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What Qualities Should We Look for in ASM Speakers?

Kai '13 / Staff Illustrator
Kai ’13 / Staff Illustrator

Every year, a plethora of interesting speakers come to Marlborough to educate us on topics ranging from politics to fashion. We at The UltraViolet know Dean of Student Life Sarah Wolf and Assistant Head of School and Director of Upper School Laura Hotchkiss do an amazing job overall and spend copious amounts of time choosing inspiring and incredible speakers. However, some speakers miss the mark and leave girls feeling as though their time could have better been spent studying or napping. Therefore, we have pinpointed the two most important qualities for Wolf and Hotchkiss to consider when choosing speakers for All-School Meetings that aren’t run by clubs: sharing a personal connection with their topic and addressing a topic relevant to student interests. On the other hand, speakers that we find less compelling are those whose topics do not appeal to us.

We love the meetings that apply to our collective obsessions, such as the Entrepreneurs in Fashion panel composed of Alumnae who created their own jewelry or clothing brands, such as Vena Cava. These women told us stories about how they got to where they are and gave us tips about how to achieve success. Because many of us at Marlborough are passionate about style, we appreciated having women in this field come, especially because the speakers graduated from Marlborough and we know they went through everything we are going through now.

Great ASM speakers also speak from personal experience, demonstrating a deeper level of connection to their presentation. We really liked Martha Tessmer from Impact Teen Drivers, who educated us about distracted driving. Tessmer shared her own story about how her son was killed in a distracted driving accident, inspiring her to stop other teens from being killed in such a preventable way. Her intimate connection to the issue affected the way we looked at the information because her story made the crisis seem much more real. In the same way, the Human Rights ASM featured a speaker who had been enslaved right here in Los Angeles, again adding a layer of emotion that made her speech extremely personal and easy to connect with. If the speaker had worked for CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking) but did not have any personal experience being trafficked, the ASM would not have been nearly as interesting.

Other speakers we would be interested to hear from are more Alumnae in the fields of music, art, entertainment, technology and social justice, particularly those who work with homelessness and women’s or LGBTQ rights. In addition, certain qualities that make for an engaging and dynamic speaker can only be ascertained from speaking directly to someone, such as a sense of humor and a non monotone voice, so we urge Wolf and Hotchkiss to interview potential speakers over the phone before officially booking them. Finally, we of course love to hear from famous figures such as Condoleezza Rice and Stevie Wonder because we know who they are and what they do beforehand, and therefore we can fully immerse ourselves in their presentation. However, because we clearly cannot bring a different celebrity in for each ASM, we’d like the speakers that are chosen to have experienced a connection to the topic and to discuss issues relevant to our interests.