Elizabeth Hudson Smith

Exclusion is a hurtful thing. Most of us have felt it–either as the victim who is ignored or shut out of a group’s activities or as one of the people making the choice to go along with that behavior. A strong character is necessary to withstand being treated in such a way. Is a strong character also necessary to choose not to participate in the excluding behavior?

1897… Married less than a year, Bill and Elizabeth Smith stepped on a train in Chicago, Illinois (population: 1,700,000) with dreams of starting a new life in the Arizona Territory. Bill would be a porter on the Santa Fe, Prescott, and Phoenix Railroad and Elizabeth…well, she would find “something” to do. On that August afternoon no one, not even Elizabeth, could imagine just how that “something” would impact Wickenburg, Arizona (population: 300). The young couple were the first black residents to join the mixture of Native Americans, Mexicans, Asians and Caucasians who were farming, ranching, or hoping for the next big strike in the area around Henry Wickenburg’s Vulture Mine.

Getting off the train in Wickenburg, the couple were told they could get a bed and a meal in a dilapidated one-story adobe building at the end of the street. Fortunately, the old Baxter Hotel would offer them more. The couple would find an opportunity. Richard Baxter was in desperate need of a cook. A sample of Elizabeth’s cooking assured him she would keep the customers happy. When Bill convinced Baxter to allow him to manage the hotel’s bar, he gave up his job with the railroad. Elizabeth’s delicious meals and her special chocolate chip cookies brought a steady stream of miners and townspeople to the Baxter. With Elizabeth’s earnings and savings, she and Bill were soon able to buy the hotel from Richard Baxter.

1905… Wickenburg was enjoying a boom, which would double the town’s population. The couple had added a wooden second story to the old adobe hotel, creating the town’s first two-story building. Elizabeth had even more ambitious plans. Within a few years, officials from the Santa Fe Railroad approached the Smiths about building a larger new hotel closer to the railroad station. Trains did not serve meals and many passengers also wanted a nice place to spend a night or two before proceeding with their travels.

Somehow, Elizabeth managed to find enough funding to plan and build what was referred to as “the finest building in the town” in an article in the Sept. 13, 1905 edition of Prescott’s weekly Arizona Journal Miner. Elizabeth and Phoenix architect James Creighton created a showplace, which could host up to fifty guests. The Vernetta Hotel, named after Bill’s mother, contained a post office, small bank, and a shoeshine booth. Twelve-inch thick red brick walls kept the rooms cool in the summer and fireplaces warmed the winter evenings. Officials from the Santa Fe Railroad were so pleased with the facility they built a wooden walkway from the depot to the hotel’s front door. Elizabeth would often walk down to greet the guests at the station. Travelers from around the country enjoyed a stop at the Vernetta as they sought the mild winter climate of Arizona and California. Bill’s bar, the Black and Tan, and Elizabeth’s dining room offered relaxation and delicious food. Elizabeth had made a wise investment in buying a small farm where she raised the beef, chickens, and vegetables that ended up on the hotel’s dining tables.

This daughter of a freed slave had another surprising talent. Elizabeth spoke, read and wrote French. Each week, residents of Phoenix began to make the fifty-four mile journey by train, horseback, or buggy to take French lessons while enjoying a stay at the Vernetta. Guests discovered that their hostess was also a eager card player. Bridge games were held in the lobby with Elizabeth sitting in as a skilled fourth player.
Elizabeth and James Creighton had an additional contact which benefitted Wickenburg. Both were devout Presbyterians. They worked together to help establish the local Community Church. This would later become the First Presbyterian Church in Wickenburg.

In 1908, Elizabeth went back to Illinois to visit her uncle. On this trip, she met Bill Butler, a struggling young black musician. Since the grand piano in the lobby of the Vernetta often sat empty, Elizabeth invited him to come to Wickenburg and entertain her guests. Butler was welcomed by the town and was often hired to sing at parties and social gatherings. He also worked on the farm with another man who had benefitted from Elizabeth’s kindness. Dan Davis had been born with a clubfoot and some mental challenges. ‘Clubfoot’ Davis could not find even menial work on any of the ranches around Wickenburg. So, Elizabeth gave Dan a home and a job on her farm. He fed the chickens and took care of the other livestock that provided food for the Vernetta.

