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We Left Our Hearts in San Francisco
The third week of the Fellowship began with the first ‘day off’ of the program, which was not technically an ‘off’ day, but rather a guided tour of the best sights in San Francisco. The sun shining on the Golden Gate Bridge was a welcomed sight to our exhausted group. The tour around the City by the Bay reinforced the strong bonds between the Fellows that have developed over the last few weeks, and gave everyone time to decompress and settle in to the more laid-back way of the West Coast.
Given the role that technology and social media played in the Revolution, excitement grew amongst the Fellows as the week in the Silicon Valley began. First stop: Google. Living up to its reputation, Google proved to be an interesting visit, which included informative presentations from a number of “Googlers” and an explanation of the effective tools Google offers. The culture of innovation and iteration at Google is unique and inspiring, and seems to be one of the keys to Google’s success. The idea of promoting a creative culture will prove a promising roadmap for the work of the Fellows. The Fellows were also welcomed at Facebook and Twitter. While the Revolution in Egypt should not be deemed a Facebook or Twitter revolution, there is no doubt that social media helped fuel the outcomes of the Arab Spring. Because of this fact, the Fellows were eager to visit the headquarters of these companies. Like Google and other Silicon Valley companies, Facebook and Twitter promote constant innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit of exploration. A lively discussion during each visit to these high-tech companies was an important part of the Silicon Valley experience. A visit to Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business rounded out the curriculum in the Silicon Valley. A session on Women and Power was particularly useful, teaching the Fellows to effectively use their influence for the betterment their community and country. The most poignant part of the Silicon Valley visit was the viewing of The Lady at Cinequest, a film festival in San Jose, California. The Lady is a movie that tells the inspiring story of Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. Some of the Fellows were unfamiliar with the story of this courageous freedom advocate from Burma who has given her life for the peaceful struggle for democracy in her country. Aung San Suu Kyi’s story reminded us all that there are brave individuals around the world who are fighting for basic freedoms. Their voices must not go unheard and their lives must be remembered. As the Fellows strive for a freer Egypt, they join the ranks of freedom advocates from across the globe. The Fellows departed the Silicon Valley yesterday to join their mentors in seven different cities around the United States. The five days that the Fellows spend with their mentors will aid them in developing additional skills to be effective leaders, will assist in the preparation of their personal action plans, and will help sharpen their vision for the future. Mentors serve as role models and provide support for the Fellows throughout the year-long Fellowship; and the commitment of the mentors is noteworthy. Mentors have carefully designed schedules for their respective Fellows, and have thoughtfully identified other individuals with whom their Fellows will meet in order to increase their network and enhance their experience. The benefits of the mentoring relationship are exponential for both parties and these special relationships will prove life-changing for both mentor and mentee. As we follow the progress of the Fellows throughout the year, we know that the mentor relationship will be vital to the success of each Fellow. This post was written by Charity Wallace, Director of the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. << Return to the Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program [gallery]