Archive for October, 2009

Stereotypes -Breaking them down and a Call To Leadership

Stereotypes, by definition are fixed assumptions
Others Hold About You and Me.
Often inaccurate , based on exaggerated tv images,
Or passed down by families generationally.

Stereotypes, framed pictures in our minds
Whether seen or unseen.
Constrain opportunities to collaborate or grow
And often demean.

What we’ve learned during this brilliant BDA* Fellowship,
An accelerated and safe environment to explore.
All is not what it seems; one size doesn’t fit all; to every story, there’s more.
The key nugget we will all take away from this experience is:
We are all human beings at our core.
We are all human beings at our core.

Whether we choose to wear traditional wrap , uncover or we’re louder than the others.
Practice religion strictly or liberally.
We are all fundamentally seeking peace and progress in this world.
We each want our kids to achieve more than we.

So, my sincere thanks to BDA*, Intel
My caring Arab and American Fellows
My new sisters and brothers.
The dialogue has been opened wide and so have our hearts.
Let’s continue breaking down barriers.
Let’s chart a fresh new start.

We are the leaders.
We have been chosen to do this work.
The change that comes about, our collective futures,
Will be simply that we never gave up.
It will exist simply because our work never stopped.

Written by Barbara H. McAllister ©
2009 BDA and YAL Conference
Stereotype Panel

BDA-Business for Diplomatic Action
YAL-Young Arab Leaders

2009 Arab and American Fellows

2009 Arab and American Fellows

This poem was inspired by my 3 week fellowship and two way exchange between Arab and Americans as a part of the 2009 Arab and American Fellowship sponsored by DOW, Young Arab Leaders and Business for Diplomatic Action. It was read as a part of my opening and participation in a panel, “Breaking Cultural Stereotypes.” Fellow panelists included John Zogby, Nesrine Halima, Shk Sultan Al Qassemi and Moderator, Jeff Weintraub.

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There is so much to do!

This poem was inspired by our visit to Oriental Weavers in Cairo, Egypt. In this visit, the company shared the manufacturing process of bringing together 14 unique strands of thread in various colors chosen to create the rug master pieces we see in places like the Marriott, Home Depot, Target and other retail locations. I was also inspired this week by our local site host, Nada El Gammal. She has the energy of 20 expressos and the knowledge of ancient historians. Nada, Thank you for the insightful agenda that you put together for our team. You gave so much of yourself this week and we sincerely thank you!!!! We hope you get some much deserved rest post our journey back home. 

At Oriental Weavers standing next to a rug of Cairo's President

At Oriental Weavers standing next to a rug of Cairo's President

There is so much to do!

My heart is saying this out loud
As I pack my bags, ending our Cairo trip
There are children to be educated
And gaining skills that will have them better equipped.

There is world peace on the line.
We don’t have time to sit still.
Let’s share the core of what we experienced here.
No wars or weapons or violence in the streets.
We see beautiful human beings working so their families can eat.

What a great spectrum we’ve seen of the haves and the have nots
It’s now up to us to do our part.
The best of us will be those that give.
Rather than stay silent in our comfortable spots.

Our team is woven like an Oriental Weavers rug
Young Middle East ambassadors of truth, you’d might say.
Each one respresenting their unique strand.
Bringing a different perspective causing you to think a different way.

No need to stand alone.
There is so much to do.
We saw first hand the value of bringing many threads into one.
We have the talent of the million dollar loom.
With a call to action in our hands
Waiting for us to answer in alignment, “yes, we stand.”

We stand for sustained improvement, aligned objectives and results.
We stand to make a difference.
We didn’t travel all this way to take notes and complain.
We stand to collaborate on key issues that will bring about change.
Change that brings us together for the greater good.
Because woven together , we create an unbreakable foundation.
Strands out of alignment result in gaps to our nation.

There is so much to do.
And the doing starts with me and you!

Barbara McAllister
EOP (end of poem)

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What Local Egyptians are Feeling

Barbara McAllister takes Creative Liberties below as a Ghost Writer for the Egyptians met on the ground in various settings during our journey.  This is my interpretation that resulted after having 10 to 15 conversations with local Egyptians. This represented a cross section of people from hotel employees, vendors, real estate developers to entrepreneurs including employees met at the embassy.
Dear President Obama,

We are extremely excited about your Presidency and thank you for coming to Cairo so early in your administration. This speaks volumes to us and we hope you felt our warmth during your recent visit. In fact, please come again because your visit alone brought about some serious preparation and clean up in our city that was long overdue. We did this especially for you. We are very proud of our country and we wanted to make sure everything was super clean and intact for your very important trip.

The previous 8 years with the prior administration resulted in some mistrust, disgruntled spirits and many unknown fears. These were some tough times for us. However, we are a strong people with unending faith that can weather turmoil. As a result of our resilience, we are willing to turn the page. With your election, our spirits have been uplifted and the optimism is transmitting like a radiant sun.

