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PeaceTimes Edition 86. The Sky’s the Limit

15 October 2008 No Comment

An Interview with Pat Morris, Peace X Peace Executive Director from Fall 2008 through 2009

- by Mary Liston Liepold

Pat Morris

Pat Morris

After an international search that involved more than 100 applications and interviews with 15 qualified candidates, the Board of Directors selected Dr. Patricia Morris to lead Peace X Peace. Dr. Morris will take office on Monday, September 22, 2008. She comes to us from Women for Women International, where she directed program development for the Global Programs Unit. She is a results-driven senior manager with more than 20 years of academic and organizational experience and 15 years of leadership in the international community, and a successful fundraiser with top-level media experience.

Before coming to Women for Women International she was Deputy Director of the Commission on the Advancement of Women, at InterAction, where she developed and refined the Gender Audit that is now in international use. Dr. Morris was honored by InterAction in 2004 with the Mildred Robbins Leet Award for the Advancement of Women. She earned her Ph.D. in International Relations at Florida State University, Tallahassee, and is an Adjunct Professor in the School of International Service at American University, Washington, DC.

Do women have a special connection to peace?

“We have to be at the peace tables and wherever decisions are made.”

Women are the mothers of peace. We bring it to life; we give birth to it. I’m not an essentialist, but I know that because of our traditional roles we understand the costs and benefits of peace—which I define to include structures of equality, opportunities, choices, and everyone being able to live out their potential. We understand peace in a way that men don’t, and we can articulate it, so we have to be at the peace tables and wherever decisions are made.

We bring families, communities, and nations together around the things that are most fundamental to life: food, homes, relationships, faith. We are the keepers of what life is all about, and we have the knowledge, strategies, techniques, and approaches to build it.

I knew I was a feminist—a womanist—early on. I moved to a different drumbeat. I always wanted to go where society, family, and friends said I couldn’t go because I was a girl. I knew I couldn’t be the only girl who wanted a fire truck instead of a doll; who wanted to sing in the male-dominated calypso competition; who longed to immerse myself in international affairs, relief, and development. Somebody had to break that ceiling, so why not me?

I grew up on St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands. It’s a heavenly place. The whole island is like some of the small towns I’ve lived in here in the States, or like an African village. You’re related to half the people there, and even if you’re not, all the women are your aunties and all the men are your uncles. They’re all ready to put you back on the path if you start to stray. As a young woman I was eager to get out and see the world, but now I have a new appreciation for the beauty of small islands.

"I knew I couldn’t be the only girl who wanted a fire truck instead of a doll."

The people of St. Croix are proud people, proud of their heritage. The women who raised me were superwomen who took care of the family and were also professionals. I struggle for the balance they seemed to have so naturally. All over the world, women are expected to do it all and it’s taken for granted.

One of the things I love about Peace X Peace is that it shows women how wonderful they are and doesn’t take them for granted. For me this job is a vocation, a passion, not just a professional move. It lets me bring my core beliefs to the table: beliefs about what needs to be fixed in this world, and what we can do.

What needs to be fixed?

There is so much! The continuing, growing, never-ending strife and conflict; the increase in the last half-century of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war. Rape camps in Bosnia, hideous rapes in Darfur, “comfort women” in Japan during World War II, the hideous violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They all haunt me. It is an indictment of humanity that we have found no better way! This is why women must be at the negotiating and decision-making tables, local to international, in critical mass. We can generate viable alternatives.

I am appalled by the pandemics—AIDS, TB, malaria—crossing borders, spreading beyond control. The face of AIDS today is the face of a woman of color. I am appalled by the expanding poverty. But we can find solutions. Peace X Peace members around the world are engaged in solutions to HIV/AIDS, poverty, violence and much more. They find a way to do it!

"What inspires me the most is the phenomenal women I have met around the world."

I’m a big fan of science fiction, because I love imagining the future. Women and men are incredibly creative beings. The more women connect around the world, the more of us will be able to recognize and share the gifts we have, and the more solutions we can find.

What inspires me the most is the phenomenal women I have met around the world. I have worked closely with women survivors of conflict. Some of them have endured the most horrendous acts imaginable, and they still believe we can build a new, different, better future. They pick themselves up, form circles of support for each other, and find ways to rebuild their lives and their countries.

In the Virgin Islands the typical answer to ‘How are you?’ is ‘I can’t complain.’ I truly can’t complain, because I live in a place where my life, my dreams, my future is not at risk every day. For many women around the world, theirs are, and they still come together to make life better and prepare a foundation for their children’s future. That tells me there is so much we can do in partnership with women on the frontlines at home and abroad. The sky is the limit for what we can do together!

Who are your sheroes?

"I truly believe that, faced with a choice between what’s expedient and what’s right, humans will choose what’s right."

First, Mary Matilda Henry, my grandmother, who raised me. She worked as a domestic most of her life, so she wanted more for her children and grandchildren. She would say every day; “You must get your education so you can be your own woman.” Then my mother and her sisters, who were also strong Caribbean women. They were doing it all: very involved in the women’s ministry in the church, in business and professional women’s associations, in community cultural organizations. They are the backbone of the community—leaders with strong views and strong voices about what’s right and what’s wrong.

And Queen Mary. She was a major labor activist in St. Croix. Every schoolchild learns her name as part of their history and heritage. That lets you know, as a girl and a woman, that you can make a difference by connecting with others and raising your voice.

What kind of music do you enjoy?

Calypso is my #1, with reggae close behind. I’m eclectic and global, though; there are very few things I don’t like. I’m a fan of the Iranian singer Googoosh, of the Gypsy Kings, African High Life, Fela and Femi Kuti, even some country and western music. I get great double takes when I do those at karaoke! Elton John, Billy Joel, Barbara Streisand … music is the window to the soul, and it’s a window on other cultures. It’s an exceptional way to build community and understanding.

Favorite books?

I read six or seven at a time. Right now I’m reading a lot on leadership, management, and economics. I’m looking for gems: strategies, tips, inspiration to use in my life and work. The last one I bought was How to Be a Good Boss. And as I said, when I relax, I love science fiction.

Movies?

I just saw the new Batman. It’s dark; it’s not for everyone, but near the end there’s something wonderful. There are people in two boats. The Joker tells them they have to destroy each other or he’ll destroy them. They don’t, and the Joker fails. Decency, humanity survives. I truly believe that, faced with a choice between what’s expedient and what’s right, humans will choose what’s good and right.

What’s on your Bucket List?

Before I die? Top of the list: Dancing naked in the streets of Rio at Carnival. That’s my ultimate notion of freedom. And to see more of the world. Some people think I’ve already been everywhere, but not by far. Nothing beats being there and connecting with people on the ground.

I want to see more of China, and other parts of Asia – Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh. There are many parts of Africa I haven’t seen . . . Burundi, Egypt, Morocco, Somalia, Tanzania. I want to see still more of the Americas: Machu Pichu, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador . . . . There are so many places I still want to visit and learn from!

"Women’s stamp on the fate of the world is long overdue."

I feel privileged and excited to be joining Peace X Peace at this moment in time. I want our members to know I strongly believe that Peace X Peace can change the world through the connections we make, the support we give each other, the space we create for our voices to rise in unison. I KNOW the sky is the limit for how Peace X Peace can position women to make an incredible difference.

Women’s stamp on the fate of the world is long overdue. The moment is here for women to seize the day, to make sure that tomorrow is infinitely better than today.

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About the Author

Mary Liepold is the Editor-in-Chief at Peace X Peace. To reach Dr. Liepold, email maryl@peacexpeace.org.
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