by Wendy Wagenheim, NCJW life member
Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett (the most dynamic woman in the White House next to Michelle), Nancy Pelosi (the most powerful woman in Congress), Lilly Ledbetter and Dorothy Height (two women who changed all of our lives). How often do you get to see the movers and shakers of a woman’s world? The truth is that you can do it every three years at Washington Institute. It is, hands down, the best conference I go to. Every time, I leave feeling excited, energized and loaded with information I can use. But WI isn’t just about the well-known speakers. It’s about being with NCJW women – the best and the brightest from all over the country.
Remember “Jerry Maguire”? WI “had me at hello” in 1993. My first meeting was at a meeting full of SPA’s…trying to figure out what an SPA is…what an SPA does and meeting Sammie for the first time. Funny, but I was actually scared. I remember thinking, what am I doing here, can I really fit in? All these women seemed to be on another plane. Even though I had done some politically active things in my own community, I started to wonder if I were out of my league. I was a volunteer at-home mom thrown into the social justice arena. I met some amazing people, heard some amazing speakers, and, just plainly, had an amazing trip to Washington.
It was really the beginning of a life changing transformation. I give NCJW the credit for giving me a place to test my leadership skills and the confidence to see them through. Just two years later, I had a job. I was the Michigan ACLU Legislative Director driving to Lansing every day. What an unexpected opportunity! Just thinking about it makes me smile. Never underestimate the power of Washington Institute. An NCJW education is priceless. (By the way, if you don’t know already, an SPA is the State Policy Advocacy Chair for each section.)