator Art Torres.
Myers – an honorary degree recipient in 2005 – was preceded at the podium by the presentation of several awards given to women leaders from the William Smith community. The awards and their recipients were the following:
• The President’s Medal: Awarded to Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 in recognition of her deep and multifaceted contributions to William Smith College. Zupan has been one of the most significant members of the William Smith Alumna Association, coordinating six class reunions. She also contributed significantly to William Smith through the Heron Society and the William Smith Centennial Fund. For nearly 15 years, Zupan has been a member of the Board of Trustees and has become a leader among leaders as the vice chair of the Board.
• The Hai Timiai Award: Given for the first time this year, the Hai Timiai Senior Honor Society recognized Dining Services Catering Manager Pat Heieck P’88, President’s Chief of Staff Lauren Shallish ’05 and Jennie Seidewand ’09 who lead by example with great dedication, passion and excitement.
• The Centennial Bowl: This award was given to William Smith Centennial Fund Vice President Mara O’Laughlin ’66 in honor of her leadership, enthusiasm and determination in her role within the Centennial Fund as well as her pioneering role as director of admissions for 31 years, admitting 2/3 of all living William Smith alumnae.
• The Heron Award: Given to Mary Stowell Nelson ’82, P’10 and Ginger Adams Simon ’83 in honor of their commitment to William Smith Athletics. Nelson and Simon – two members of the William Smith Field Hockey team in 1981 – were responsible for making the Heron their college’s mascot.