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July 13, 2021

Bridging divides to build on the legacy of the daughters of the dream with Tamara Copeland | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

Bridging divides to build on the legacy of the daughters of the dream with Tamara Copeland | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker
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In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Tamara Copeland. Tamara led the Voices of America’s Children early on and  was appointed  legislative director for former Congressman Bobby Scott, and eventually served as the president of The Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. She is also the author of “DAUGHTERS OF THE DREAM:Eight Girls from Richmond Who Grew Up in the Civil Rights Era”, a book about friendship formed from shared experiences during the civil rights and racial justice movements era.

Some highlights:

-Tamara Copeland shares her thoughts on conformity and how leaders need to balance it while advocating while advancing their agenda. 

-Tamara Copeland shares why she became an advocate for children.  

-How the power of public policy can effectively create change on a macro level. 

-Tamara’s take on systemic racism and how to put the conversation on the table.

. . . . .

Connect with Tamara Copeland:

Tamara Copeland on LinkedIn

Tamara Copeland on Twitter

DAUGHTERS OF THE DREAM: Eight Girls from Richmond Who Grew Up in the Civil Rights Era

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 



Mahan  Tavakoli:

Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm really excited to speak, to be welcoming Tamara Copeland. Tamara, who was born and grew up in Richmond, Virginia, which once served as the capital of the Confederacy grew up in an environment that made her want to have an impact on others, which she has done so beautifully all throughout her career.

From leading voices for America's children early on, to having served as Congressman Bobby Scott's legislative director, to eventually serving as the president of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. And through that really putting the conversation around race on the table at a time when a lot of people in the community had thought we had moved beyond that, not recognizing the systemic racism that affects so many people's lives, people of color, most suspiciously African-Americans in our community 

Tamara is also a brilliant author. Having written a book “Daughters of the dream”. And I really enjoyed this conversation with her because it's her humility, her empathy, and her ability to communicate why it is so important for all of us to understand the impact of our behaviors and systemic racism on our brothers and sisters that motivates us to become better as a result. 

Really appreciate the conversation with Tamara. Enjoyed it, and I know you will too.

I also appreciate all of your wonderful supporting comments. Keep those coming mahan@mahantavakoli.com. Feel free to leave a voice message for me at partneringleadership.com. There is a microphone icon you can use for that. Don't forget to follow the podcast on your platform of choice and those of you that enjoyed on apple, a rating and review will help more people find these conversations and benefit from listening to magnificent leaders like Tamara Copeland.

Now here's my conversation with Tamara.

Tamara Copeland, welcome to partnering leadership. I am thrilled to have you on with me today. 

Tamara Copeland: 
Thank you so much.

Mahan Tavakoli:
Tamara, in addition to the thrill, it's an absolute honor having known a lot about your background and the impact you've had on this region. Now, I open up these conversations by asking people about their upbringing, because upbringing impact us.

I know that you have a brilliant book that I hope everyone reads daughters of the dream. That really goes deep into your upbringing, but would love to touch a little bit about it for this podcast also, you grew up in Richmond, Virginia, which a lot of people might not reflect on that was the Capitol of the Confederacy.

So, curious how that upbringing in Richmond impacted you Tamara.

Tamara Copeland:
Well, you know, I grew up in a leave it to beaver kind of world.  I grew up in a segregated world and in a middle class world. And I think that's important. On one side of me, of my home lived the first appointed vice mayor of Richmond, African-American vice mayor of Richmond lived on one side of me, on the other side of my home was a couple, the woman was a domestic worker and the husband was a house painter. Across the street was a university professor and next door to them was a high school guidance counselor. And so I say all that, just to say that it was a community of I felt safe and I saw all kinds of professions around me.

So I'm an only child and growing up in Richmond, even as Richmond as the capital of the Confederacy, my parents raised me to see possibilities. I never knew about the things I could not do. Those were all kept from me. And so all I saw were possibilities in the world.

Mahan Tavakoli:
And there were lots of possibilities, including when you were in sixth grade, you got a chance to attend an integrated school for the first time.

Tamara Copeland:
That's correct. Up until then, I had gone to Albert V. Norell elementary school, which is a segregated school. Albert V. Norell was an educator in Virginia and it was named after him and African American educator. And you know what else? I had fed school. I had a female principal, Mrs. Overby and she was the first African-American woman to be the principal of a school.

