Sunday, April 6, 2014

LA Fellows Graduation Speeches - Cohort 9, Part II

Cohort 9 selected three members of its ranks to speak at the commencement ceremony held on Friday March 21. Unlike previous cohorts, they coordinated their speeches as a progression of 3 to tell the story of their journey through the LA Fellows experience. These are the words of the second speaker, Phyllis Baginski.

Many, many years ago the tribe was in great danger and the leaders did not know what to do.  So they went to the wise old shaman of the tribe.  But he too, was afraid, for he had no answers for the People’s fear.  He decided therefore, to go on a medicine quest to implore the Great Spirit for guidance.

He went into the wilderness and fell into a trance and when he awoke he had knowledge of a sacred place he must go to and a sacred dance he must dance and a sacred song he must sing.  So he went to the place and he danced the dance and he sang the song, and the people were saved.

Years later the People were once again in great danger.  As before, the leaders came to the shaman for guidance.  And he said, “I do not remember the place but I do remember the dance and the song.”  So he danced the dance and he sang the song, and the people were saved.

After that, the same thing happened, the danger returned and the leaders came once more for help.  The old man said, “ I do not remember the place or the dance but I do remember the song.”  So he sang the song and the people were saved.

Then it was the time of the last of the great shamans.  One final time the people were in danger, and the leaders sought the wise elder’s aid.  His memory was dimmed by his years and he said, “ I do not remember the place, or the dance, or the song, but I do remember the story.”  So he told the story – and the people were saved.

Stories heal.  Stories communicate.  Stories are swirling all around LA Fellows.  Stories were told in the front of the room by the instructors.  We told stories by the seat of our pants from our seats in the classroom.  We told silent stories – not a word being said.

Speaking of words.  There’s the resume. It’s factual, strong, important.  You fire bullets, load it with accomplishments.  You’re armed.

But that’s not all.  Its “Tell me something about yourself.”  On paper and in person.  Like a documentary.  The kind where the filmmaker follows the kid in 1st grade, then in middle school, college, marriage, kids, divorce.  A living, breathing documentary of you and me.

That’s when you’re ready to take the resume on the road.  We call this “networking”.  Where you tell somebody something about yourself and they tell you about themselves.  You’re LinkedIn.  After a time you have a relationship.  And through that relationship you may get to meet a hiring manager at the “interview”.  Here the stakes are higher.  You must persuade.  Be the one.  Be strong in your weaknesses.  

I watch “The Voice”.  A singing competition show on TV.  Adam Levine, one of the judges, turned to another judge at one point and said, “Please, let this one be the one.”  Be the one. They want you to be good. 

All the while this was going on, in the cracks and crevices of the day-to-day, were the stories we told each other. Caught moments at lunch under the trees or on the way to Parking Lot B.   We started out talking about ourselves as professionals. We talked about our families, our sons and daughters.  Soon we dropped down a little deeper and talked to one another about what we saw in each other.  “I really admire how you’re always willing to get up there.” “You know, I can see you as a CFO.” “You have an analytical mind.”  And so we became willing to be seen and became comfortable being the person on the resume with all the accomplishments.  As we dropped a bit deeper the stories got shorter.  A look, a smile of encouragement or a touch on the arm was all it took.  Deeper still, was the story of the donuts, until we devoured them.

We had musical accompaniment for our story.  We actually got to dance the dance and sing the song to the beat of drums.

Then move on we must, for we never got too comfortable in this program.  We took our story to the non-profits.  And would explore new worlds and new civilizations that Leroy will tell you all about.

And finally, there’s the over-riding story that goes on.  Whirring like an engine.  Sustaining and supporting us all as we made our way through the LA Fellows Program.  It’s the vision and structure of this program that supports a space that people are invited to enter and be transformed.  With deep appreciation to the creators and sustainers of that space.  You danced the dance and sang the song and the people were saved.  

Phyllis is among the first success stories for Cohort 9 beginning a new position with Home Goods the week prior to graduation.

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