We also wanted to share that there is a healthy bit of skepticism in our country and we want you to be alert and aware of this angst so that it can be effectively managed. Our country is clear that you inherited some heavy duty issues and your domestic challenges are nothing to take lightly.

Just know that we have expectations here in Cairo and we believe that 18 months is an adequate period of time for you and your administration to show some tangible results. We are reasonable and we know that you cannot finish everything in 18 months but can you please pick 1 key challenge that is mutually beneficial and show some substantive progress. This will alleviate what I believe you call in your country “haters.” This will show the doubters in our country that you are serious about all of those items you outlined in your Cairo speech.

We should also tell you that every NGO, school, private company, real estate developer, young entrepreneurs, students and teachers have all printed personal copies of your speech and we hold them in our wallets next to our driver’s license. This is our hope, key to our future and we review it daily. We want to see the transformation from the paper to reality. We want to make sure all of our efforts are orchestrated well so that we are not mismanaging resources but working in alignment. Our country’s growth is counting on all of these words and thank you for this vision.

We sincerely respect the work you have in front of you and if we can help in anyway, let us know. Remember, we need some progress and it has to be tangible and if possible, in the timeframe provided above.

Thank you again for your leadership. May God preserve you and may His peace be with you always.

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Reach! Extend a Hand. If it is to be, it’s up to Me!


If I could extend my reach to you in this moment
I’d have you in Cairo with me today.
You’d be horseback riding through the pyramids
Or learning why hijabs are worn a certain way.

If I could reach extend my hand to you
I’d offer you solid faith.
That kind of faith that powered the pyramid laborers
Without a detailed engineering plan.
The faith that drove mothers towards freedom
To rear their children in a peaceful land.

My reach would transform this world including peace in the Middle East.
It would provide access and quality healthcare, education and jobs too.
Because at the core of our beings, whether east or west, brown, white or black
We all want success for our families.
Do we need to explain that?

Reach of understanding and compassion towards others
Is the aim of what I’d like to impart.
Before criticizing or judging others,
Pause, reach deeper and have a conversation with your heart.

For as much as we are different, there is so much that is the same.
Peace and success in this world is up to each of us to grab and claim.

Written by Barbara H. McAllister 10/11/09 (inspired by multinational company visits while in Cairo, Egypt)

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Faith can Fill The Gaps -How is your Faith and Fear Relationship

We had another great day yesterday and were able to visit several key attractions in Egypt that will last in our memories for a lifetime. In a day, we were able to visit the Egyptian Museum, The Citadel, The Pyramids and we concluded our day with a yummy dinner with the Citadel as our back drop. Oh what a beautiful day we had together and we are learning and being exposed to so much of the history and culture of Cairo.

We started the day by touring the Egyptian museum and marveling at all of the astonishing King Tut artifacts. The detail in every item whether the coffins, jewelry, beetles or monuments highlighted the quality of work administered during this era. As we marveled at the work, we realized that the creators of these immaculate designs are the forefathers of all of the engineering disciplines. We took notes for most of our visit as the tour guide shared tons of key factoids and interesting trivia facts. In one of our question and answer sessions, a fellow engineer and I were having a side conversation about how amazing it was to see this level of architectural design and civil engineering details that were designed with perfection and with a lasting effect without formal training? The tour guide didn’t hesitate in his response to our question and left us with words that compel us to think beyond ourselves. He shared, “ The people of this era had faith. This faith provided the inspiration behind every design and it eliminated their fears about not being able to create and develop these great pieces of work. Their faith kept them active and moving every day and provided what they needed even without the formal engineering training.”

What a poignant word and so very timely. It is this same faith that has me traveling in the middle east to participate in a two way exchange between Arabs and Americans. It is this faith that both regions have to stay focused on to bring about improvements in the access and quality of education and healthcare. It is this same faith that keeps Dr. Alon Ben-Meir , Najla Al Awadhi, Young Arab Leaders and Business Diplomatic Action moving towards their visions. With this faith, we can move forward and individually contribute our gifts one action at a time. Where there is faith, fear moves aside.

Today we are meeting with international companies in this region. I’ll share more tomorrow. Have a nice day.

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BAM! Dubai Trip is Taking Our Thinking Up A Notch!!

Emerill, a famous US Chef, Restaurateur, and Television Personality , came to mind today as I listened to the Deputy CEO of Dubai Media Incorporated(DMI). His phrase of Bam! , meaning taking the flavor up a notch or adding an extra zest that exceeds the norm and usual expectations of the palate. Similarly, this is the flavor brought to the American fellows today by CEO Najla Al Awadhi . She spoke with so much candor, wisdom and unique flavor that was miles beyond excellent. She definitely took it up a few notches as Emerill would say.

What were the notches in my mind?

1)Global awareness with key data and trends at her fingertips. My new sister friend is deep in research, knows her data and speaks to it with clarity. A few facts that stuck with me: Emirates (Dubai natives) represent s ~16% of people living in Dubai, 22% of Parliament is women and this is the 4th highest globally and while the country of Dubai is only 37 years old and is located in a complicated region, it has been able to move closer towards its vision and is a model for women in the Middle Eastern region.

