I was thrilled to attend a book party in Milwaukee at my favorite bookstore, Boswell Book Company. The bookstore has changed names a few times over the years — Webster’s and Harry Schwartz before its current incarnation. It was here where I bought books as a senior in high school, socializing and studying at the former cafes next door as I began my self education and came of age. To this day, barely a week goes by when I don’t stop in, often with my kids who everyone at the store knows by name. So to have my book displayed and sold here is very personally meaningful for me.
Our program began by showing the film Brad Lichtenstein — who just won a major arts award in Milwaukee the day before — made with us. Then I had the task of introducing the book to so many people in the book — my Mom and sister; Kimberly Bruce, my partner in creating Public Allies Milwaukee; my second Mom Joanne Murphy; Peter Hoeffel, whose story opens the book; Sharlen Moore from chapter 4; Wayne Lawrenz, who mentored me through my toughest teen years; and others. And I had the task of acknowledging and thanking our Allies, alumni, staff, and supporters in the audience, which could have gone on for a long time. It’s taken a village to raise this child and this organization.
Then Alisha Klapps, who appears on the cover of Everyone Leads and who reflects on her leadership development in chapters 6 and 8, spoke. She described a time when she had not thought of herself as a leader and did not understand how she could contribute as a leader. It was a Public Ally alumna, Elysse Wageman, who noticed Alisha’s potential and encouraged her to apply for the program. It was in a team project that Alisha realized that her more “nurturing” leadership style was a huge asset. When she noticed things weren’t working and people weren’t being honest with each other, she called it out and helped the team talk it out and recommit. Alisha realized the power of a quiet leader and discovered what her contribution could be.
Today, Alisha is still working where she was placed as an Ally, is completing her undergraduate degree, and plans to attend graduate school. I am so proud of her, and grateful for her story.
Nicole Thomas, a Chicago alumna currently leading our Milwaukee site, eloquently closed the program with her own story and passion about supporting our current Allies. She inspired many in the audience to contribute to our local program.
That is what made the night so magical. I saw again the beauty of the diverse leadership network I’ve had a hand in building at Public Allies. The night brought me back to my roots as relationships from throughout my crazy life journey were assembled. I saw people whose stories have inspired me. I saw people who, like me, found their potential after many years of self-doubt. I was able to watch my 11-year-old daughter Olivia and her friend Alice corner U.S. Representative Gwen Moore to talk about school funding and animal rights. My children Max and Maya became impromptu greeters and kept popping up at my signing table for hugs and kisses. My partner Jennifer and so many close friends expressed their love and pride.
As I said before, it took a village to raise me and I am grateful for the love and support of so many without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today, or even alive.