Wilson School's "Leadership and Governance Program" Welcomes Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood
The Woodrow Wilson School welcomed Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, to campus on March 28-29, 2012 as part of the School's "Leadership and Governance Program." The program brings prominent policy makers to Princeton for a multi-day visit during which they deliver a public lecture and meet with students and faculty in a variety of settings.
“Keeping Politics out of Women’s Health” was the topic of Richard’s public talk on March 28. In introducing Richards to a full house, Janet Currie, p rofessor of economics and public policy and director of the Wilson School’s Center for Health and Wellbeing (CHW), noted that Richard’s talk “is being presented at a critical moment in the nationwide conversation about women’s health: the public outcry after the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s withdrawal and then reinstatement of funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening, the debate in Washington about contraception coverage and religious organizations, and the Supreme Court’s hearing on the Affordable Care Act has brought stark attention to the question about what the appropriate role is for government, for nonprofit organizations, for insurance companies, and for private entities in promoting women’s health.”
Richards, in her talk, addressed all of those issues and more:
One of the hallmarks of the Leadership and Governance program is the chance for students to meet with leaders in smaller, more intimate settings – and Richards participated to the full hilt. She enjoyed lunches with students from the CHW and the Office of Population Research, as well as those from the Gender and Policy Network. Over a two day period, she met with students during office hours for half hour appointments. And following her public lecture, she had dinner with students in an off-the-record, salon style setting where students examined the nuances of the policy ideas presented at her talk, shared ideas, and asked more probing question in a comfortable setting.
Richards was also able to participate in classes on a variety of topics that tapped her expertise and experience.
She joined a discussion with students in Professor Stan Katz’s course on non-profits, nongovernmental organizations and philanthropy to discuss the challenges of running a large nonprofit organization. Richards also participated in the classroom discussion on reproductive rights in Professor Elizabeth Armstrong’s class, “Born in the U.S.A.: Culture and Reproduction in Modern America.” And she finished her visit with a stint in Professor Nan Keohane’s class on leadership, engaging students in conversation about what makes a great leader.
All in all, Ms. Richards met with and spoke to more than 300 hundred students. And the feedback about her visit was overwhelmingly positive:
“It was very inspiring to have Ms. Richards come to WWS. As women, we need constant examples of strong women leaders,” said Jennifer Browning MPA ’13. “Ms. Richards, with her humor and her down-to-earth attitude, is a perfect example of a woman role model; she has navigated a complex political situation to continue the fight for women's health and for access to reproductive health services. I think her visit really energized students. I hope we can capitalize on the energy generated from her visit by forming a strong coalition of students, women and men, here on campus dedicated to fighting for women's health and reproductive rights.”
Added Christina Henderson MPA ’12, “A couple of weeks ago, I heard Meryl Streep say that being an excellent role model is not an easy task because it’s equal parts being who you actually are and being who people hope you'll be. I think Cecile has found that delicate balance and as a result is such a powerful role model. It was such an honor to be able to informally engage in conversation with her while she was on campus. Her brand of transformational leadership has done so much in terms of expanding and improving access to quality reproductive health services for women -- and men. As I prepare to graduate and continue my career in public service, it was amazing to be able to talk with her about experiences and hopes and even fears. I can think of no better way to cap off Women's History Month than with her two-day visit.”