2)She walks the talk. She is highly committed to education and believes strongly that we have to start with our youth, provide internships and uplevel skills. “Great attitudes are key,” she shared . Not only is she in parliament but is also leading DMI and in her spare time, partners diligently with Youth Arab Leaders. Go girl is all I can say. I just wish I could say that in Arabic!

3)My favorite item she shared . “Think for yourself!” The fact that this statement resonated with me will not surprise any of you that know me well. This has been a key life’s motto. Critical thinking in my view although rarely discussed in this fashion, may be the #1 skill set after attitude. We now live in an era and in particular our US news(media) is not as objective and our freedom of press on some days look more like freedom of mess. I will not blame themedia but rather believe that each of us has a responsibility to gather our own data and arrive at our own conclusions without the sensationalism. Don’t count on objective news. You have to to that critical thinking for yourself and never stop searching for the truth.

4)Finally, today was a win for women and sisterhood. I’m so proud of my UAE Sister! You make women all over the world proud. Keep carrying the torch, breaking down sterotypes and role modeling excellence. You inspire us all.

So, let’s all take it up a notch. Bam! Have a nice day. Tomorrow we fly to Cairo Egypt and I’ll be checking in with you later.

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Are you passionately consuming or passionately contributing?

Have you ever had the experience where an inspiring word hit you and created enough anxiety internally that it would cause you to wrestle and turn and massage it over and over almost as if you were molding clay into a piece of artwork?

This described my last 2 days of the AABF(Arab and American Business Fellowship). The fellows had the opportunity to hear Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, PhD, an expert on Middle East politics and a diplomat that is extremely passionate about peace between Israel and the Arab states. What a great treat it was for us to hear him and experience passion in full bloom. Passion came to life in his voice but it was also backed up by his long lasting commitment and contributions to this very important body of work. He shared boldly without hesitation, “a solution must happen and there will be peace in the Middle East and it will take young, committed and devoted individuals like you to bring about this outcome and contribute.”

As soon as I heard the word contribute, the engineer in me went to a chart with my contributions flowed against consumptions. It left me with a key question, “Am I contributing more to this world than I am consuming?” Where can I contribute more based on the gifts and many blessings bestowed upon me?”

I wrestled with this some during my 12 hour flight to Dubai and I know it will sit with me for a little while more until a clearer plan evolves from my thinking. I will also enlist the feedback of others that know me best as well as my new friends met this week. I documented 3 key areas where I can contribute more to the betterment of our world while in flight. I’ll continue to marinate on them as this program evolves.

Passion is great, but is even a stronger package when combined with actions, commitment and contributions. Think today of one way you could contribute more to the betterment of our society based on your gifts. Are you a contributor or a consumer?  That is the question of today.

More from Dubai on tomorrow.

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Beyond Your Comfort Zone-Day 1 of my Middle Eastern Travel

<blog dedicated to my Business Fellowship Travel for the month of October. Pls follow me on this remarkable  journey.>

Advancement  in growth is often achieved when you are in situations beyond your comfort zone.    I’m just completing Day 1 of the Business for Diplomatic Action(BDA) Fellowship program.  BDA is a two way exchange between Arabs and Americans with the ultimate goal of breaking down stereotypes, better understanding each other’s cultures and building bridges to the world.  No, not all Arab women wear head wraps and not all Americans dine on fast food 24X7.

Today’s activities opened dialogue that will aid in this quest for the truth and clarity that we are more alike than we are different.  We are not one size fit all and our differences can be used to make us stronger. We have a wonderful group of fellows with so many different backgrounds.  I was frankly amazed at the various experiences, education and travel contained in one room.  We covered all kinds of topics as we were getting acquainted including head wraps or not, women in the work place in Dubai, who extends the hand shake first and locations where women do not shake hands with men.  True to form, there were vast differences in cultures between a south carolinian and fellows from Iowa that were worthy of discussion as well.  

It dawned on me that I have never traveled to Iowa.  Here I find myself headed to Dubai and Egypt; yet never traveled to Iowa.  I bet there is a ton of culture for me to experience in Iowa.  I’ll add that to my bucket list.

The factoids for today that resonated most are 55% of an opinion that people form about you in the first 30 seconds is based on how we look and more importantly 85% of your job success is connected to your people skills.

So getting out of your comfort zone may require us all to connect beyond our typical network.  I’m so excited about this program giving me that opportunity. I can already see that Dubai is the place where people move to work.  Just like many of us move from rural towns to work in more technologically advanced areas, Dubai seems to be very similar in that way.  In talking with a fellow from Cairo, Egypt, this was not an easy transition for her or her family but one where she experienced a ton of growth.

What are some ways today that you can identify with that may get you out of your comfort zone?  That’s where your growth resides.  Let me know what you come up with and I’ll be checking back in when I arrive in Dubai.

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