These years from 1905 to 1912 were good for Elizabeth Smith in many ways. She owned the Vernetta and had helped to start a church. She had also acquired a restaurant, a barbershop, several rental homes, and an opera house where touring theatrical companies entertained the community. But her personal life had suffered. Children from the town always found cookies and a welcome at the kitchen door of the hotel. But she and Bill never had children. Sadly, Bill had a drinking problem, which worsened over the years. He often disappeared for days, even weeks, at a time. Bill returned home only when his money ran out. In November of 1912, Elizabeth divorced him on the grounds of desertion.
For the next decade, Elizabeth poured herself into the hotel, the church, and the town. During the 1920’s, Wickenburg benefitted from the good economic times spreading throughout the nation. In 1897, Elizabeth had stepped off the train at a village on the edge of a dry riverbed. Thirty years later, Wickenburg was a thriving, industrious community with prosperous new businesses and many new residents. Some of these new residents felt Wickenburg should reflect the ideas they brought with them about what was “right and proper”. These were people who had not been part of the work that had gone into building the community. Many were people who did not see the rightness of treating other people the way they would want to be treated. But they were powerful people — powerful enough to shut Elizabeth out of the social life of the town she had lived in for decades.

1929-1935 It would be easy to say the exclusion of Elizabeth Smith was the result of the Great Depression. However, the Depression’s worst effects would not have been felt in Wickenburg until the mid-1930’s. The doors began to close — literally and figuratively — on Elizabeth before then. Bridge players began to close the parlor doors of her own beautiful hotel as a sign she was not welcome to join the game. Visitors from the big cities of the East and Midwest were not corrected when they thought the aging black woman cleaning their rooms, preparing and serving their meals was only the maid.

First, Elizabeth was edged out of the church circles of the Presbyterian Church she had helped to establish. Eventually, she was not even allowed to attend the church services.

Even during the worst years of the Depression, wealthy people from the East and Midwest had their own private train cars that were hooked to trains traveling to the West. It was possible to travel in great comfort from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Arizona and California to escape the cold winters. Many of these winter visitors were looking for the activities found in larger cities. Fewer ordinary travelers stopped for a pleasant stay at the Vernetta. Her income greatly declined.

What made Elizabeth stay in a town where she was no longer regarded as valued member of the community? It could not have been poverty. At the time of her death, she had assets of $50,000. In 1935, this would have been more than enough to allow her to leave Wickenburg, relocate, and live comfortably without the embarrassment of being shunned on the street by people she had known for years. Perhaps she stayed because she still had the strong will that had given her the courage to come to the Arizona Territory in 1897. Perhaps she stayed because she still had the determination that allowed her to build a string of successful businesses. Or, perhaps she stayed because she had come to love the rocky skyline and beautiful sunsets in the place she had called home for almost forty years.

Elizabeth Hudson Smith died on March 25, 1935. Her obituary in the Hassayampa Sun praised her for her “many deeds of kindness to the community.” But the town barred her from being buried in what was now a whites only cemetery. Elizabeth’s body was put to rest in the Garcia Cemetery, along side the Mexicans, Indians, and Asians who had died in the community. Today, a statue of her stands there. Her beloved Vernetta Hotel is now the Hassayampa Building. She has been honored in Arizona Highways, the Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden, and the Arizona Centennial Legacy Project’s, Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail. One wonders if that is also true of the people who made the choice to treat her as a person less worthy than themselves.
(source: Materials from Desert Cabelleros Western Museum, Wickenburg)

  1. What are some differences Elizabeth would have experienced in 1897 when she moved from Illinois to Wickenburg?
  2. In the late 19th century, it may have been easier for a black woman to become a successful businesswoman than it would have been for a white woman. Write reasons to agree or disagree with this statement.
  3. Create a role-play where people from this article give their point of view.
  4. Outline the changes in our society, which might cause some different outcomes in Elizabeth Hudson Smith’s story if it were happening today.

