Linda Lorelle: [00:00:01]I’m Linda Lorelle, creator and host of Our Voices Matter. Why this podcast and why now? Because it’s time for us all to take a deep breath, And listen. I am a journalist, business owner, keynote speaker, founder of an education nonprofit, wife, mother, daughter, sister, dancer, and lover of life and my country. And like so many of you I am deeply distressed at the deteriorating level of discourse in our democracy. This podcast is my humble attempt to do something about it. One story at a time. It is my hope that as you listen to and watch the stories of someone you might consider to be “the other”, that you will somehow see a glimpse of yourself and be reminded of our common humanity. So what do you say. Let’s take this journey, together.
Linda: In: [00:01:04] Welcome to our voices matter. A podcast dedicated to empowering us all to better understand each other. Our goal? To replace fear with knowledge disdain with respect and hate with love. One story at a time so let’s get to it.
Linda Lorelle: [00:01:24]I can’t believe we’re finally here, and doing this
Sara Speer Selber: [00:01:26]I love it!
Linda Lorelle: [00:01:27]This is awesome! Sarah Speer Selber – we’ve known each other for at least 20 years if not more. I think going back to AIDS Foundation Houston.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:01:39]Correct,Yeah.
Linda Lorelle: [00:01:39]So, tell me what you’re up to these days?
Sara Speer Selber: [00:01:44]I think a lot of what everybody’s up to actually. I think the only thing different is I I believe that…I’m Back to the basics of human relationships and rejecting sort of technology. Moving back more old school and all of th e practices that my team will build and things that we do, the project management team.
Linda Lorelle: [00:02:13]The Project MAnagement team, so tell our listeners and viewers a little bit about what the PM team does.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:02:18]Yeah, we build socially responsible businesses and or community initiatives. And so it’s really not so much about the company. It’s I think it’s much more today. Not about our businesses. I think it’s much more about as humans the businesses. We are in. In any given moment.
Linda Lorelle: [00:02:41]In any given moment.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:02:43]You bet. So, You know at Aids Foundation certainly taught me. That. In any given moment I would lose a staff person. That in any given moment, when I was at Dynegy things could change, because 9/11. And Dynegy and Cantor Fitzgerald were. Together as one.
Linda Lorelle: [00:03:09]Changed that day.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:03:10]Like that. So here we are its Saturday, Im hanging out at home and everything changed because of Pittsburgh. On Sunday two people went to a grocery store in Kentucky that were black. And they were killede. So. While business is interesting and have to eat you have to eat. I feel far more compelled in the age of sixty one to utilize what I’m learning to create the antidote. To where we’ve been led which is this theory around unconscious bias. Which if you’re unconscious. How do you know what your biases. And using this word diversity. Which was brilliant.
Linda Lorelle: [00:04:01]Yeah.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:04:01]As a way to divide us.
Linda Lorelle: [00:04:04]So so you’re saying that the word diversity. Contributes to the division?
Sara Speer Selber: [00:04:09]Of course it does!
Linda Lorelle: [00:04:09]Explain please?
Sara Speer Selber: [00:04:11]So diversity is, basically, people are fighting over the same things. Social and economic equity. So let’s just take Harvey. Let’s go back to conscious inclusion. OK OK. During Harvey. During any catastrophes – earthquake in Mexico, Harvey, Memorial days floods – people immediately do what? Something.
Linda Lorelle: [00:04:34]Whatever. Whatever it takes.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:04:36]Everybody does something! Right? So that no one person is responsible to do everything.
Linda Lorelle: [00:04:43]Right.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:04:43]And that might have meant somebody got a float. And went next door to a neighbor they had never met. And in that moment they had to figure out how to consciously include that person in solving the problem of getting that human out of that environment. That human might have been a quadriplegic. That person might have been a Republican. That person might have been all of those labels. A Democrat, the gay or lesbian, a Black, a purple an ornage.
Linda Lorelle: [00:05:11]A this, or that.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:05:14]It didnt matter did it? No. In that moment. Everyone was doing something. In that moment. That moment lasts for about three or four days. Everyone’s doing something. Until. We start talking about. Where will the resources be allocated. And we lose. What was happening in those moments. Who was being rescued.
