Girl Scouts celebrate leadership

The annual Girl Scouts Totem Council Leadership Luncheon, held Wednesday in Bremerton, offered a tribute to scouting as a way to develop character, leadership and to celebrate how the values instilled in young girls turn them into stronger adults.

At the same time, it also stressed how scouting’s lighter side can be as significant.

“It’s important that a girl can spend some time being a girl,” said Totem Council CEO Grace Chien, “that she can explore her possibilities, find her strengths and make friends. Girl Scouts is a very special place to have fun.”

Chien said the Scouts are emphasizing the traditional initiatives of expanding school science curriculums and building the skills gained from outdoor programs.

“We’re moving toward broadening the discussion of the obesity epidemic as it affects young girls,” she said. “Girls need to take a holistic approach toward healthy living. We are connected by a common commitment to decrease animosities and link different people and cultures through the common sisterhood of Girl Scouting.”

The event’s keynote address came from Jean Boler, whose legal efforts to fight discrimination were chronicled in the recent movie “North Country.” Boler now works as an attorney for the city of Seattle.

Boler said the film tells the story of women who didn’t necessarily want to change the world but only sought equal pay for equal work. As miners in Minnesota, they were harassed and threatened, resulting in a decade-long court case in which they eventually prevailed.

Throughout, Boler acted as their lawyer.

“This case taught me the meaning of courage and character,” Boler said. “A small group of women wanted one thing, and that was respect. They were in a man’s world. They were harassed and afraid. They were pushed to the edge. They were then united and turned into a force to be reckoned with. They left a legacy that showed how every girl can make a difference.

“Today, we have women senators and generals and leaders,” Boler said. “People say that women of tomorrow won’t face the barriers of yesterday. I hope that is true. But they will still face hard choices that will challenge them to respect themselves and respect other girls. With this courage, confidence and character, it will make the world a better place.”

There were certain differences between the movie and real life, she said. For example, Boler herself was not portrayed. Additionally, the movie ended with the filing of the court case — in reality it took many years to achieve the victory.

“It would have been nice if the mining company had just changed their policy,” Boler said. “Instead, it cost them $10 million in legal fees. But as I watched the movie, I felt the women got a certain vindication. The courts said they were right, but the movie said they were heroes.”

Several local elected officials — themselves former Girl Scouts — were in attendance at the luncheon. These included, among others, three mayors, two county commissioners, two state representatives, a judge and city councilmembers.

And while they may not have been victimized as violently as the women portrayed in “North Country,” they were invigorated by Bolen’s words.

“I had forgotten there was a time when women didn’t have these rights in the workplace,” said North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen. “This film is a good reminder of those times. We should see it with our friends, our daughters and our granddaughters. It shows how, united together, we can make a universal difference.”

“Girl Scouts build character,” said Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Sally Olsen. “It is where I began my public service, and where I first learned to help other people.”

Added 23rd District Rep. Beverly Woods (R-Kingston), “I made some great friends in Girl Scouts, and it is where I first learned about government.”

“When I was growing up, women were the cheerleaders, but they never played the game,” former state Sen. Betti Sheldon said. “Women today are top-notch athletes and have more opportunities to develop themselves. Girl Scouts give them a chance to figure out who they are, to discover their abilities and talents. They understand they have the ability to be successful.”

Sheldon stressed she is “not anti-man,” and always favors the best person for the job.

Still, she feels that women legislators move more easily toward compromise. “It’s not so important that they make the touchdown,” she said, “as long as the touchdown is made.”

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