Maira Perez Velasquez and David Gaines, Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center

by | Apr 3, 2020 | Leadership Seminars | 0 comments

“Leadership means to me knowing your history, knowing your heritage. When you run into an obstacle or you get frustrated, if you study that heritage it will give you lessons on how to move forward.” –Maira Perez Velazquez

“To know if what you are doing is morally correct, ask yourself if you would be ok if the entire world followed suit.” –David Gaines

For two of our recent seminars, Institute alumni Maira Perez and David Gaines joined Institute youth and staff for video conference leadership seminars. David is now a sophomore at American University in Washington DC and intern in the Office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Maira, an Institute student since the 7th grade in Covington, is now a second year law school student with a focus on civil and human rights law at the University of Illinois Champaign School of Law. She is a DACA student.

As the students and staff engaged with Maira via video conference, she discussed the lessons she has learned about leadership from her mother and father, her culture, and from the Institute for Community Leadership. She said, each of us come from a certain tension in history. Look for those moments in history that have had struggle. Figure out what you can learn from them. “Remember that we belong to the least among us.” Also, “When you boil it down our lives come down to weeks and months. That should give us a sense of urgency to what we are doing. Our lives are the one opportunity we have to do something meaningful.”

David discussed the lesson he has learned, lessons of servant leadership. “The main way to show leadership is by participating in the work, showing people you can do the work, and by doing it with grace and humility.” He emphasized lessons he has learned from Dr. Wilson, including, “Leaders do not wait to be tapped on the shoulder, first and foremost. Leaders stand when everyone sits.” And, “Whenever you feel like someone else is not listening to you, it is not a time to look outward; it is a time to look inward.”

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