By Brianna Safe
Nearly two weeks have passed since the 2015 Bradley Seminar, and I remain energized by the abundance of community, conversation, and enthusiasm that infused our weekend in Washington, D.C. The Bradley Seminar – an annual three-day event – is a keystone of the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship program. Each year, the Seminar unites CDB scholars, alumni, parents, educators, and IEA staff in a space that promotes the deep and honest exploration of important questions. The CDB community is geographically scattered – Scholars hail from both the sunny coast of California and cloudy banks of Maine as well as everywhere in between – and the Bradley Seminar is always an anticipated reunion for this diverse community of passionate learners and peers.
Our largest seminar to date, more than 130 Caroline D. Bradley scholars, alumni, and parents gathered in Washington, D.C. from March 27-29 to discuss this year’s theme, “What Does It Mean to be a Leader?” During intergenerational conversations, we discussed questions pertaining to leadership about who we are, what we believe, and what we value. We shared stories and perspectives on leadership, and we explored the historical richness of our nation’s capital by bus, by metro, and by foot.
Helaine Klasky, Chief Communications Officer for Energy Management at GE, helped begin the conversation by delivering a keynote address on Friday night. Speaking from nearly 30 years of experience in politics, academia, and corporate professions, Ms. Klasky emphasized the value of team leadership and communication. She encouraged students to make plans for the future but to be willing to forego those plans when new and unexpected opportunities arise. Advice like this carries significance for CDB Scholars, who like so many gifted students, have a wide range of interests and talents and often find it difficult to focus on one specific path. Following Ms. Klasky’s presentation, CDB alumni and Scholars enjoyed ice breakers and ice cream, while CDB parents spent time with IEA Board Member, Yunasa Fellow, author, and gifted educator Dr. Jim Delisle, discussing the joys, challenges, and everything-in-betweens of raising a gifted teen.
Bright and early Saturday morning, the group braved brisk temperatures and explored the museums, landmarks, and terrain of Washington, D.C.
Back at the conference center, IEA Co-Founder Jim Davis directed intentional conversations on the topic of “Sacred Leadership” – leadership grounded in deep meaning and connectedness which serve the greatest good. The evening was capped off by a stunning evening walking tour of several Washington, D.C. monuments.
Guest speakers Deb Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education for the U.S. Department of Education, and Bob Nunnally, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, continued the discussion on leadership Sunday morning, focusing on teamwork and positive working relationships. After breakout sessions and workshops led by IEA staff and CDB parents and alumni, the group reconvened for one last conversation on the power of leadership, concluding the weekend with our annual CDB class photos.
Every year, we look forward to the speeches delivered by the graduating class of seniors. This year’s batch of seniors – the eighth graduating class of CDB Scholars – did not disappoint. As an unexpected bonus, they regaled the group with original lyrics about the CDB Scholarship and IEA, set to the tune of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical Les Miserables:
When you chose us to be yours,
Back on that glorious fateful day,
Touching us at our very cores,
That’s the I-E-A!
As I continue to reflect on the question – What does it mean to be a leader? – the idea of hope appears again and again. A leader – whether an individual or a team working toward a common end – is someone who looks ahead, who propels forward through action, ingenuity, creativity, strategy, and hard work. We must lead as we learn; we must try new things, take risks, and accept the possibility of failure, as failure is often the most valuable catalyst for growth. In the words of poet Jack Gilbert: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” As we take steps forward, we do so with the belief that there is room still to move ahead. This is hope. To be a leader, one must sustain faith in a future that is yet to exist but imagined to be possible.