Linda Lorelle: [00:05:39]It was the human connection.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:05:42]Of course, of course. So the people that I met during Harvey. That has Become a new system. It is all on the same page. Conscious inclusion, and let’s reject this far right and far left political conversation let’s create a movement that. Really mirrors Harvey. Which is the GSD movement. Hashtag GSD. Get stuff done. It doesn’t always take money.
Linda Lorelle: [00:06:13]The whole reason is you know that I decided to do this podcast is to is to have conversations like this that remind us of what our common humanity is. Because I believe that it was all the stuff that’s going on in Washington at a political level that it’s going to take people like you and me just connecting with each other and with others in order to change the dialogue and actually bring us bring us closer together. So to that end one of the things that I’m asking all of our guests is to share a personal or professional story situation where you felt like you were made to feel like you were shunned. You were an outcast. You felt that you didn’t belong. And I know you probably have a list. OK.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:07:11]Yeah. You know it began for me at a pretty young age. Sort of again by design I grew up in the Jewish community and so I literally I can honestly say on my street I have never met a gentile. Like I didn’t even know they existed in the world. There was one on the street. I think they that kind of assimilated and become Jewish. They love their food so much of our holidays. And then I went to Johnston and I did become very close friends with the young Justin Johnson Middle School experience in Houston I don’t know what it’s called now but became very friendly with Florida. Greg’s whose mother was a teacher. She was black and we loved each other because we were the two skinniest girls in school. And so we became best best friends. I remember the reaction when she came home with me after school to work on the project. It just it stuck. Having grown up in a household with describing my parents reaction. Oh you know what I think. I wasn’t aware of what Lauda would think because we were buds and so it just never crossed my mind. What would you it was so natural until that moment when everyone else made it feel so uncomfortable. We certainly had Lulu who helped raise us and became you know that sort of second mother. My mother couldn’t give full attention to me.
Linda Lorelle: [00:09:00]And Lulu was .. was Lulu black?
Sara Speer Selber: [00:09:02]Lulu was black. Yes. Although, I had an older brother have an older brother who was a lot of chaos in my house because of his mental. The way he was mentally kind of formed and there were no diagnostics backbench after that situation I had to go away to boarding school because of my brother. And so I was diversity player. I was Jewish.
Linda Lorelle: [00:09:34]Were you the only jewish student at the boarding school?
Sara Speer Selber: [00:09:38]Pretty much and I was a boarding student in a global economy. When I was at that time living with girls whose parents were diplomats and I know I got to go there because I was a jock. I was in the blocks of being a jock and I know what it took to make that happen. And my best friend was “the spic” and it didn’t dawn on me until years later when we had that conversation when the coach was up on the balcony screaming little ‘spic move your feet. Little Jew. It dawned on me that there was anything about that until now I flash forward to today. In I find myself thinking what were they thinking. What was my great grandparents what were they all thinking when the signs were there. Why didn’t they leave what what.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:10:45]And I find myself today because I’m white. I had this privilege because I’m white and yet people are running for office with me. A face of a Jewish candidate that looks exactly like what we’re doing at this time. But I don’t say I’m Jewish no one knows. So the label they put on me is red white and my cousin was white he was privileged. He was a quadriplegic in a skiing accident. He felt no privilege in this world. He couldn’t go his site couldn’t get out his house off the sidewalk because no one cared. There was no privilege in that. And yet he figured out how to get his Masters in work with profoundly mentally ill adolescents because his ideology was well they see me in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. Harris County no cares maybe they’ll see this so when you think about what’s going on today I’m thinking.
Linda Lorelle: [00:11:56]I have this image in my mind of you and your Hispanic friend on a desk was a basketball court.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:12:06]She was volleyball I was basketball. She taught me volleyball which ended up helping me get a scholarship to Tulane for sports. Becasue I didnt know volleyball. And she taught me.
Linda Lorelle: [00:12:16]Amazing. So when you think back to that and as you as you mentioned you know were just a few days out from the horrific mass shooting in Pittsburgh. How? How did we get here?
