WEST END PEOPLE
Whitley Marshall Advances Compassionate Leadership
By Tony Zeli
If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?
Here is Mrs. Portland’s response:
“If Whitley could change one thing in the world, she would break down the systemic cycles of oppression leading to poverty, homelessness, hunger, disease, violence, lack of education, inequality, and more, laying the groundwork through compassionate education and community service.”
We all have heard some variation of this infamous pageant question, and we all have thought about our answers. But, how often do we act on our more grandiose ideas? For Mrs. Portland Whitley Marshall, her journey to capture the crown is also an opportunity to put her words into action.
COMPASSIONATE LEADERSHIP PROJECT
Whitley is running for Mrs. Maine to promote compassionate leadership and she is actively developing a program through World Roots Culture Exchange, an organization she helped to start. Beginning with the premise that our world needs leaders who are guided by compassion and who will make thoughtful decisions for our planet and our future, the Compassionate Leader Project will train community members in social skills, nonviolent communication, de-escalation, bullying prevention and intervention, active listening, anxiety and stress coping skills, self-care and self-compassion.
“Everybody’s a leader. You’re leading someone whether it’s your pet…” [Whitley’s dachshund, Mojo, joins us for the interview] “…within your family, in your workplace, with your friends—there’s someone who’s being influenced by you. Whether you identify as a compassionate leader already or you want to develop those skills to be a more compassionate leader, I really would love to welcome everyone. “
Whitley has put her own compassionate leadership skills to the test, perhaps no more so than when she worked per diem at the Preble Street Teen Center. She says she is grateful for the skills she has developed and wants to share them with others who haven’t had the opportunity to learn or could use a refresher.
“It’s clear that a lot of people need these skills – things I work on myself, not being taught all of them through my family dynamics. I learned them through other means, like through workplaces or self-learning.”
COMPASSION & SCHOOLS
Whitley explains that while we expect parents to pass down many of these social/behavioral skills, the reality is that doesn’t always happen. This is an area for schools to step in, but they are not always well prepared to do so. For Whitley, hearing stories from friends, whose children have been bullied at school, and seeing schools unable to help, lead her to offer the Compassionate Leadership Project as a resource.
One of the big goals for Whitely and the Compassionate Leadership Project is to work with Portland school administrators, teachers, parents, and students to put together workshops to promote compassion, identify and prevent bullying, and help end detention as we know it.
“I believe that bullying is generally caused by trauma and brokenness within that person who is bullying,” says Whitley. “So, they need to be treated. They need to heal from that trauma. They need to learn self-compassion. They need to learn compassion for others. They need to experience stories of diverse people and put themselves in their shoes.”
For Whitely, instead of focusing on problems, she would like to see us focusing on solutions, instead of focusing on oppression, focus on the oppressed. She wants to actively work to end the feeling of oppression, to change those cycles forever. No big deal.
“Small mindset shifts make a huge difference and acting with kindness in all things and thinking compassionately – to put yourself in other people’s shoes – is going to make the biggest difference of any. And so, exam yourself open mindedly and make small baby steps and it will make a huge ripple effect… Anyone can be a compassionate leader.”
If you’d like to become a compassionate leader, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony Zeli is publisher and editor (and a longtime friend of the Marshalls). Contact him at email@example.com.