I just remember that when I was at that school I knew that everyone from Mrs. Overby the principal, to the support staff and the maintenance crew that everybody wanted me to succeed. That was that everybody in that school. And then in the sixth grade, I had the opportunity or we were allowed,  African-Americans were allowed to go to the whites, which at the time was named Jeb Stuart. And for anyone who doesn't know, Jeb Stuart, was a Confederate general. And that was who the school was named after. And I have to say that that really had no impact on me. I had no idea who Jeb Stewart was. No one told me and nobody celebrated him. So that was just the school's name it for someone who's 10 or 11 years old. 

But one of the most memorable parts of my life happened  just about the first day of school. It was probably maybe a day or two before the first day of school. And my mom told me something that I had never heard her say.

She said, I want you to remember, that white people don't always tell the truth. Well, that was an interesting comment. First we didn't really talk about white people at my house and I knew that she meant adults. She didn't say that, but I knew that I just, somehow I just intuitively knew she was talking about adults.

And I think she was concerned about the messages that I might receive from either the teachers in the school or the administrators in the school or the parents of my classmates. I suspect that she was concerned about. But it was a very different message for me to hear that adults don't always tell the truth. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
What an insightful observation by your mom Tamara, because we know to this day that the expectations teachers have of their students has a significant impact on the potential for those students to do well in school and beyond.

So your mom wanted you to have that in the back of your mind as you were going through this new environment. 

Tamara Copeland:
 I had a really good experience at that school. I have to tell one little story. One day, my, my parents and I were in the backyard of our home and all of a sudden looked up and there was my sixth grade teacher, my sixth grade white teacher at the gate to the backyard, Mr. Yearwood. And you know, I was shocked that my teacher was there. I think my parents were shocked that this white man was there in a black neighborhood. And Mr. Yearwood had come to convince my parents that I didn't need to be in the sixth grade, that I should skip the sixth grade. And I am very fortunate that my parents made the decision that I stay with my group of friends that were going to that school and going to other schools as we integrated the school system.

I was not the first class. I think I was the second or third class of African-Americans students going  to what predominantly white schools. But it was important to have my friendship group as my support network as I went on through school. So yeah, sixth grade was an important year for me.

Mahan Tavakoli:
Yeah. And you obviously had adults like your teacher that cared enough to advocate on your behalf, but it wasn't until college that you started recognizing what it is truly like to be African-American or be black. 

Tamara Copeland:
It was, you're correct. It certainly was in college, but it wasn't about necessarily being in college. It was the time. It was just the time. So I was in college in the early seventies and black is beautiful, and there was more of a black power movement and there was more of a recognition of celebrating who we were, who we are as African-Americans, as opposed to trying to move into a white world. So up until then there had been more of an emphasis on trying to get into the white community trudge, trying to assimilate in a way, but about that time, Afros came into vogue. People were wearing African inspired clothing. There was more of a recognition of not only of our roots and our heritage, but also of our people. You are quite correct that that happened while I was in college. It really didn't have a lot to do with college, just with kind of a culture and the times.

Mahan Tavakoli:
So with that understanding with that transition that was happening at that time, obviously you were a woman getting a job down in Virginia. And you shared an experience that you went to the Virginia general assembly in a pantsuit, and you were told that that's not the way women would dress in the Virginia general assembly. Now this is in the 1970s. 

Tamara Copeland:
Absolutely correct. I came into work that day and, you know, I thought I looked professional and appropriate , and I did, I had on a pantsuit and  it's important that you do emphasize when this was occurring and where cause it's Virginia.

And so I was going to meet with someone who in the Virginia legislature and the woman who ran the organization or the agency that I worked for was a state agency. And she was very politically astute and it was part of my political training. And she told me, first she said, you need to go home and change clothes. And it was very abrupt.

And I asked her why, you know, what was wrong with how I looked in? And she said, well, there's nothing wrong with how you look, but you have to decide what your message is. So is your message that you can wear whatever you want to, to the Virginia general assembly, because people are going to be more focused on what you are wearing because it's outside of the norm than what you are saying.

So you have the right to do that. You have the right to wear that suit and to go there and try to talk about children's issues because what I was being paid to do, or, you have to put on the proper uniform, which is a dress or a skirt. And and then go and talk about children's issues. So it was an important lesson that we all want to be able to dress a certain way, but there is an expectation and you can decide that you don't choose to meet that expectation and you can certainly be successful doing that, but it was an important lesson for me to learn at the time. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
But I wonder about that Tamara as leaders, we all have to balance how much we conform to be able to advocate on behalf of whatever causes we support pull people along with us, and at what point do we choose that we are not going to conform and we're going to force the group to accept that non-conformity. 