Sara Speer Selber: [00:12:33]Yeah I think it gets back to, you know this is…uh… I think technology has big part of it. A really big part of it. We all have voices now in ways that we didn’t have twenty five years ago. So twenty five years ago when we met I was the other. I stepped into even before Houston a gay white male world. That I had zero understanding of…
Linda Lorelle: [00:13:03]Aids Foundation Houston?
Sara Speer Selber: [00:13:07]No even before I was a in Oklahoma City.
Linda Lorelle: [00:13:09]OK.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:13:10]And so the virus was gay white men and my cousin got the virus and went on to Shreveport and I thought so again but I’m still young. I’m going to get like that. I don’t have a virus. So when I get to Aids Foundation I see it play out. Community the community community as the virus spreads and still the other because I don’t have the virus. So what did you learn from that experience. All the same. What I learned was. When someone gets sick it takes a village to take care of them and there’s not enough money on the planet to do that. What I learned was if you ask people how I went to you I saw Linda help me. No one will talk about this. Somehow some way can you go to your TV channel and help me. I’m sure I cried. It doesn’t hurt.
Linda Lorelle: [00:14:15]I dont Remember you crying but thats ok…
Sara Speer Selber: [00:14:18]I couldnt help it and what I did was I put people in my car and I showed them. And they met people. It wasn’t just the tweets I need there were no assumptions we had to get to know each other.
Linda Lorelle: [00:14:36]That’s that’s the that’s the crux of all this mess that we don’t know each other. when we other-ize or demonize someone it’s usually based on a preconceived notion that has no basis or grounding in fact. Because there is no real knowledge just like you said you didn’t know gentiles for the longest time just because we still. Have a society that is siloed where there are many people that that do not. Have daily contact with someone that they consider the other is someone other than whatever there is.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:15:17]That’s when you begin to create these solutions. So because of work and the things I do somebody sent me a link to. Oh I bet you’re going to love this. It was called The Sisterhood of Salom Shalom. Muslim and Jewish women forming circles to form relationships to do social action together.
Linda Lorelle: [00:15:41]Oh, I love that…
Sara Speer Selber: [00:15:41]So I reached out to Muslim friends and we met random work. And she went I’m in it they’re threatening. To does that want to keep us divided. Right so Harvey what’s happening. My friend comes from a lot of refugee services in the ME. People from the Muslim community of 18 wheelers full of products. They have no idea where to distribute. And my friends from the Jewish Federation are sending the 18 wheelers full of product from the Jewish community. Because they have no idea where to send it. Outside of the Jewish community and so that product between a Muslim and none of us were ever really met. Started in the Golden Triangle through an old relationship and AIDS Foundation. With all the way through East Harris County. Through a guy who was twenty eight who were just texting and calling and what do you mean. This is coming this day. This guy was proficient in GST getting stuff done. He got done with strangers and neighbors and he was one of the first ones in about he was a waiting so.
Linda Lorelle: [00:17:01]I love this idea of the Muslim community and the Jewish community coming together to fulfill a need. Back to Pittsburgh just for a moment. I loved hearing the story about the Muslim community donating money to help..
Sara Speer Selber: [00:17:24]yes, just like the jewish community Is doing with the mosque. But thats the norm.
Linda Lorelle: [00:17:29]Thats the norm but its not what we see on a regular basis
Sara Speer Selber: [00:17:29]That’s the norm. But that’s not what people want you to see.
Linda Lorelle: [00:17:36]Or to celebrate.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:17:38]That’s correct. So we do quite a bit of training. We work with folks on how do you begin to build teams based on conscious inclusion. How do we build common ground in the first 10 minutes of this room. Right. So right now I bet I can do it as if we had never met. I’m just asking you three simple questions. Linda do you have a disability.
Linda Lorelle: [00:18:02]No.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:18:05]Do you care for someone with a disability.
Linda Lorelle: [00:18:07]Yes I do.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:18:11]Boom! Do you know some disability.
Linda Lorelle: [00:18:14]I certainly do.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:18:16]Tell me tell me but those disabilities are in your in my mind where disabilities name some disabilities.
