• USP warden speaks about change, courage

  • Change is hard. It takes courage, cooperation, education and leadership to make it happen.

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  • Ellie Melero | Public Affairs Intern
    Change is hard. It takes courage, cooperation, education and leadership to make it happen.
    This was Warden Nicole English’s message to those who attended the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Women’s Equality Day observance luncheon Aug. 15 at the Frontier Conference Center.
    English, the warden of the U.S.Penitentiary at Leavenworth, spoke about the struggles women went through to get the 19th Amendment passed and the lessons that can be learned from those struggles.
    “It created the foundation of what we consider courage and leadership in making tough decisions,” English said.
    English talked about the perseverance of the first women of the suffrage movement and how they waited more than 40 years for their movement to gain any traction. She then talked about how women’s contribution to the war effort in World War I was what helped the movement gain traction and that President Woodrow Wilson’s courage to recognize the significance of that contribution was what helped give the movement credibility.
    She talked about how women still need the courage to collaborate and face challenges in order to make change happen today.
    “Courage begins with an inward battle,” English said. “You need to find courage, you need to create courage, you need to seek courage. But it’s not that easy. Courage is not something you learn overnight.”
    English shared stories about her experience as one of the few women working for the federal prison system for almost 28 years, and she talked about some of the lessons she learned about the importance of compassion, education and courage in being a leader.
    Col. Thomas Bolen, CAC chief of staff, presented English with a certificate of appreciation after her remarks and thanked her for the lessons she shared. He noted that there are many similarities between the federal prison system and the military, and he said women’s roles in both continue to grow.
    Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Solie, the CAC equal opportunity adviser who was in charge of the luncheon, said the luncheon honored Women’s Equality Day, which is Aug. 26, because people need to remember the role women have played in society throughout history.
    Solie said he thought English was a good speaker because it’s important for people to consider other perspectives on equality, and she offered a unique one.
    “There’s not a high population of female wardens in the prison system,” Solie said, “so to gain that perspective from a female warden within the United States prison system, that’s a unique opportunity for the community to gain some insight.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Many of the people in attendance said they enjoyed English’s speech and thought the luncheon was worthwhile.
    Sgt. Quintario Brown, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 705th Military Police Battallion (Detention), said he thought there were many lessons to be learned from English, but the biggest thing he took away was the need to be courageous.
    “She talked a lot about courage and having the courage to face a lot of the responsibilities in leadership,” Brown said. “That was probably the most important thing I took from her speech. If you are in a leadership position, that comes with challenges and adversity, but you need to be aware that that comes with the role, and you have to be able to confront that obstacle and move along.”
    First Sgt. Tabitha Hernandez, HHC, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, said she appreciated what English had to say, and she thought it was good to reflect on women’s successes in the past before talking about how to continue to change the future.
    “I think it was very impactful to say, ‘Look how far we came and what we accomplished and what we continue to accomplish,’” Hernandez said. “There’s still room for improvement, so it’s a work in progress. I feel like we’ll continue to make those small strides as time goes by.”
    English ended her speech by leaving the attendees something to think about.
    “We came together today in this room to celebrate women’s equality,” English said. “Without a doubt, there’s much to celebrate. But equality of any kind does not come without struggles, sacrifice and courage to take the risks. It is what is needed to educate those who need to evolve and change. Today’s evening news is full of problems that need to be challenged and changed.
    “Become an agent of change.”
    The next luncheon will be the Hispanic Heritage Month luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 19 at the Frontier Conference Center.
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