The Three Amigos

“The Three Amigos: Excellence Without Ego”
What does it take to become a National Champion? Is it possible to reach that level without showing egotism? What was the unusual path three Arizona teen-agers traveled to acceptance at three top tier universities? Competition can develop character, but it can also reveal it.

Three young Arizonans, Joey Kendrick of Gilbert, Alexandria Provine and Tyler Rico of Tucson competed successfully throughout the nation as the top members of the Arizona Junior Rifle team. As ambassadors for Arizona’s Junior Shooting Team, they successfully raised the bar for performance over the last two years. The three spent countless hours practicing, training, and traveling together to competitions. But after their 2012 graduations from Gilbert High School, Canyon Del Oro High School (Tucson), and Flowing Wells High School (Tucson), the ‘Three Amigos’ set a new record in their departures for college. Joey left Gilbert for Maryland, Alex headed for New York, and Tyler crossed the border into Colorado.

What is the significance of these locations? Annapolis, Maryland has been the home of the Naval Academy for over one hundred and fifty years; West Point, New York became the home of the U.S. Military Academy under President Thomas Jefferson in 1802; and Colorado Springs, Colorado was selected as the home of the Air Force Academy in 1954. Arizona’s Three Amigos have set a record off the range that will undoubtedly be a hard target to match. Extensive research regarding their feat has been done by their coach, Tom Kirby, and other national shooting sports groups. This research has not uncovered an example of any three members of a competing team being selected for appointments to each of the nation’s military academies in one year.

Joey, Alex, and Tyler joined the rifle teams for each academy and will face each other in NCAA events. It is very likely that one or more of them will be participating in training for the United States Olympic Team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Let us look at each member of this amazing unit.

Even though Joey began shooting under his father’s guidance when he was five years old, he was the last of the three to join the Junior Shooter’s program. Within days of joining, the high school junior was selected as a firing member of the six-person Arizona team going to the National Championship match in Perry, Ohio in 2011. That team won the Minuteman Trophy awarded to the National Champion Junior Team. Joey was also a member of the six-person team that won the silver medal at the National Rifle Matches that year.

Organization and focus also helped Joey in his academic efforts during the last two years of high school. He was Corps Commander of his USAF JROTC unit and led their drill team to three national championships. He was a member of the National Honor Society and maintained at 4.0 GPA while taking Advanced Placement Honor’s classes. Joey also received an appointment to the Air Force Academy. However, he chose to round out the Three Amigos’ academy sweep by accepting the appointment offered by the US Naval Academy instead. Not wanting to wait until he reached Annapolis to practice with a small-bore rifle, Joey began practicing immediately with a borrowed rifle. Perhaps it was because he knew he may be facing two very familiar competitors in NCAA competitions.

Alex began shooting with the Junior Shooters program when she was a sixteen – year old sophomore. To make up for this late start, Alex designed a rigorous practice schedule. She practiced four days a week before school and two days a week after school. During the summer, she spent four to six hours a day shooting at least four days a week. The intensive commitment to practice paid off. Alex became an Arizona State Champion in the Junior Olympic qualifier matches. When she attended her first National Rifle Matches in 2010 as a firing team member, she returned home with an Expert ranking, bypassing the two lower rankings. She credits some of her rapid success to an unexpected source. Many would classify shooting prowess as a left-brain activity. As an accomplished painter, Alex disagrees. She sees intense focus and quick thinking as a part of both her artistic skills and competitive shooting. “They are very similar in terms of the mental approach. Fine art taught me to use these skills to improve my focus when competing.”

This tenacious and organized young woman is also a superior student. At Canyon del Oro High School, she was a member of the National Honor Society and had 4.0 GPA with Advanced Placement Honor’s classes. She is tentatively planning on studying chemical engineering as a West Point Cadet.

