Last year, developer / green entrepreneur / sustainable Milwaukee advocate Juli Kaufmann was honored with the Milwaukee Business Journal's Women of Influence award.
This year, she served as the keynote speaker at the event which took place on Friday, June 20 at the Wisconsin Center. About 900 business executives were present and the 2014 winners included Children's Hospital’s Peggy Troy and Lynn Sprangers of Mount Mary University.
Kaufmann’s speech created an incredible amount of buzz both locally and internationally for a few reasons. For one, it rhymed. Secondly, it was well written – upbeat and yet hard hitting.
But most of all, the success of the presentation was rooted in the fact that, although honored by the recognition, Kaufmann critiqued the concept of an award based on gender and reminded how much more needs to be done for women to obtain equality.
Here is her funny, courageous, honest poem / speech.
What do I say, what do I think?I have no idea except I could really use a drink.
Look at this room. You’d all get my vote. What can I possibly say that hits the right key note?
So OK, fine I’ll give it a whirl - I’ll regale you with my passions, my wisdom-filled pearls.
Work for the earth, hug the trees, fight for social justice, save the bees.
Share the bikes, grow healthy food, invest in local business before we’re all screwed.
Save a tree, yeah whatever. I saw a few of you yawn. This crowd could save a forest before the break of dawn.
My passions, your passions. Each of us sets a high bar. Been there, done that. We’ve all come so far.
So seriously then, what should I say? Can the words of my mother guide me today?
She’d say to honor and praise. My mom, she’s so wise.
We know how much you matter. Your work changes lives.
How about my mentors on whose shoulders I stand? What inspiring words does their sacrifice demand?
I think they’d tell me to speak my truth today, to use my influence to shine the light of day.
This award is an honor it says "yes we can," but it also points out that I’m not a man.
So let’s turn the tables, and imagine with me, a Men of Influence Award. Right? That’s absurdity.
I guess our special day is just their every day. Well, I’m just a little tired of waiting to play.
I mean no disrespect. This is meaningful and grand, but more needs to be done when equality is not yet at hand.
Women have made strides in society at large, but it’s still very clear we are far from in charge.
When will we be respected the same, not judged for genetics, but paid for our game?
When will we be valued on par, not honored for gender, but for just being a star?
Let’s be acknowledged every day like him, him or him. The finish line for equality is the race I want to win.
How do we get there? We’ll start with your profound reach. We remember, we fight - and even if it’s uncomfortable - we preach.
Sure, we’re like flowers. We all came from seed, but we’re not shrinking violets, we’re tougher than weeds.
But we need men too. Where to begin? Start, by breaking us out of the boxes you put us in.
I say this for my son. And for your daughters so this next generation might drink from clean and fair waters.
No, I’m not a poet and I never will be, but I’m a person of influence. I hope you expected nothing less of me.
But, enough of my ranting. I’m done with my laments. Today, we celebrate your huge accomplishments.
Phenomenal women that’s all of you, caged birds who flew free to do the great things you do.
Milwaukee is your sphere, your chance to turn society’s page. So influence your butts off. Let’s crack open a new age.
Rise up, let’s cheer. Together we stand to our influential future. Let’s give you a hand.
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