Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Most Magical Place on Earth: The National Book Festival

JLW volunteers Carly Rockstroh and Amy Shuart at 2013 NBF
By: Carly Rockstroh
JLW Sustainer, former Community Affairs Council Director (2012-13), former Literacy Event Planning chair (2011-12), former LEP Committee member (2009-12), and lifelong lover of books

Smiling volunteers in black and white JLW hats and bright colored T-shirts walk with clipboards and coffee in hand. A few eager readers start making their way to the Book Signing Lines with tote bags full of books, and I am tying an apron around my waist and stuffing Post-its and Sharpies in any available pockets. The sun is just rising, but the magic of the National Book Festival can be felt all around.

Soon, more crowds of people of all ages and demographics seem to come from every direction. I even recognize a few from previous Book Festivals. The calm of the morning quickly turns into a bubbling roar. JLW volunteers are wondering who the surprise “hit” author will be this year. Children squeal in anticipation that they will get to meet their favorite authors. History fanatics consult the schedule for the History pavilion author talks. A few fans line up for the first round of authors signing books—for JLW volunteers, it is time to get to work.
JLW volunteers at 2014 NBF

I have always been a lover of books, and the JLW’s commitment to literacy and the National Book Festival were two main reasons why I joined the JLW in 2007. I will always remember going to my first NBF the year before I became a member with my mother and grandmother. You practically had to restrain me from grabbing a white hat and a clipboard and getting in on the action.

JLW volunteers at 2014 NBF
So why is the National Book Festival so special? In many ways, the National Book Festival embodies who we are as a League and as a result, connects all of our members to our mission and our community. For New Members, it is the first volunteer experience they will have as a JLW member. For Actives and Sustainers, the National Book Festival is a tradition for which we are proud and passionate. For the Literacy Event Planning Committee, it is a labor of love that they work tirelessly for with the Library of Congress for the months leading up to the event. Volunteering at the National Book Festival is a way for our whole League to come together and share our love of books and reading and to help celebrate literacy with hundreds of thousands of readers every year.

JLW volunteers at 2014 NBF
In 2011, I had the absolute pleasure of chairing the Literacy Event Planning Committee and the over 500 JLW volunteers who made the Festival happen that year. To say it was a dream role would be an understatement. The next year, I had the opportunity to serve as the Community Affairs Council Director and loved seeing the NBF taken to an even greater level. Each year, I am impressed with how the JLW has become more and more involved in the Festival. From extending the Festival to two days in 2011, to moving from the beloved National Mall location to the Convention Center, the JLW has been an advisor to the Library of Congress on how to best organize and run the event, particularly the Book Signing Line areas. I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to work with the Library every year on the Festival and that they value our input and support. A successful Book Festival requires a strong army of smiling volunteers, and the JLW has been that army for 15 years. This year, I encourage you to volunteer at the National Book Festival to be a part of that magical, impactful army of JLW volunteers. Or, attend the Festival with friends, family, and children. However you get involved—bring your passion for books and literacy and the wonderful impact they can have on our community. Just like books can transport you to a new and special place, the National Book Festival can bring you, even just for a day, into a world where people of all shapes and sizes can come together.

JLW volunteers at the 2014 National Book Festival

Friday, July 29, 2016

The White House United State of Women Summit

On June 14, JLW members LaTonya Clark, Beverly Kirk, and Tycely Williams participated in the White House United State of Women Summit. The PR and New Media Committee caught up with them to learn more about the Summit and how it – similar to JLW’s mission – aims to develop the potential of women.

What did you learn about the state of women and girls as a result of attending the Summit?
Kirk: The United State of Women Summit was a terrific opportunity to learn what women working in different areas consider their biggest challenges and greatest successes. There were lots of great examples that allowed women from different backgrounds and walks of life to see just how much they have in common.

Williams: Attending the first United State of Women Summit was wildly educational and informative. While there were many gains to celebrate, we were reminded of the need to continue to fight for gender equality. I was not aware of the severity and pervasiveness of sexual violence against young women in the United States. Vice-President Biden, in his riveting speech, shared one in five female students has been sexually assaulted on college campuses. I was shocked to learn so many of our girls are violated in a place that exists to build them up rather than tear them down. I left with a commitment to learn more about sexual violence at my alma mater, and I intend to use my voice and influence to ensure we create safer educational environments.

What was the most memorable aspect of the Summit?
Clark: There are so many! I don’t know any other setting where, in one day, I heard speeches from President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, and Kerry Washington! It was inspiring, uplifting, and gave me a regrounding of the importance that women give to our families, communities, workplaces, schools, and country every single day.

What segment of the Summit most resonated with you and why?
Kirk: My biggest takeaway was that there are smart, powerful women working in Washington in just about every subject area. The country needs to hear these voices more often, and the Summit was just one opportunity to hear from them. I manage the Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative at CSIS, which is aimed at amplifying the voices of women in foreign policy, security, and international business; I think there's no reason that expert panels in academia, the think tank world, or the media should be all-male, so if nothing else, the Summit put smart and powerful women front and center.

Williams: It is hard to pinpoint one speaker or one topic—literally, everyone and every subject moved me. Yet, growing up in the early eighties, it is hard for me not to relish in the wisdom and wonder of Oprah Winfrey. I most enjoyed the authentic conversational interview between Oprah and First Lady Michelle Obama. When asked by Oprah how she copes with skeptics, First Lady Obama shared she lets her work speak for itself. She firmly asserted the best way to shut up haters was to do good work. Every woman uniquely understands the heaviness of naysayers and negativity. And I hope, like First Lady Obama, JLW members find the strength to wake up every day and do meaningful work—our children, companies and communities need our contributions.

What was your favorite quote from one of the speakers?
Clark: President Obama stated, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” This really sat with my soul for days after the Summit. For a lot of young girls and young women, they don’t have the opportunity or family support to expose themselves to professional women. How can a young woman know what it means to be a doctor, lawyer, scientist, college professor, PR executive, or news broadcaster if they don’t see it every day? I walked away from that speech dedicating myself to be the woman who helps to shape and influence a young women to rise above and shoot for her best.

What’s next?
Williams: The Summit brought in celebrities and national political leaders to renew our collective commitment to gender equality. Now that the Summit is over, the work resumes. Organizations like Junior League must continue to develop the potential of women in order to achieve equal treatment, equal pay and equal opportunity. In 2014, Census Bureau findings revealed the median annual earnings of women 15 or older who worked year-round and full-time was $39,621. In comparison, the median annual earnings of men were $50,383. From the wage gap to sexual violence, there are a wide range of issues negatively impacting women and girls in every corner of our country. I am very proud of JLW’s past contributions—in Washington and beyond, we’ve funded and advocated for significant institutional change and gender equality. We must continue to improve our community and fight for equity.
Above: President Obama during his keynote speech at USOW. Bottom right: JLW members Tycely Williams and LaTonya Clark.
JLW member Beverly Kirk at the United State of Women Summit.
Beverly Kirk attended a dinner hosted by John F. W. Rogers, Chairman of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, and Evan Ryan, the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, to celebrate the White House Summit on the United State of Women. First Lady Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at United State of Women Summit.