Alex and Tyler Rico were travel partners, coming up from Tucson to Phoenix almost every weekend to practice. Tyler was the veteran competitive shooter of the trio. He began shooting with the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association’s Junior High Power Rifle Team as a ten-year old. At 13, he became the youngest person to earn the Distinguished Rifleman badge. That year he also placed second in the President’s Hundred match at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s National Rifle match. Second place? In that match he outscored all other Junior competitors and every one of the US Army Marksmanship Unit team. He set several national records before his fourteenth birthday. With the support of Rio Salado’s junior shooting program, he began shooting small-bore rifles and air rifles. Within just two years, he became the nation’s top-ranked junior rifle competitor. At the ripe old age of 17, he won the gold medal at the National Junior Olympic Shooting Championship and a spot on the National Junior Team.

Did Tyler spend all his time practicing? No, he managed to squeeze in a black belt in karate and completion of his Eagle Scout badge, making needed improvements such as painting ramadas, building a water tank for wildlife, rebuilding a structure and planting trees and shrubs at the Pima Pistol Club. He was a member of Flowing Wells High School’s 2012 Team National Champion Army JROTC unit and graduated with a 4.0 GPA in the school’s Advanced Placement Honors Program.

Without question, all three are outstanding shooters and students whose abilities and hard work earned them a place in the freshman classes of our nation’s military academies. But how do they rank in representing the Golden Rule? Remember, competition in any area can build character or reveal it. We’ve all seen competitors—in athletics or other areas–whose behavior and attitudes reflect disrespect for their teammates and opponents. We have heard losses blamed on poor calls by referees, mistakes made by coaches, fouls committed by unfair opponents, bad weather, or countless other excuses. We’ve seen inflated egos and poor behavior justified by ‘being the best.’ Competition can most definitely reveal character. What has competition revealed about the character of our Three Amigos?

Tom Kirby, the director of the Junior Division of the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association, has spent years coaching Joey, Alex, and Tyler and watching them interact with other competitors and younger team members.

“They’re committed and have great determination,” Kirby says. “But they are also the ones who go out of their way to be very supportive to others at all levels. They volunteer to do anything to help bring others up the ladder. These three are patient in any situation. Things that would cause frustration for most people roll off their backs.” When asked about ego or temperament issues, Kirby responded firmly. “They have high expectations of themselves, but there’s just no ego. For example–Tyler never mentions his records, some of which may never be broken. It’s just not something he talks about. Competitors often have no idea who he is until his name is called. And when things go wrong, there are no excuses, no blame. They are mature and mentally organized. That’s how they have time to manage everything they do. These three are determined to be future leaders.”

Joey Kendrick’s humorous statement, “You can absolutely earn a college degree shooting a rifle.” is obviously true. There are twenty-one NCAA schools offering opportunities for students with shooting skills. But shooting skills played only a small part in the appointments of Joey, Alex, and Tyler to our nation’s military academies.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the opportunity we were provided in Arizona’s junior rifle programs,” Joey said. “All three of us…me, Tyler and Alex, the ‘Three Amigos’…are fortunate to have been at the right place at the right time, with the right people supporting us to achieve our dreams.”

Joey modestly gives the credit to others and downplays the trio’s achievement. Selection requirements for the Naval Academy, West Point, and the Air Force Academy are extremely complex and demanding. Completing the process, ending in an appointment by a member of Congress, typically takes almost two years. The three areas of examination are: leadership qualities, academic performance in rigorous classes, and athletic ability. Less than 1,200 students are admitted each year to each of the academies. According to statistics from the academies’ admissions, approximately 11% of applicants to West Point and the Air Force Academy make the cut. For admission to the Naval Academy, that number drops to 7%. West Point Cadets are held to the Honor Code: “I will not lie, cheat, or steal. Nor will I tolerate others who do so.” After four years, graduates of all three academies are to fulfill their commitment to a minimum of five years of military service.

