Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alfre Woodard: Staying Awake For It All

It’s not a question of whether you can have it all, but whether you can stay awake for it all, said Alfre Woodard, actress, activist, and Leadership Conference keynote speaker, who was paraphrasing advice from her sister-in-law.

The four-time Emmy Award winner, who has been recognized for her numerous roles on both the big and small screen, was referring, of course, to the ongoing debate of whether women today are really able to have it all: to achieve that perfect balance of motherhood, successful career, and fulfilled marriage.

The Choice To Do It All or Take a Break

During her remarks, Woodard acknowledged that today women seem to be hot wired to do it all, but cautioned that instead of trying to do it all we should give ourselves a break.
“It’s essential to relax and rebuild, because when you are still, you are able to realize and appreciate the wonderful work you are doing. When you do let go, perhaps you’ll hear that small voice refilling, renewing, replenishing. You’ll be brimming with new ideas, as well as the balance and clarity to enact those ideas.”

Women Redefining Power

Woodard went on to say, we, as women, also need to redefine what it means to wield power. “Time is short and the job is big. We can easily lose sight of the fact that being a leader is an equal part of the whole role. It is just sound strategy to pause for a moment.”

At turns sounding equal parts actress, poetry reader, and Sunday go-to-meeting preacher, Woodard captivated the audience as she told tales of motherhood and moviedom, at one point quoting from the poem, Oriah Mountain Dreamer.


The Boston University graduate and winner of Golden Globe and SAG awards for her various acting endeavors, including roles in TV series such as Hill St. Blues and L.A. Law, as well as starring roles in Beauty Shop and Miss Evers’ Boys, also talked about her role as mother and said her job was to help her daughter “find her own voice and effectively reach people in a way that they can hear what she has to offer.”


Raising the Bar To “New Levels of Play”

Disagreeing with the image of women as competitive in a negative sense, Woodard said,
“We can thrive in competition; be inspired by the brilliance of our fellow women, and in so doing lift the “game” to new levels of play. The weary world requires that we come not as imitators of men, but instead, with a balance of compassion, fierce humanity, and joy that our woman-ness expresses.”

The audience cheered when Woodard referred to them as a “roomful of bossy women.”
“It is exhilarating to be in the presence of a roomful of people of the stronger sex who recognize their power and effectively and honorably use that power. What a joy it is to be in a roomful of bossy women,” said Woodard.

Actress and Activist


Most are familiar with Woodard’s role as actress but many may not be as familiar with her role as civil and human rights activist. As a co-founder and board member of such anti-poverty organizations as Artists for a New South Africa and an advisory board member of the Liberty Hill Foundation, Woodard has found a way to meld those dual roles and lend her support to the more serious issues facing us today. In particular, the organizations have focused on raising money to fight HIV/AIDS, poverty, and discrimination.

What compelled Woodard to fight the good fight? To find the balance between taking and giving back? She said for her it had to do with her upbringing.

“My father was a self-made success and I was raised with plenty of creature comforts, yet I was constantly reminded of where we came from. My parents were sharecroppers who lived close to the land. The only thing that separated us from those less fortunate was chance, hard work, and good fortune.”

1 comment:

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