“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m honored to be here with you this evening as the newest board member of WIAR, and even more so, as the first male on the Board of Directors. Having learned in the orientation of the feminist roots of the organization, I’m looking forward to getting in touch with my own radical feminist side over the next few years.“
A ripple of nervous laughter traversed the small room, which held the lone male other than myself, the Lead Counselor, Alex. The seven women were the Executive Director, Bridgette, several Program Directors, including Gloria, the only one in the room tenured back to the inception of the organization in 1971, Counselors and Senior Managers. All seemed eager to get the exercise underway, equally so to learn a little more about this new “diverse” member of the Board, and to get a feel for what they might be in store for.
“As you know,” I began, “the mission of WIAR since its inception has been, “To empower people to create a world safe from sexual violence and oppression.” We’re not going to tinker with that. Our role this evening, my first assignment from the Board President, is to guide the Board and staff in drafting a new organizational values statement that more closely complements the mission. To start the process, I’ve prepared a scenario to help us mentally set the stage,” I said, passing the handouts to the group. “Take a minute to read through it.”
“It is the year 2050. The last reported act of sexual violence in the U.S. was committed in 2032. The last remaining perpetrator convicted of sexual violence died in prison in 2047
The term “rape” has fallen into disuse as applied to sexual violence. (It primarily referred to a European herb (brassica napus) of the mustard family, or grape pomace.)
“WIAR” is credited with being the innovative epicenter of the movement that quickly led to the elimination of rape in America, with sexual abuse of women now abating rapidly on a global scale.
WIAR closed its doors for good in 2040 as the crime of violent sexual assault abated, the need for treatment and counseling ended, and survivors healed and thrived under universal application of WIAR’s nationally recognized methods.
The Smithsonian has offered to purchase and move the historic WIAR headquarters façade to the Washington museum collection in the year 2050 to honor the elimination of sexual violence in America. It will be placed within view of the Holocaust exhibit.
WIAR has succeeded in achieving its vision. Rape and sexual assault no longer occur in America, and may soon be gone worldwide.”
“Our objective this evening,” I began as they finished reading, “is to draft one paragraph about WIAR for the exhibit plaque for all future viewers to read. That paragraph should encompass the values that generated the will to have accomplished the mission of empowerment of people to create an America safe from sexual violence and oppression. Our values are the “how” of the organizational mission/vision. Not the “how” of implementation, but the “how” of our overall approach, the underlying philosophy and drivers for doing what we do.”
“We’ve all had the opportunity look at a few good examples of Values Statements,” which I had provided in advance of the session. “Is everyone about ready to tackle the first draft? How shall we start the first line of our statement?” I turned toward the easel behind me, marker in raised hand, ready to be the scribe.
The dead silence that followed wasn’t entirely unusual, so I thought. Employees are often reluctant to be the first to offer up ideas. Skilled facilitator that I was, I allowed it to continue, simply waiting a bit for the least shy participant to get the party started. It didn’t start. If there had been crickets in the room, even they might have wondered at the silence. I turned back around to face the eight pair of staring eyes, an array of emotion reflected across them.
Still only a bit apprehensive, I tested, “Perhaps you’d prefer that I start the first few words?”
“I can’t work with that scenario, Rob, “growled the senior Gloria, her perturbation evident, from furrowed brow to clenched teeth. “Its ridiculous.”
Some heads nodded, others bowed, pursed lips and low grunts signaling that my brilliant scenario hadn’t quite evoked the reaction I’d imagined. The first man on the feminist Board of Directors was in a bit of a quandary at that moment.
“What Gloria means,” Maryanne chimed in, “is that the scenario you’ve written is, well, not necessarily realistic, from our point of view. So it would be unlikely we could frame up a genuine values statement around it.”
I felt a momentary wave of cognitive dissonance flow over me, as I turned the mission statement over in my mind a few times while trying to disguise the confusion my facial expression and body language apparently couldn’t conceal. Bridgette’s ‘Mona Lisa’ smile told me that she knew what was coming, and that I did not.
© Robert D. Jones 2013, All Rights Reserved
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