The three academies will invest a total of almost one and a quarter million dollars in educating Joey Kendrick, Alex Provine, and Tyler Rico. Arizona can be proud and confident that the Golden Three Amigos are a sound investment.
(Sources: Tom Kirby, Arizona’s Junior Shooting Team coach; websites for West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy)

  1. What are the common characteristics the military academies look for in students applying for admission?
  2. Put yourself in the role of a High School guidance counselor. A sophomore student who is very interested in applying for admission to one of the military academies has come to you for advice. Put together a list of ten classes you would encourage them to take over the next two years. What other activities would you suggest they actively participate in both in school and outside the school day?
  3. Even though Joey, Alex, and Tyler are very organized and manage time well, they must have had to give up or limit some things in order to accomplish their goals. List 3 things they may have cut back on doing during their last two years in high school. Then analyze the positive and negative aspects of their choices.
    Reduce time for: Positive because: Negative because:
  4. Most people with a record of championships like Tyler’s would want people to know about those successes. Why do you suppose he doesn’t mention his records?
  5. How might the friendship bond of Joey, Alex, and Tyler give them an advantage in adapting to the challenges facing them as students of the military academies?

Darl Andersen, Golden Rule Man

What Makes a “Golden Life?” Ask the “Golden Rule Man.” What made Darl Andersen Arizona’s Golden Rule Man? What motivates any person to choose to ‘do the hard thing because it is right?’ Why do people make financial sacrifices to help worthy causes? Why do people stand up to peer pressure to defend people who are mistreated? Why do people even risk personal safety, running into dangerous situations to help those in need? Stanford University Professor of Neurosurgery, Dr. Robert Sapolsky, identifies those actions as functions of the section of our brain ‘which makes us uniquely human.’ The Prefrontal Cortex, located right behind our forehead, is the section that allows us to analyze, to make judgments about our actions, and to set goals which may require a long time to achieve. It allows us to choose to “do the hard thing because it is right.”

Mesa resident, Darl Andersen, may never have known the science behind his actions, but he was an expert at recognizing the right thing to do. His tombstone is inscribed with the word “BRIDGEBUILDER.” The bridges he built during his eighty-three years of life were bridges of understanding and respect.

As recently as thirty years ago, relationships between Mormon faith leaders and the leaders of other Christian denominations were strained. Realizing that this was not good for the advancement of Mesa, Andersen decided that someone needed to develop personal connections of respect and goodwill. He began to pursue his new “hobby.” As Mesa’s “Ambassador of Goodwill,” he would open his phonebook, select a minister of another faith, and offer to take them out to lunch. Not all of the invitations were accepted right away, but Darl Andersen was a man with strong ideas—and even stronger enthusiasm and power! Over lunch, he would reach out with respect, patience, and his simple guide to life…”Live the Golden Rule, treat others the way you would like to be treated.” More and more people began to see his approach as a way to improve the community.
With wisdom, love for others, and determination, Andersen devoted great amounts of time to efforts which would make Mesa a place where people could love and respect their neighbors and find joy in both their similarities and differences. As the President of the Mesa School Board, he advocated for quality schools and strengthening opportunities for the city’s young people. He also served on the City Council and added his voice and talents to the Building a Better Mesa initiative.

He had a ready smile and a sense of humor, too. At one time, he had a block-making plant. He carved his beard to look like mortar and bricks. Clothing for men was pretty plain at the time…usually dark pants and a white shirt. How could he focus people’s attention on the Golden Rule? Andersen ordered bright yellow suspenders that were made to look like rulers. He had “Live the Golden Rule” printed on them and proudly wore them as his trademark. And he also had thousands of small yellow rulers printed with the same advice. He always had a few with him to pass out. Andersen was not a wealthy man, but he believed it was important to not only pass out the Golden Rulers, but also to give away bumper stickers with same words. Cardboard picture frames were another Andersen gift. At the top of the space for a family picture were the words “The Golden Rule Makes a Happy Family.” He also wrote, published and distributed several small booklets. One that is still available is “Soft Answers to Hard Feelings.”