Linda Lorelle: [00:18:25]Well they could be anything from not being able to walk or not being able to see, or not being able to hear, not being able to think rationally because of the disorder. Any number of things.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:18:40]So let’s talk about what the legislation says. The legislation says it’s anything that impairs you intellectually physically or mentally. Now do you know anyone who’s ever had cancer treatment.
Linda Lorelle: [00:18:55]Oh yes.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:18:56]Chemo brain. A DISABILITY. Do you know anyone with asthma. A DISABILITY. Anyone diabetes or a disability with ADHD with neurodiversity I mean so everyone. Do I have a disability. You’re looking at me. Do I have any disabilities.
Linda Lorelle: [00:19:18]I don’t know.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:19:19]Right! But I have two. I have pretty serious rheumatoid arthritis which impairs my physicality and I have certain forms of dyslexia. So now when I go to a workshop of a mindfulness instructor the first thing they say is OK everybody stand up.
Linda Lorelle: [00:19:41]That’s not an easy thing for you to do.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:19:43]That’s not so mindful. And then they say OK I’m going to turn on some music What if there’s someone you can’t hear. OK. Now follow my movements what if I’m just even had a surgery or the other night I go in. OK we’re going to start the session off with mindfulness. Everybody put both feet on the ground. That’s an assumption.
Linda Lorelle: [00:20:07]OK so I get
Sara Speer Selber: [00:20:09]Everyone breathe deeply.
Linda Lorelle: [00:20:10]I get I get where you’re comiong from.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:20:11]Where you go and line the White Light.
Linda Lorelle: [00:20:13]I understand. I understand what you’re saying. So from the perspective of the person who would say that yes the the person who is leading the group to achieve it. What are you saying that that person should have said or done to consciously inclusive everyone in the world not knowing what somebodies ability or disability might be.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:20:34]So let’s you say you’re bringing the conference. I mean I think the first thing we want to know is how do you best receive information. Do you do visually. Do you need some kinds of visuals or auditory really. Do you need some do you extra space.
Linda Lorelle: [00:20:54]So those are questions that should be asked in advance if you work out all the variables in where the person is presenting is aware of.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:21:03]Now you know this and you know I assume everyone can just stand up and dance right and yee ha and you get these assumptions and you don’t sue. I mean I’m very much at the point now where I can tell when someone is in space that really has some anxiety of being too close to some. To physically close physical and because we’re very diverse. Brains. All of our brains operate differently. You and I we decided to work on a project together. You would approach it one way and I would approach it the way you can either see what I’m doing is a total mess. Which many have or you can see oh wow. We just need to.
Linda Lorelle: [00:21:55]Yeah.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:21:56]Fixes this in a way that would be more translatable.
Linda Lorelle: [00:21:59]Right.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:22:01]I will forever be grateful. Growing up with my space for all the people around me you Debbie Fiarito, who could see the things in me that were so powerful and so inspiring and so wonderful that I couldn’t see myself. And I certainly had no clue how to make it implementable Venetian. And so they thought meet someone on your team that can do this. You need to do your whole job is just going to be connecting the right people then getting out of the way.
Linda Lorelle: [00:22:38]You’re brilliant at it!
Sara Speer Selber: [00:22:38]And that’s all. So what does my company?
Linda Lorelle: [00:22:40]You connect the dots..
Sara Speer Selber: [00:22:41]Correct. We connect the dots in order to make sure that more than the top 10 percent…can thrive. And. If we were serious about education we would stop fighting over public, charter, and private. We would start fighting for. How do people learn and what is and what do they want to learn. We Would get real serious about steam. Science. Technology. Empathy. Arts and Math.
Both: [00:23:16] Science, Technology, Empathy, Arts and Math
Linda Lorelle: [00:23:22]That is such such an important word because we are lacking. Severely. It’s. That kind of goes without saying. At this point.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:23:33]Technology.
