Women’s Leadership Luncheon: Feeling Inspired, Empowered & Grateful!


As an intern at United Way (that’s me in the photo, second from the left), I had the privilege of attending the recent United Way Women’s Leadership Luncheon. 

As a young professional  just embarking on my career, I felt so empowered to be in a room full of so many successful as well as philanthropic women.  Throughout history, women have always been great multi-taskers, and that is only amplified of today’s society where women are mothers, wives and successful professionals.  

As I looked around the ballroom, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of all these women.  Not only were they fulfilling these roles, but they were doing it well while dedicating time to give back to the community. 

The speaker was Jeannette Walls, an acclaimed author, but more importantly a fascinating and inspiring individual.   She told a story about how she walked into her living room one day to find her very eccentric and previously homeless mother grinning from ear to ear. 

“Why are you so happy, Mom?” she asked. 

“I fell off of a horse,” said her mother.Confused Jeanette probed for more detail, “So why would that make you happy?”

“Well Jeannette,” she replied, “most people can get on a horse and ride it, but I can fall off and still be O.K.”

I think this was an important message for everyone in that room to hear.  Every day, we face challenges.  I’m sure many of the women in the room had responsibilities to attend to after lunch—picking up kids from school, taking care of ailing parents and getting back to work. 

However, to hear a story of a woman who was homeless for a majority of her life and was able to remain positive in almost every experience she had was inspirational. 

One of the greatest pleasures I get from interning at United Way is that not only do we support people who have “fallen off the horse,” but we also find ways to help them get back on it.  Most importantly, it grounds me.  Hearing Jeannette’s story really inspired me (and hopefully others), to be thankful for the things that we have and to be more willing to share them with others.

Gioia Harman
UCF Intern
United Way Marketing & Communications

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