The pages affirm that Darl Andersen understood the importance of giving “soft answers to hard feelings.” With a much more divergent population in the valley, there were many faiths brought from other parts of the world. His next effort in reaching out to others was to become involved in what is now a group composed of many faiths and secular beliefs, who all acknowledge that to “treat others the way you want to be treated” is the way to forge positive, fair and civil interactions in our communities.

In May of 2000, just three months after his eighty-third birthday, Darl Andersen died. None of the many mourners were surprised to see that his family had placed one of his “Live the Golden Rule” rulers on top of his casket.

Several cities have since become Golden Rule Cities. Before his death in 2000, Darl Andersen helped to advance the resolution that Arizona would become the first official Golden Rule State.

The resolution was passed by the legislature, and signed just four days before his death in May of 2003. He did not live to see the “Live the Golden Rule” license plate become available. But, if he had, you can be sure that one of those beautiful plates would be on his vehicle. Each year, Arizona InterFaith Movement hosts a banquet honoring Arizonans whose lives demonstrate Golden Rule conduct. The highest award given is the Darl Andersen Award.

But the greatest tribute validating his conduct and beliefs had come earlier. His oldest grandson remembers the story of his grandfather inviting a certain minister to lunch. This pastor was not just reluctant to meet; he was antagonistic to Andersen. It took some time, but Andersen’s genuine kindness and respect won him over. As time went by, they became closer and closer. The pastor and his wife were raising their grandchildren and had some concerns that they might die before the children reached adulthood. In that event, he and his wife asked Darl and Erma Andersen to accept the position of legal guardians and raise their grandchildren. Fortunately, it did not become necessary. But minister’s move from antagonism and distrust to trusting their family to the Andersens shows their knowledge that Darl Andersen was truly “as good as gold.”

  1. Give an example of a time when you know someone did the hard thing because it was the right thing.
  2. Giving a soft answer to hard feelings sounds pretty difficult. Explain why, or why not, you think it is worth trying.
  3. If you could interview Darl Andersen, or someone who knew him well, what two questions would you ask?

Being the Voice for Millions of Sisters

What are some major changes which occurred in American society in the last 100 years? What are some characteristics of good leaders?
How would you rate the equality of opportunities for women and minorities 100 years ago? In your opinion, how much equality of opportunity exists today? What part does effort and determination play in gaining opportunities?

On Valentine’s Day, 1912, approximately 200,000 Arizonans became residents of our nation’s 48th state. One month later and 1,600 miles away, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of America in Savannah, Georgia. Low hoped the new organization would give opportunities for girls to build courage, confidence and character. Imagine the amazement and disbelief if someone had made these predictions for the future: 1)100 years in the future, Arizona will have a population of 6.5 million people, 2) Girl Scouts of America will grow to over 3 million members, and 3) Anna Maria Chavez, from the tiny town of Eloy, Arizona will become the first Latina CEO of those Girl Scouts.

Less than 5,000 people lived in rural Eloy, Arizona in the 1960’s. Chavez remembers having a microwave put a family at the cutting edge of technology. “We didn’t have a lot of extracurricular activity. My best friend came to school one day and announced that she was going to be a Girl Scout. So I decided I wanted to be a Girl Scout, too!” By making that decision, 10-year old Anna Maria became part of a sisterhood of millions. The mission of Girl Scouts of America has always been to inspire girls to meet challenges and develop their own capacity for leadership.

In a March, 2012 interview with the Arizona Republic newspaper, Chavez commented, “They (the leaders in Girl Scouts) looked at me when others may have seen a different story–a girl at risk, a girl perhaps in a poor community–and they saw something else.” That something else was a girl who wanted to be taken seriously and trained to use her many talents to set and accomplish high goals.