And I imagine you have had numerous ones of these challenges all throughout your own leadership career. 

Tamara Copeland:
 I think you're absolutely correct,  you used a key word, a choice. And as long as we know that we are consciously making a choice to make a certain statement and to push the envelope and in a way. And I believe that that always occurs at any point in history that people push the envelope. 

They push the envelope about how they physically look you know, when I was speaking earlier about Afros coming into Vogue or braids or dreadlocks or whatever the hairstyle or the dress that you choose, that there's someone who's always the first  and that person risks their career or they risk promotions, but they make a conscious effort and a conscious decision that having the right to be who you are is far more important than conforming to a standard that doesn't fit you, that you're trying to put the square peg in the round hole and  there's no reason to do that. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
 It is, and it does take pushing those boundaries. So if we look at all kinds of movements, including black lives matter movement, initially people are ostracized and they are in the margins eventually part based on leadership part based on external circumstances,  the majority end up slowly transitioning and accepting what they were advocating from early on.

Tamara Copeland:
You're absolutely correct. Yes. Yeah.  

Mahan Tavakoli:
 Tamara you continue and you had a significant impact as a child advocate whether it was in the Southern regional project on infant mortality, or as an invoices for America's children, before talking a little bit about those that I would love for you to go into, what was it about children that God used so energized and excited to pursue making an impact specifically with infants and children? 

Tamara Copeland:
That's a great question. I wish I had a great answer.  I don't know what led me in that direction. I really don't. But I certainly have always recognized the importance of providing opportunities to young people as they go through life and really positioned them to be effective leaders, you know, but now that you've asked me the question, let me think about that for just a second and say this.

When I graduated from college, I graduated a semester early and you spoke to Richmond and I had a sociology degree and you absolutely do nothing with a BA in sociology. There's, there's nothing to be done. And so I was going to work for what at the time was called the Richmond department of public welfare, and now social services. 

And I was wanting to be a foster care case worker to work with children in foster care. And you had to have a degree in order to be a foster care caseworker. And while I had a letter from my university that said I had met all requirements for graduation, they only actually awarded diplomas once a year. So I didn't have that piece of paper that said the diploma. 

Once I ended up as a foster care caseworker, I realized how poorly those children in that system were treated. At least at the time that I was working there. I knew how to fill out every form, but I truly was so ill prepared to provide any level of quality services to young people. Some of whom were not significantly younger than I was. I was probably 22, and some of them were 17. 

So I learned a lot there. I learned about a system that did not truly provide services. And I also learned that I was not of the temperament to believe that you change the world one person at a time. That's when I recognize the power of public policy. And really wanted to look for opportunities to effect change on behalf of children, but in the public policy arena and working at a level, a macro level, as opposed to one child at a time. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
 It is pretty interesting perspective because while it does take a Champion's heart and effort to serve at the individual level, a lot of the issues that are faced in this case with infants and children are systemic issues that need to be addressed. And that's why you pursued impacting them with policy. So when you went on specifically with the national association of child advocates, what was your role there and how were you able to make an impact through that effort?

Tamara Copeland:
So this is an organization that actually no longer exist under either of its names. But the national association of child advocates was an organization with member groups and I'm not going to remember now, but probably when I left maybe 40 some states and those organizations at the state level work with their state legislatures and their governors offices on children's legislation on policies that affect kids at the state level. 

And it very comparable to a group called the children's defense fund. I named that I think many people might be familiar with the work of the children's defense fund. So it was defense fund was working at the national level and the members of the national association of child advocates for working at the state levels.

Same level on pretty comparable kinds of legislation across the whole array of issues that affected kids. So they were looking at health issues, and education issues, at child welfare issues, like the foster care system and juvenile justice issues, so the whole array of issues. When I came on board and I was the president of the organization, one of the things that we did was to change the name and try to have the kind of branding that actually positions people to have more power when you are a part of a network. 

So voices for America's children became the name. And  it's kind of interesting that , when we were looking at names a possible names, we realized that everyone said, they were the voice for children in Nebraska, they with the voice for children in Florida, wherever. 

And so voices for America's children became the name of the organization and some of the state chapters then adopted the same name. And, and to this day there's still a voices for Virginia's children and some of the others still exist at the state level.

One of the things that we recognized was the power of constituents. Well, the children's defense fund was speaking on behalf of children at the national level, there was an even greater power when someone from the home state of a member of Congress came to speak to him or her about issues and actually represented that state.

