Learning with TBOE

Lessons learnt from the Women of the White House

Posted on September 28th, 2018 in Event News, Industry Insight, Leadership, Speaker Interview

We all have women we admire in our lives – the ones who teach, lead and inspire us to do great things. For Laura Schwartz those women were some of the most powerful and inspirational women in America, with whom she interacted during her time as Director of Events at the White House during the Clinton Administration.

We spoke with Laura, as she shared with us some of the lessons she learnt from some of the world’s most inspirational women.

Hillary Clinton: listen to diverse opinions

Hillary Clinton, the first lady during Laura’s time at the White House, showed Laura the importance of being open-minded. Hillary always asked for a variety of opinions, even when she had her own ideas about a subject – and she always listened.

It can be easy to become close-minded in our opinions and perspectives, but Hillary remained open to others and always included other women around her. She taught Laura the value of inclusion and that you can always learn something from each person you meet. This is something that Laura tries to incorporate every time she’s organising an event.

She says, “I’m going to ask someone that has a completely different experience with the project, the policy or the event. I want to ask somebody that’s younger than me to get their perspective. I want to ask somebody that’s older than me to get theirs. I know my perspective really well, and I try to empathise with and learn about other people’s perspectives.”

Evelyn Lieberman: the importance of speaking up

Speaking up, particularly in the company of superiors or those we admire, can be incredibly daunting. If Hillary Clinton taught Laura to listen, then Evelyn Lieberman, the first female White House deputy chief of staff, taught her to speak out – and be heard – regardless of who else was in the room.

Laura recalls, “Evelyn was as tough as she was kind. She made sure that people work hard regardless of their age. She made sure people were always heard, and she told me, ‘Hey, I didn’t hear you speak up in that meeting. Come tomorrow with something.’”

Evelyn’s encouragement gave Laura the confidence to speak out and contribute to meetings. Evelyn didn’t believe that age or seniority were prerequisites for contributing to the conversation – everyone deserves to speak up and be heard.

Rosa Parks: strength comes in all shapes and sizes

Rosa Parks, figurehead of the civil rights movement, showed Laura that strength comes in many forms. Even in her old age in the 1990s, Rosa embodied the strength of spirit and character she showed in her youth.

Laura says, “By looking at how someone carries themselves – and how someone believes, speaks, discusses and dissents or agrees – really shapes an inner strength of them that we can see, and we can bring a little about that into ourselves. So, strength comes in every shape, size and age, every race and gender, but that’s especially what I learnt from Rosa Parks.”

It can often be hard to find our own strength. There are days when we feel a task is beyond us, but as Laura put it herself after meeting Rosa Parks, who bravely refused to follow the orders of a racist society, “You can’t help but take away the fact that if she could have strength on that day, all those years ago, I can have strength on any day.”

Oprah Winfrey: even heroes have their heroes

Oprah Winfrey is an inspiration to countless people worldwide for her strength, determination and charitable acts. Yet she showed Laura that even champions needs their inspiration, their person who ‘sets the bar’.

Laura remembers, “I asked Oprah Winfrey who sets her bar, what got her to be her. It was a teacher. It was a third-grade teacher that set her bar when she was that age, and that’s how she knew she could overcome the many race obstacles, gender obstacles and abuse obstacles. It was because of a teacher.”

Laura Schwartz: it’s never too late

After her time at the White House, surrounded by powerful and inspiring women, Laura Schwartz has a message of her own to share.

“No matter what stage of your career, no matter what age you are, it’s never too late to finish the project you want to set your mind to, or start a new one, and we do that by inviting the people around us that mean the most to us to help us, to give us insight, to reach beyond just our four walls. It’s never too late to make an impact and get something done.”

To hear more from Laura Schwartz and her time at the White House, book your ticket to The Business of Events, 7- 8 February 2019 at Sheraton on the Park, Sydney.