Presenter Q&A with Mary Gaylord: we are more alike than different
// By Jacqueline Brennan
During the Upswell workshop, “How to Talk about Race and Ethnicity,” you’ll join Mary Gaylord, managing partner of Living Room Conversations, in a “living room like” environment to share, listen, and help advance understanding. Find out more about Mary, including what she likes about the 60s, and why we must work at staying connected.
Q: If you had a time machine, would you go back in time, or into the future, and why?
MG: I think I would go back in time. I’ve always been drawn to the time of the 60s. There was tremendous engagement – some of it positive, some of it not – and there was tremendous change. I think of the activity and protesting around the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. Those were really, really remarkable times in our country. times of remarkable challenge and remarkable growth. To have been part of that, there was power in the people collectively coming together and saying this is not OK. People make fun of it, but there were a lot of beautiful sentiments, peace and love. There were things about that time that were really fascinating and I would have enjoyed being of age during that time.
Q: What would you change if you could get a “do over” in your life?
MG: I don’t know that I’d change anything. I’m not trying to dodge the question, but I say that because I learn something from everything, even the mistakes, especially the mistakes. There were incidents where I wish I had made a different choice or gone this way instead of that way, but I think that sometimes the greatest learnings come from the greatest mistakes, so I’m not sure I would change anything.
Q: What’s the best part of your job, and what’s the worse part?
MG: The best part of my job is that I love what I do. I love building bridges between people, and I adore the people I work with. The worse part is that because most of us in Living Room Conversations work remotely, we don’t get to see each other in person very often, and so I miss that piece of it, but it also means I have the luxury of being able to work from home and having a lot of flexibility and freedom in my schedule, which is a beautiful thing.
Q: Who had the biggest impact on the person you have become?
MG: The answer has been different at different points in my life. I would say my parents. I know that’s two people instead of one, but they had a tremendous impact. It took me getting to 55 years old to recognize that, and to recognize the seeds that they planted so long ago that have in some cases grown to massive oak trees, that I didn’t realize it. I was having a conversation with my brother the other day. My family is far from perfect, but he said one of the things he recognized that was instilled in us so strongly was the sense of loyalty to family, to partners, and that that doesn’t exist in a lot of families. It doesn’t mean we always like each other, but we are fiercely loyal, and until he spoke it and named it, I didn’t realize it, but that was deeply embedded in me from a very, very young age. So I would say that as I grow older, the way I parent, the way I am in my marriage – those influences came from my parents to a really large extent, more than I’ve probably realized. And for me those influences have been very, very positive.
Q: What is one thing that every person in the sector should know about?
MG: Everyone should know that as human beings, we are more alike than different, we have more things in common than not, our social connection to each other is perhaps the most important, and we need to be reminded of that. We also need to work at it. It doesn’t mean the connection comes easily, but it’s critical to our health, our happiness, to our democracy, and it’s important that we remember that. We also have to be aware that we’ve got to do the work to stay connected.
How to Talk about Race and Ethnicity is happening Thursday, November 14 from 4:15 – 5:30pm.