Sunday, March 2, 2014

Can You Name One

Years ago I attended military leadership training on Equal Employment Opportunities with my unit.  A gentleman from West Africa was providing the training.  Sadly I have forgotten his name but I still remember his message.  You see he started his training with the following quiz - he said our answers could be names of people either living or dead, male or female except for the first two questions.

Try answering the questions yourself.

1.  Can you name one influential American man?

2.  Can you name one influential American woman?

3.  Can you name one influential Irish-American?

4.  Can you name one influential Italian-American?

5.  Can you name one influential Native-American?

6.  Can you name one influential Jewish-American?

7.  Can you name on influential Japanese-American?

8.  Can you name one influential German-American?

9.  Can you name one influential African-American?

10.  Can you name one influential Polish-American?

11.  Can you name one influential Chinese-American?

He gave us about 10 minutes to complete the quiz,  then he called for a show of hands.  How many answered all eleven questions.  No hands.  Ten questions - no hands.   Nine questions - no hands.  On the count went.  Five questions - my hand went up.  The majority of the group had about 3 answers.

I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishment.

With great dignity he quietly stated, "Other than the first question how many women did you list?"

Women? None - well one, the question that specifically asked about an influential woman.

He went on to say that this list was more about our values as a society.  It was about how our education looked at half our population.  Until we consciously teach about women's accomplishments we will never achieve true equality for anyone.

I'm not sure what else he said, my mind was was still reeling from his bombshell.  I who had felt proud moments before - now felt clueless.

Today- I close my eyes - and remember this dignified man.  This man in his suit and baby blue shirt.  The cadence of his words, with their soft accent.  His twinkling eyes as he threw the curve ball, "How many of your names were that of women?"

In that moment I changed.  Today I look differently at history and how we teach it.


  1. Wow...what a powerful lesson. And a reminder to myself to include more biographies of women in our library collection--thanks!

  2. You got me too! Any names I thought of were men. How sad for me.

  3. What a powerful lesson and a reminder that we must look at history through the diverse eyes of all who have traveled....

  4. Ruth/LibraryDragonMarch 2, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    Having them available is important. Hooking the kids is challenging. I try to share snippets. Martha Kohl is featuring short biographies about Montana women at

  5. We feel we have come so far, but that man truly put things into perspective. We have far to go and to learn.

  6. LibraryDragon/RuthMarch 2, 2014 at 7:07 AM

    The more you travel this journey the deeper and wider we can share this lesson.

  7. New Horizons just opened up. The stories are rich some funny, some haunting, I have become righer for meeting so many on this path.

  8. I still don't have an answer to some, but I learned about this quiz in diversity training in school a few years ago, Ruth. Powerful message-so glad you shared. I'll keep this to share too.

  9. The gentleman who taught the training was living in Denver at the time. That was probably about 20 years ago.

  10. For us, it hasn't been that long, but our training was given by an African-American man, not surprising.

  11. What an eye opening quiz. We think we have come so far only to be shown that we haven't.

  12. This is something we all have to be aware of, especially when teaching history. Who is telling the story? Who is left out? Why? Thanks for sharing this today - much food for thought.

  13. Those are very good questions to teach our kids to always ask.

  14. I believe learning to be gentle with ourselves and giving ourselves permission to make small changes. Taking baby steps is a huge step.

  15. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to see one another as simply a brother or sister without the definition of ethnicity, but then I realize the richness that heritage brings to life.


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