This afternoon, I was alone in a room with her for several minutes, sharing with her my thoughts about how bad politics continue to divide my country, how programs are only as good as the term of a president, that even if a program is good, when a new president comes along, he or she destroys that to start his or her own, hence there is no sustainability, no inclusiveness. I told her my wish to see my country develop like other Asian countries. Then she shared me her thoughts – she said it is hard to be a leader that employ participatory governance, especially those whose only goal is to win or be re-elected, but she said it is important that people are part of decision-making, that they have a sense of ownership for the programs of government, so that they will have a stake in its success. All throughout the conversation – I never knew who she was. Later that night – she was awarded the Eisenhower Outstanding Leadership Award, a doctor who knows several languages, became minister of health, an expert in defense and military, former defense minister, and now secretary general of United Nations for Women – and formerly – first and only lady president of Chile – Veronica Michelle Bachelet! I hugged her almost with tears in my eyes after the ceremony – she had so much humility – I can’t believe she listened to me patiently. I am so red-faced and I said sorry. She said – there is nothing to be sorry about. I hugged a very strong woman leader – who ended her term with 80% positive rating – and who is still being sought to lead her country today – the energy I felt from was so inspiring and powerful.
General Colin Powell tells Eisenhower Fellows – go back to your home countries and lead change, where it is necessary, be the champion of a good idea, know your destination, find more champions to help you reach that destination which will lead you to the change you want to achieve. (It is my honor to be with him in the same room, to have asked him a question, and to shake his hands twice!)
That was a very hectic 7-weeks for all of us – 21 fellows from different countries with meetings in various cities in different states – finally we end the fellowships with so much gratefulness for the knowledge and the experience!