So when you go to the Virginia Senator and you are from Richmond, or you are from Winchester, or you are from Williamsburg, you have a very different power. Then being from Washington DC. And so it's not to suggest that one is more important than the other, but there is a complementarity to having an organization like the children's defense fund while also having people from the states who are speaking on behalf of constituents.

So part of what we were trying to do is to move that organization from being not only state focus, but to also recognizing their power at the federal level. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
So you were, you were able to do that. And I wonder then what eventually over time brought you to WRAG, which you definitely did a masterful job of leading and having tremendous impact.

Why WRAG? 

Tamara Copeland:
 Well, you know, I actually didn't know a lot about WRAG and it's interesting that a member of my Leadership Greater Washington class suggested that I apply for the job. And my whirl in Washington as you well know, there are three universes that as I think of it in Washington there's a local community, there's the national community, there's the international community. 

And those three divisions rarely interact. And so I was at the national level. I ran a national organization that happened to be here, but I didn't know a lot about the local community, and when my classmate and Leadership Greater Washington started talking with me about this organization.

I didn't know a lot about it, but I knew that I wanted to work at the local level. So I will constantly praise her for introducing me to WRAG to the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, because it was a very powerful experience in my life. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
It was a powerful experience and you were a powerful leader for it, with a lot of successes we'll get to.

But one thing, one experience that also taught you a lesson, which was the experience around post Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which were big corporate citizens in the greater Washington DC region contributing lots of different ways. When they went into conservatorship you pulled together the eight neighbors collaborative. What was that all about and what lessons did that experience teach you? 

Tamara Copeland:
Yeah, that was a, that was a sad Sunday, cause it actually happened on a Sunday was interesting. On a Sunday it was announced that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were going into conservatorship  and I didn't know what that meant.

But what I knew was that that was, seemed like that was a significant event and that as major funders in the region, as well as across the country, but certainly in the region, that it was going to affect their giving because their funds were being held by the federal government in a way that I didn't quite understand, but I knew that they weren't having access to them.

And so it was very apparent. Immediately right away that the philanthropic community was going to be called on to the other members of the philanthropic community were going to be called on to fill the void left by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And we couldn't do it. I mean, these were significant contributors.

There was no way that the local community could do that. And so to pull together a group of people representing philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, the business community, and local government, and just recognizing that those were the communities that were going to be impacted. You know, we called all of them  on Monday, the Monday after this happened.

And we came together for the first time in on Friday. So pretty immediately, because we all saw it. We all knew that this was a big deal. So we came together on Friday. This was in September, and we met every Friday through December. Every Friday. And there was such creativity because we came together and it was, what are we going to do?

And the first thing was that we were going to have a shared message that we were going to say, we know that this is a significant event. We are going to work together to figure out how we will address it. We had to have a shared political message. We had a shared message that went to the Virginia delegation in Congress, the Maryland delegation, as well as to DC to say that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were important members of the local community, that there were organizations as well as families and individuals. That relied on the kinds of services that were provided by the organizations that their philanthropic dollars for it.

So we wanted to have that message to go to the congressional delegations. We convened the community. We had a session that we called nine one one nonprofit nine one one, I think where , we convened people to have an opportunity to talk about what this was going to do to their organizations and we thought 50 people would come. A hundred people would come. I don't remember the exact number, but I think we had about 500 people came to that conference, that nine one one conference, just to be able to share  their concerns about the impact on this.  And we made a difference that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae both made philanthropic contributions that year.

They had, they made them literally on new year's Eve and they told their grantees that their contributions to the community would stop, but they would stop over time. So I don't remember whether it was three years or five years, but gradually the funds diminished, but people had a chance to prepare for that in a different way.

But the thing about the eight neighbors, which you feel he was a great group is that once there was some level of resolution to the presenting problem, I had hoped we would just stay together, that we would stay together as a group that was prepared for whatever the next regional crisis would be because of course there always is one there's something that happens.

Not always, there's an always one, but they put something else comes up. And we couldn't stay together. We just couldn't. There wasn't that shared enemy, you know, the conservatorship was the shared enemy that  we had something immediately in common and once that was gone or resolved to some degree, We didn't stay together.

Mahan Tavakoli:
 That's an interesting perspective Tamara, both for organizational leaders and leaders in the region, when there is a shared enemy, it is easier to align people and have them charge toward a shared purpose. When there isn't one, it's a lot harder. And then in this entire region, the region comes together when there are those share challenges and then the individual leaders go their own way when there isn't.

