Becoming a Thought Leader at the “Write to Change the World” Seminar in L.A.

GretchenSwansonWhen one signs up for the OpEd project you have been selected for a 7 hour residency. At first it is just a 20 minute moment on the podium. But due to the selection process it quickly expands to the day with options for depth and breadth of expertise.

How had I missed the reality of my position? Unfortunately, it started so long ago that I don’t remember. What had happened was that we were all brought up to speed by completing the application for our life’s mission, at least for public consumption. And if we hadn’t been completely honest with ourselves how could we hope to be credible to others?

Between short breaks and with skilled facilitation I sat with 20 incredible individuals all self-selected for this new panel. My team included 4 Harvard Ph.D’s, a theologian from Union Theological Seminary, and a graduate of the London School of Economics. All dressed in weekend casual, snacking on bagels and coffee and discussing the cold snap we’d been having in [SoCal – Southern California]. Yes, there was an inner struggle to establish my authority. But by the time I needed to establish that credibility I’d heard from a series of unique, interesting, highly degreed and well established thinkers. So, not only did I feel the anxiety of exposure but once done how could I measure up to this seminal group? I learned that this is how we all felt.

I had not come with a topic in mind. It was a seminar about writing. As we were prompted to establish an argument my mind swirled with dead ends of critical questions to be explored. With the groups and my partner’s guidance I began to understand how the structure of the OpEd format helps someone like me to take a broad or not well considered idea and create compelling text.

I walked in ‘a nobody’, walked out ‘a somebody’ someone with a portfolio of expertise and a topic upon which to start: The Safety and Function of Older Adults. And when I do, I get to work with an OpEd expert to get published.

Gretchen Swanson, DPT, MPH, holds a post professional clinical doctorate in physical therapy from USC; a master’s in public health in health education and behavioral science from UCLA; is in her 40th year of practice; and is an advisor with Heart of Ida – a non-profit that monitors the safety net of 43,000 older adults in Long Beach, CA.


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