The Op.Ed Project: Part 1


The experience I had on Madeline Island was so overwhelming that I can’t just write one little snippet. There will be pieces of it shared as I try to wrap my brain around it all.

To Katherine, Marcia, Marilyn, Ginny, Brenda, Terri, Jacey, Judy, and Mary–

Thank you.

Part 1:

The Op. Ed. Project was created and designed specifically to get minority voices out into mainstream media. Suffice it to say that the voices that get published most frequently are from men. This totally jives with what Gloria Steinam was telling someone from the Star Tribune recently. She was being asked about how far we’ve come as women in the mainstream media and the workforce. She said something along the lines of this, “The movement is still young. I am 70 and have been working on it for over half of my life, but the movement is still a baby. It’s only 40 years old. It generally takes 100 years for successful assimilation into society of any major social movement to be complete. ” This would explain why we don’t hear from more women in our media sources.

Katherine Lanpher, former MPR talk show host, was my teacher for this project. Eight other women and myself convened to discuss our areas of expertise and the causes that we wished to promote. Among us were a nationally recognized expert in dyslexia, one international business marketing executive, a law librarian, a master teacher in language arts, an advocate for people with disabilities who survived her own disability, another Ph.D and Mayo educator, and a marketing executive who is moving on to study theology, and me.

Her job was get us to see how we could use our expertise to create a powerful voice to add credence to the causes or ideas that move us. We are trying to become “thought leaders.”

It was hard. I couldn’t get past the expertise exercise. Our very first task was to fill in these blanks.

My name is _____and I am an expert in _________because______.

Marcia could say, “My name is Marcia and I am an expert in educating educators about dyslexia because I earned my Ph. D. in this area, taught at Stanford, published a book on the topic, and taught thousands of educators how to treat dyslexia.” Wham bam, Marcia.

But for me it was much more difficult. I don’t have an area of expertise. And if you do any reading on the project, you will discover that they are working hard to call out women from some lofty places-Harvard and Wall Street and NASA- because while these women have worked hard and earned their place in some very prestigious places, they still don’t get their voices out there in mainstream media and they need to.

Me….I have no lofty education. The University of Minnesota at Mankato is not going to turn anyone’s head. But I graduated and got my Masters and from where I hail it was way more than I could have hoped for. Now that I am home with kids, digging around for expertise is difficult. Katherine would prod us, dig around in our stories looking for what she called “shiny baubles”, a significant something, a link that lends weight to why our voice matters.

And this is where I stumbled. My voice matters and I do believe that, but unlike Judy, who rescued companies from financial disaster, or Mary who speaks 4 languages and conducts business in mulitiple countries, it was hard to name what I have.

Katherine made a point of saying how hard this was for anyone from no matter where they hailed. I kept working in reverse, though, and I am not sure she could see that I could dig, really dig, and there would be no name dropping or place dropping, no titles or claims to fame.

I didn’t let it stop me or even slow me down because if nothing, I am determined. The ideas on my mind were important and I stuck with them to the end.

After a little time and a full night’s sleep, I’ve decided I would re-do what I originally said, which was that I write a mean eulogy. What can I say? It was hard! Here is my second effort and it is more than enough:

“My name is Lisa Gray and I am an expert observer of the human condition. I am a “taker-inner” of the world around me and what I see often moves me so much it hurts. And so I write to make sense and hope that when I do, it helps others, too. I am a voracious reader so this helps me craft my observations and put them in the context of the outside world.

My daughter Lucy, my shiny bauble, says, “Mom, you notice things other people don’t.” I have a blog and small town papers publish my opinions and I keep the “average” person, whatever that means, on my mind because that is who I am. Just an average girl who cares.”