So sometimes it is pretty interesting how we can as a community, continue to pull together leaders and keep them focused on a shared purpose without always having crisis after crisis that needs to be tackled. 

Tamara Copeland:
Right. You know, I think before the, the situation with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae there was September the 11th in my understanding I wasn't at WRAG at that time, but it's my understanding that the philanthropic community and the larger community came together, you know, in response to the September the 11th event.

And, I know that in recent times that people have come together in response to the pandemic. So, but it seems like we have to have that presenting event that is, it's pretty catastrophic for us to come together and stay together. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
 Now, I know you also wanted to tackle racism and issues around race while you were at WRAG and tried repeatedly from 2012 through 2016, without it getting much traction. 

Everyone felt they've been there, they've done that, they've talked about it, it's addressed and wanted to move on. So as you were trying to, again, put the conversation on the table, which eventually you were able to do. What were the resistance points? What were the challenges you were facing in getting the community aligned to have this needed conversation?

Tamara Copeland:
Yes. Well in 2012 Trayvon Martin was killed and that event really affected me to my core in a way  that nothing ever had before. And I'm sure that it was because I had a son who was roughly the same age as Trayvon Martin. And I knew that Nothing separated the event that happened to Trayvon Martin and from my son's life except time-space and fate.

So there was nothing else. And so. It was very difficult for me,  even reading stories about it or watching it on the news.  And finally WRAG did a daily compilation of news, and so I had a platform and I wrote a piece for what be called the daily WRAG and talking about that event.

And in this blog post, I mentioned about talking with my son about driving while black, shopping, while black,  doing everyday things as an African-American male. 

And. I was surprised  and perhaps I should not have been surprised, but I was surprised by the number of white leaders of philanthropic institutions who came up to me  after that blog was posted and said "you still have to do that?".

And I thought, well, of course I still have to do that. And and every black family or family of color, but particularly black families have to do that and had to do that in 2012 and have to do that in 2021. So we have to prepare our children for how they will be received and the perceptions that's surround them. 

But because of that particular event, because of Trayvon Martin's murder, and particularly because of George Zimmerman was exonerated, then I started looking at issues around race and racism  and became far more aware than I had ever been in my life about issues of structural racism.

And not just prejudice and discrimination, which I think that certainly I understood completely. And I think many people of color understand those because it kind of hits you in the face. But structural racism, all of these realities  that underberg in an almost invisible way, the realities. I didn't know.

And I think many people didn't know. And when I started talking about wanting to do something around this topic and talking with some of the leaders of the local, philanthropic institutions, many people came back to me and they said, well, we already know that. And I'm thinking "really?", I didn't know that, you know, so you really already know that?

And there certainly was a sense that issues around race and racism, people already knew. And that in and of itself is the problem. There is the sense that through legislation that was passed in the sixties, civil rights legislation that we have addressed issues of race and racism.

And, and that simply isn't true, but it wasn't until I think anyway, that there was a proliferation of cell phone, video images of young african-American not all young, but African-American men primarily, but not solely being abused by police officers and the events that really precipitated the local philanthropic communities interest in this topic was the death of Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray was a young black man who lived in Baltimore and he died as the result of injuries suffered in the back of a police vehicle. And when that happened, there were a number of people in philanthropy who called me as the head of WRAG and said you know, well, what do you think, do you think that could happen here?

I said, I think it could happen anywhere, you know, certainly. And so I think proximity of the Washington DC metropolitan area to Baltimore and the Freddie Gray incident was part of what led to a receptivity along with cell phone videos that led to a receptivity in the local philanthropic community.

Mahan Tavakoli:
And Tamara your persistence and your leadership has had a significant impact on the way. A lot of people view it in this region because you put the racism conversation on the table. And even when I look at the pivot that leadership greater Washington did with the conversations on anti-racism, a lot of it came about as a result of seeds you had planted with the organization and elsewhere. Seeds that you were advocating for.

And once people became more open to seeing the real systemic racism that exists. So if you and I were having a conversation few years back, I would have probably also said, I understand the individual biases. What I didn't see, one of the reasons I appreciate the conversation with you and your leadership, is that through guidance from you through the programming, through the conversations, I have been able to see the systemic issues that go into it beyond just the individual biases that people hold.

So I think you've truly been. Impactful, advocating for this conversation from back in 2012. And as with these a series of unfortunate incidents, as there is more cell phone coverage of it, people's awareness of it has gone higher. Then more people have come to the conversation saying maybe there is something more to this than the individual biases we carry as people.

Tamara Copeland:
 I think for, in our region in particular the events in Charlottesville in 2017 were significant. Again, I do think proximity matters. And so those events, I think we're critically important for people to see. I will never minimize the role of cell phone videos. I think  those images were very much akin  to seeing the dogs attacking young people in Birmingham, in the sixties, that when that was shown on television, that there was a different sense of that reality.

Because people could see it. And just this year or the last 12 months because of the pandemic and everyone being at home for the most part in last year, so that when George Floyd was murdered and people watched eight minutes of this man being killed on television, there was a very different sense of what black lives matter means and why saying those words and recognizing that reality, that for that particular police officer who appeared very cavalier in the manner in which he has knee was on the neck of George Floyd, that I would say that that man's life did not matter to that police officer. And that was just  one time of many incidents that we're all becoming aware of. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
And. Again, you have had a significant impact on many leaders understanding in this region. And I hope we continue to build on that. To build both awareness and action for a more anti-racist community, at least in the greater Washington DC region and beyond. 

But I know we've had a lot of serious conversations Tamara and you have a magnificent fun personality to you. So I don't want the conversation just to end with the significant impact you've had on all the great organizations on putting racism on the table. All of these things. In addition to loving walking, food,  you are big into word games and decorating shows on TV. Tell me a little bit about that. 

Tamara Copeland:
Well that is true. I have several passions,  I love to travel. That's a big passion. I try to, to walk five miles a day.

But, but I think what people don't know is that I truly love word games so I love Boggle and Scrabble  and words with friends. And if I'm sitting in  a doctor's office waiting for an appointment, I'm going to find a word or somewhere and figure out how many words I can take out of that word independent. And so word games are fun for me. And I love decorating and I love those shows and I love the food shows and the cooking shows. So yeah, those are my guilty pleasures. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
 So you share that in common with my girls. And I know the next time I'm in one of these competitions that we do at leadership, greater Washington, or elsewhere who to have for partner and these word games.

Tamara Copeland:[00:39:20] Well, I'm a big fan. That doesn't mean I'm good at it. It just means I enjoy it. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
That's fantastic Tamara now, if you were to give advice to your younger self, as you were starting out a post-college whether with a sociology degree or with your first job, what advice would you give younger leaders and younger Tamara in wanting to be as impactful as you have been through your career?

Tamara Copeland:
] I think The advice would be, be open to possibilities. I think the inclination is to plan your course, you know, so I'm going to college. And then I, I worked for a while as a foster care case worker, then I went to grad school and then I was going to get this job and I was going to do this and I was going to do that.

And I got that job. I started working at Southern governor's association. And one day a friend called me and some of your listeners will know this friend's name. His name is Bobby Scott, and he's a member of Congress from the Tidewater section of Virginia, who I had known all of my adult life. And he was a child advocate in Virginia.

And so that's how our paths connected. But anyway he called me one day and he said, I want you to come work for me. And I said, what would I do? He said, I don't know I'm new at this. And I said, well, Bobby, all I know about how a bill becomes a law is what I learned in the fourth grade. I don't know anything.

He said, well, come work for me. Well, I did. So I went and worked for Congressman Scott as legislative director. I wasn't there very long. I really didn't like working, not for Congressman Scott. He was wonderful, but the institution of Congress was not the right space for me, but I'm glad that I was there.

And I'm glad that I was open to that possibility because you just don't know where the paths may take you. And there are times when you know, you so wanted job X, and you didn't get it and you're disappointed. And all of a sudden job Y comes along and it's much a better fit than you could have ever hoped for.

So my advice to my younger self is don't get stressed by what doesn't happen, just be open to what can happen. 

Mahan Tavakoli:
What a beautiful recommendation and advice, because it seems like a lot of times when leaders have achieved success, they pretend as if they knew exactly all along the way where they were going to end up.

And part of what you're saying is you can achieve that success and have an impact being open to possibilities. 

Tamara Copeland:
Exactly. That's the way I feel, as I said to you earlier, I didn't know what WRAG was. And I feel that WRAG was an important part of my professional life and a way for me to make a contribution to my community.

Mahan Tavakoli:
 Well Tamara I truly appreciate obviously your time for sharing some of your leadership, some of your background with the partnering leadership community. And I appreciate your commitment to this region, to the leaders, to putting racism on the table, to the conversations that I know have impacted so many including me.

So thank you so much for all of your leadership, your wisdom. And your friendship, Tamara Copeland. 

Tamara Copeland:
Thank you very much for inviting me. I appreciate the opportunity.