This post is a bit of a moan.
It´s taken me about a month, off and on, to read the latest Hilary Clinton book – Hard Choices. I read Madam Secretary (Madeleine Albright) about 10 years ago and loved it, and enjoyed Dreams from My Father (but not so much Audacity of Hope). Anyway, Hilary´s latest oeuvre was a bit of a struggle for me — felt a little like an Oscars acceptance (but in this case, audition..) speech where the speaker goes on and on, not wanting to leave out a single high school teacher or softball coach who needs to be thanked. The book goes around the world (first Asia, then Europe, Africa, Libya, Syria, Israel-Palestine…), walking through the key relationships and big crises of Clinton´s four years in post. Which I suppose makes sense in a memoir…I just found it a little dry. But hey, my knowledge of international relations hash´t been this good since about 2005 – so no harm, no foul.
That was, until I got to the last section of the book, where in making some point, Hilary quotes Tom Hanks from one of my all-time-favourite-films of growing up:
This is a scene towards the end of A League of Their Own, when Geena Davis´ character wants to drop her career and miss out on a World Series game (and walk away from her title as ´Queen of Diamonds´?!?!?) and head back to life on the farm with her thought-dead-but-actually-survived-war-hero husband. And she says to her coach, defeated, “It just got too hard.”
And Tom Hanks (sorry, Jimmy Dugan), says, “It´s supposed to be hard. If it wash´t hard, everybody would do it…It´s the hard that makes it great.”
Now quick backtrack: I played softball for like 14 years, growing up. I´m pretty sure that one season in high school, I was playing in 3 leagues and umpiring in 2. I loved this movie. My coaches used to quote it at us when we were 10 or 11. This is my film.
Fast-forward 15 or 20 years, and *I* quote the film all the time at work – and in particular, the “hard makes it great” quote. I use it (it´s cheesy, but I don´t care) when talking about the various things I´ve worked on in the last few years — public engagement, campaigning, influencing, changing gender dynamics and power relationships – and or course, understanding or evaluating any of those things. I love the messy, hard-to-pin-down stuff, because it´s difficult – which makes it interesting. It´s the hard that makes it great.
Now it´s a Friday night, and I´m reading Hilary´s biography on holiday and she has the nerve to steal my line! (About something as straightforward as American foreign policy – whatever.) She quotes Tom Hanks! She makes the same point I did. Ugh.
So for the rest of my days, when I use this line or play this clip in a presentation or training (which of course, I am going to keep doing), I will think of Hilary Clinton stealing my line. (Which I admit, I originally stole from a film.)
And I will cross my fingers that nobody in the audience read Hard Choices as closely as I did.
I´m spending a few weeks this summer in Madrid. I find myself spending a lot of time trying to make myself understood in Spanish (it´s been 9 years since my semester in Cuba…) and a lot of time relaxing and reflecting as we take refuge from the heat. Over the last year, I´ve spent a lot of my working time in different countries in Asia – almost always in an English-language work environment, where my local colleagues are operating in their second, third or fourth language.
Fortunately, I find myself getting better at operating in international-English spaces. I´ve always had an unfair advantage, being a native speaker with an accent easily understandable to people who watch Hollywood movies (though they´ll still ask me to say ´aboot´every now and again.) But I am learning to better understand various English accents from different regions of South and East Asia, and I´ve realized that I´m applying little tricks that help others understand me better, as well.
A few months ago, I found myself needing to present moderately technical information to a room of about 25 non-native-English speakers. I had about 45 minutes, could be interactive, and had audio-visual aids to draw on as needed (Powerpoint, Flip charts.) It went well – no translation was needed – so I took a few minutes to jot down what I thought I did well. Here we go:
In the event that you have to use a long word or a new piece of jargon or specialized terminology, be sure to define it the first time that you use it, and spell it out on your visual aid. Realistically, most of your audience will know it (no need to be patronizing). But just in case, taking five seconds to say “an input is something that you need to do an activity – like money or time” will not destroy your presentation.
There lots of other useful guidelines for public speaking in general – things like speaking clearly/loudly, avoiding slang – or for training in particular. These are a few of the behaviors that I found useful specifically for presenting to additional-language speakers. Would be interesting to hear what you think, and if there´s anything that you think that I´ve missed.
While this blog’s been quiet for a while, I have been writing elsewhere. I’m very pleased to have contributed to the latest edition of the Gender & Development Journal – and in a related post, on the Policy & Practice blog. You can find ungated access to all three here:
Wonderful summer beach reading, all three of them! (…) For those of you who prefer the less dense stuff, I tweet a lot more often than I blog at @kimberlybowman.
This snippet from a New York Times magazine article on technology, blogged by this economist, is one of my favorite blog-finds of the last few months. It details a recent study that photographed American public spaces, then counted who was in those spaces, who they were with and how they were interacting with technology. Geeky research methods + some interesting commentary on changing gender roles in North America. Voila:
In fact, this was Hampton’s most surprising finding: Today there are just a lot more women in public, proportional to men. It’s not just on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. On the steps of the Met, the proportion of women increased by 33 percent, and in Bryant Park by 18 percent. The only place women decreased proportionally was in Boston’s Downtown Crossing — a major shopping area. “The decline of women within this setting could be interpreted as a shift in gender roles,” Hampton writes. Men seem to be “taking on an activity that was traditionally regarded as feminine.”
Across the board, Hampton found that the story of public spaces in the last 30 years has not been aloneness, or digital distraction, but gender equity. “I mean, who would’ve thought that, in America, 30 years ago, women were not in public the same way they are now?” Hampton said. “We don’t think about that.”
Public space is something you (well, I) only really think about when I move around a lot. When I go into London (I live in Oxford), I take note of the congestion of the sidewalks and who’s in the parks and lunchtime. When I travel internationally, my first question of the locals is some variation on “Can I walk around here? How safe is it at night? How busy is the foot traffic?”
And of course, time to think about how this kind of method might be useful for M&E….
I’ve been travelling a lot lately, and not sharing much of what I’ve been consuming. (That said, I’ve also not been reading much.) Here are a few links I’ve liked and saved for sharing:
I’ve stayed with my employer (hooray!), but have moved roles recently. You’re likely to notice a shift in the blog topics and links – and as i get settled into the role I may start a new page of links to useful resources. For now, I’m still learning how to do my job.
I’m shifting from a focus on monitoring, evaluation and learning for ‘campaigning and advocacy’ initiatives, to ‘MEL’ for projects and programmes that focus on women’s economic leadership and issues relating to gender. I’ll be working primarily (but not totally) with teams based in Asia.
All of this is very jargony – and I’m breaking my self-imposed rule about blogging specifically about work – but I thought I should explain the shift, and why I’m suddenly tweeting from Bangkok.