Finding the Right Words: My Emotional Acceptance Speech

I'm standing on the stage, behind the podium looking out at an audience of nearly 500 female MBAs, school representatives and corporate representatives. No one would know it, but just an hour before that moment, I was in my hotel room crying. The pain of the Charleston shooting had finally taken hold of me.

I had been dressed. Makeup flawless and curls on fleek (as the kids say, I think). I had been ready to go accept my award at the Forte Foundation Awards Luncheon for my leadership and gender equity work at Berkeley. So I dabbed my eyes with tissues, slid my feet into my heels and put a smile on over my pain - something I've become particularly good at doing in the last year. 

When I took the stage I didn't have any prepared remarks, but I knew what I needed to say. I was confident that I'd find the right words, at the right time. 

What I hadn't anticipated, however, was the incredibly heartfelt introduction I would receive, making me emotional as I took the stage. I didn't expect that I'd walk off the stage at the end of my speech and look back up to a room full of people standing. I definitely didn't expect conference attendees to tell me over the next two days that my speech had moved them - and the women around them - to tears.

My parents, one of my sisters, and Heather joined me for the awards luncheon.

My parents, one of my sisters, and Heather joined me for the awards luncheon.

I've thought quite a bit about what winning the Edie Hunt Inspiration Award means to me, especially since three months ago I didn't even know it existed. To find out that I was nominated by a number of Berkeley-Haas faculty and staff was an honor in and of itself. But winning represented an important validation for me, that who I am and how I show up in the world matters. That my version of leadership is something that my community - and hopefully the world - values.

I can't imagine a better way to close out an incredible two years of personal transformation.


Here's the video of the speech, as captured by Heather: