Former MI Gov. Jennifer Granholm speaks at women’s conference

GVL / Courtesy -
Jennifer Granholm

GVL / Courtesy – Jennifer Granholm

Celia Harmelink

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm spoke Saturday, Sept. 9, in the Richard M. DeVos Center as part of the women and leadership conference co-hosted by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University and the National Governors Association. 

The two-day event, “Women and Leadership: The First Conference of U.S. Women Governors,” was the first gathering of female U.S. governors of its kind. 

Granholm captured the attention of the audience by delivering a humorous speech with advice she has received throughout her life and career about integrity and leadership

“(My father) would say to me when we were growing up, ‘Never do anything that you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of The New York Times,’” she said. “There is nothing more important than having integrity because you can never get it back.” 

Granholm also discussed the importance of conviction in effective leadership.

“For those of you that are considering leadership, I pray that your soul is seared by something,” she said. “I pray that you put yourself in a position to see other people’s pain because you cannot lead them if you do not see them. May you all wear the scars at the end of your life from battles that you have fought on the behalf of other people, on behalf of people who are not seen. May you be in a position to see and feel their pain.” 

To conclude, Granholm quoted author Marianne Williamson, saying, “‘Your playing small does not serve the world.'”

“I say this to women in particular because we are taught to not talk about ourselves, to sit in the back row,” Granholm said. “Our nature is to be collaborative and not to be the first to raise our hand, but your playing small does not serve the world. You were born to manifest the glory of God. It is not just in some of us—it is in everyone, and as you let your light shine, you unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Following Granholm’s speech, which received a standing ovation, there was a panel discussion with four former female governors of other states and then a complimentary lunch, during which everyone in attendance had the opportunity to meet the different governors. 

Deb Havens, the chair of the planning committee for this event, wanted to thank the Hauenstein Center and director Gleaves Whitney for putting on the event and said it would be difficult to sum it up for someone who didn’t attend. 

“The personal stories that we got from all the governors, the interactions that you see in this room, the energy: … You had to be here to feel it,” Havens said. “I was on the verge of tears more than once listening, first of all, to Gov. Granholm and how powerful her message was about fighting the great fights. They were just such inspiring words. 

“And to know that women bring that message, not just to other women, but to the world, that’s very powerful stuff.”

Granholm expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to come to GVSU: “What a great honor for Grand Valley to have this historic conference here, and I think that whether you are a man or a woman, there are tremendous lessons and wisdom through decades of experience here, so it is really a jewel in Grand Valley’s crown that they were able to have this here.”