The family moved from Eloy to Phoenix, and Anna Maria graduated from Shadow Mountain High School. With the support of her family and her Scout leaders, she had been involved in many activities during her high school years. These positive extracurricular accomplishments and her excellent grades were the gateway to a full scholarship at Yale University. On an early Scout camping trip, young Anna had decided to become a lawyer to help protect Arizona’s environment. So after graduating from Yale, Chavez returned to Arizona to enroll in University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law.

Ms. Chavez spent the next segment of her career in public service. Arizona’s aging population benefited from her service as Assistant Director for the Division of Aging and Community Services at the Arizona Department of Economic Security. She also served the governor as Deputy Chief of Staff for Urban Relations and Community Development and advised on housing, transportation, and issues affecting Arizona’s Latino population.

Chavez was the driving force behind the creation of Arizona’s Raul H. Castro Institute, honoring the man who had been Governor of Arizona when she joined Girl Scouts. Former Governor Castro has been an inspiration to many young people. Through his own determination, hard physical work, and self-denial he had earned the money to attend and graduate from college in 1939. Ten years later, he earned his law degree. Raul Castro served the United States as Ambassador to El Salvador, Bolivia, and Argentina. The Castro Institute is a “think tank / do tank” focusing on education, health and human services, leadership and civic participation.

Anna Maria Chavez was happy and successful working in public service in Arizona. But in 2009, an offer came to her that she couldn’t resist. Girl Scouts of America offered Chavez the position of CEO for the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas in San Antonio. In a 2012 interview with the national publication, “Hispanic Executive,” she said, “The most pivotal moment in my career came when I decided to leave public service. But I felt compelled to work with young people. I knew the call was the opportunity I’d been waiting for.” And three years after accepting the Texas assignment, Anna Maria Chavez, who started her Girl Scout experiences as a 10 year-old in rural Arizona, became the inspiring national leader of the 3.2 million members of Girl Scouts.

Chavez is an admired role model, capable of making a positive impact on millions of American girls. Within the first months of taking charge of Girl Scouts of America, she launched “To Get Her There.” This is the largest campaign in U.S. history focused on training girls to develop their leadership potential. “Girls are amazing,” Chavez states. “Sit down and have a conversation with them about some of the issues that they are tackling with Girl Scouts. They are thinking big. They’re thinking solutions. Just think about the millions of community-service hours they give every year without fanfare. Think about the cookies program–every year, the girls raise 760 million dollars, which they invest back into their local communities, into homeless shelters, into animal shelters, meal sites, and community-service project for parks. If half the population isn’t involved in creating solutions to the problems in the United States, then we’re missing the opportunity to groom their ideas and creativity around these solutions.” Ms. Chavez sees herself as the voice telling the story of the vast potential within girls in the United States.

Juliette Gordon Low was a woman with a deep commitment to public service and to encouraging women to realize their own potential. At a time when women were not even allowed to vote and their roles were very restrained by society, Low created an organization which gave girls the opportunity to be both physically and mentally engaged in their communities. Her goal to help girls develop the self-reliance and resourcefulness they needed to enrich their personal lives and to pursue active citizenship in their communities. Fast forward to one hundred years later. Much has changed, but many girls still need to hear voices encouraging them to develop the potential within themselves. Undoubtedly, Juliette Gordon Low would be proud that a ten-year old Girl Scout from a small town in Arizona grew into a woman whose strong voice advocates building courage, confidence and character in girls who will be the next generation of women in leadership positions in the United States and the world.

  1. What made it possible for Chavez to attend Yale University?
  2. Research: Which former U.S. President graduated from Yale about 25 years before Chavez? How many women were members of his graduating class?
  3. Besides her participation in Girl Scouts, what resources and support may have helped Anna Maria Chavez develop her talents and abilities?
  4. In addition to having a challenging career, Chavez is also a wife and mother. What are some pieces of advice you think she might give her son?
  5. Write a paragraph agreeing or disagreeing with this statement: “This generation of young women has equal opportunities with young men to become the next generation of leaders in the United States and the world.” Support your position with facts.