By Megan DiBello

What I ask of everyone in this room is to turn to a woman here and say thank you. Not because this is what she “deserves” but rather, out of respect for yourself.

Every night when I went to bed as a child I was told by my parents, Megan, you are a leader and not a follower, you are the best and the greatest.

Little did I know what my parents were telling me were mantras, goal statements, fuck it, confidence statements. To this day I say that confidence is my religion. And empowerment is a personal power I give myself. Many in this room have heard me say, you are your own best business card. But that shit is real. People don’t meet you and your baggage of your past or your bank account. They meet me Megan, crazy hair and all, with a firm handshake, direct eye contact, and firm stances on business, equal rights, and art.

The real make it happen megan was formed long before she made art films in college, hid in the corner of the Poetry Project awaiting her turn to read, leveraging negotiation skills convincing teachers this math class was redundant and I needed to take the higher level, before she was running creative agencies, leaving to live in other countries, flying to Colorado with only a suitcase alone, writing about men, talking to poetry legends, challenging even her liberal graduate school to be better, managing all inclusive business events, creating communities for all adults to learn.

I want to talk about strong women and what does that mean for me. I want to talk about My mother who sacrificed a good job for her children, My grandmother who sacrificed her life for a better love story, I want to talk about my best friend Alice, while once getting bullied in a school yard of nannies stuck up for herself and I commended her for her voice carrying in a crowd of all women, My friend Dana who while working at a bar would challenge a bad tip and fought for equal pay, not by putting it in a patron's face, but because her face isn’t on a dollar bill, and perhaps men should think differently, My friend Lane a woman who has challenge all odds working her ass off with a single mother to being top of her class in college and now working at a top publishers in New York, My friend Phantasia a woman who had had her baby taken from her at 9 months and soon after was challenged by making another tough decision to leave her husband, an alcoholic. All of these women are strong. All of these women are my friends.

At times I think kindness is weakness. At times I think people without opinions are weak. In reality, it is me in those instances that is weak. My purpose in life is for everyone to believe that within them is a doer/maker= is the natural poet they always needed to be for themselves.

I have been lucky I never have known a world where my opinion has not counted, not because society has told me, but because I made it count.

So can everyone say with me, “I am a leader and not a follower. I am the best and the greatest.”

Keith Friedlander