Linda Lorelle: [00:23:34]Ya.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:23:34]When a friend of mine calls me And says can you come see what’s on my. 13 year old daughter’s. Instagram. And I have to play like I am the FBI to scare the heck out of the child who has created an Instagram account: Blank needs to kill herself at the age of 13. When my friend, who has a child in a well-known religious school. With a meme of Jesus. With all kinds of horrible words to this child. They’ve goes into an air drop to. 50 students. Something’s wrong. And these kids are learning it where? At Home. These kids are learning from our leaders. Who are name calling in public. We didn’t grow up leaders who name called. We didn’t. There was. We might have been politically different. But we did not name call. Like that.
Linda Lorelle: [00:24:46]And you know part of the issue that we’re facing is that. Again. This is not intended to be a show about politics but obviously nothing happens. And we are having this conversation in the context of what is happening. In our. Country. And. I agree with you. About. The fact that words matter and that when our leaders are. Our calling each other names then. Our young people and everyone else. Believes that that’s OK. There are those. Who would disagree with us. And say we should not. Blame the leaders for what they’re saying but that it’s everybody’s individual. Responsibility. The leaders are not responsible for contributing to a heinous act. They don’t see a connection of the dots. How do you get and how do you do that.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:25:52]We just have to go back to grace and pace.
Linda Lorelle: [00:25:54]Grace And pace and connection. Yes definitely connection and I think that’s where the technology is as wonderful as it is the technology that allows us to do what we’re doing here today is fantastic. And the technology that allows us to communicate instantly in real time is fantastic. But there’s a there’s a negative side to it as well. And the big negative for me is just the fact that people don’t talk anymore to each other face to face and you look at someone’s expression and how their words are having an impact because it’s so easy to tweet or text and not see the reaction on the other end of that which is what you were talking about. Is it okay kids to text their parents.
Linda Lorelle: [00:26:42]Well How is it. How is it. OK yeah. Really.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:26:45]I’m sorry but I’m 17 years old and I’m texting you I’m a great mom. Really. Yeah. That could be your friend with your phone. I want to hear your voice.
Linda Lorelle: [00:26:52]Right. Right right. And how can how can you send a message to a young person at the end of a tweet or a text and say you know you should really just kill yourself. I mean that’s that’s insane. That’s insane. So clearly something is broken here. And humans are broke. Humans are broken and we need to find a way to get back to the humanity.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:27:15]And I think if we can just understand that as humans were broken. That is the common ground.
Linda Lorelle: [00:27:19]Right. That is this you’re saying that common ground is that we all have pain. And we have to acknowledge each other’s pain.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:27:27]My first meeting this morning I looked straight at that person with, aha, then gave him a big hug. I said Do we really need to meet. Person just needed a hug.
Linda Lorelle: [00:27:35]Just need a hug..
Sara Speer Selber: [00:27:35]Just needed a hug!
Linda Lorelle: [00:27:45]You can tell if somebody needs a hug over a phone or a text. Yeah.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:27:50]My kids do not need me to give them any advice.
Linda Lorelle: [00:27:54]So to wrap up our conversation if there were one thing that you could leave with people today to give them hope about where we can be. What would that be.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:28:15]I would ask people to stop tolerating one another I would ask people to respect the fact that every human they come in contact with every human is in pain or has pain. And as such, look for the kind people. Fred Rogers mother says it best, Nancy Rogers, ” in a catastrophe, look for the helpers.” In life look for the helpers. Theyre everywhere. They’re everywhere in any given moment. They are everywhere. That was Harvey, in a catastrophe. Look for the helpers.
Linda Lorelle: [00:29:06]And there are more helplers than there are not.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:29:09]Its the majority.
Linda Lorelle: [00:29:10]Its the majority.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:29:11]It’s The silent majority. It is the silent majority and the vocal minority is getting into our heads. Get him out push it out.
Linda Lorelle: [00:29:23]Look for the helpers.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:29:24]Look for the helpers.
Linda Lorelle: [00:29:26]I love that. Perfect way to end today.
Sara Speer Selber: [00:29:28]I love you my friend.
Linda Lorelle: [00:29:30]I Love You My Friend! Thank you so much Sara.
[00:29:32] Yeah you bet. Its always fun to come chat.
Linda Lorelle: [00:29:35]Great.
Linda: Closing: [00:29:37]If the mission of our voices matter resonates with you please like subscribe download and share and then join the conversation because it really is going to take all of us to make a difference.