On Friday evening, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina delivered a speech to the members of Peace Through Business — an international training and leadership program for women — at the George W. Bush Library in Dallas, Texas.
Under the umbrella of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW), Peace Through Business has trained over 500 women from Afghanistan and Rwanda in growing their leadership and entrepreneurial skills since the program was founded in 2007.
After a day of awards, workshops, and roundtable discussions, the women graduating the Peace Through Business program were among the 150 audience members on hand for Fiorina’s remarks, including the program’s American mentors, sponsors, volunteers, and other women business owners.
At approximately 7:45 p.m., Fiorina took to the stage and opened her remarks by thanking Dr. Terry Neese, the CEO and founder of IEEW. After discussing the celebratory reason for gathering, Fiorina delved into the purpose of her speech: “Women can change the world.”
“One woman can change the world,” said Fiorina, “and each of you have changed your worlds.” She compared the impact women can have on the world to dropping a small pebble in still water, where the initial impact might be small and quiet, but the ripples reach “far and wide.”
“Human potential is the only limitless resource in this world,” began Fiorina, continuing her statement further by saying it was the only resource needed for change. She clarified that she did not mean that women were better than men, but that half of all the human potential in the world was women. Fiorina said that she believes everyone to have God-given gifts, and that means that everyone has the power to change his or her life.
Halfway through her speech, Fiorina spoke of her own past experiences. Beginning as a secretary for a nine-person real estate firm and climbing up the corporate ladder to become CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina identified herself as the kind of person who sees possibilities.
“There are people who see limitations,” said Fiorina, “And then there are those who see possibilities.” Fiorina elaborated, saying those who see limitations are only able to envision what can’t happen, and those who see the opportunity for success ask the kinds of questions that start with “What if,” “Why not,” and “Who says it can’t be done?”
“I have seen people in all kinds of circumstances,” she continued, but “Everyone has the potential to change.” The critical issue, according to Fiorina, was whether they had the opportunities, motivation, and courage to take action. This is why she has such high praise for entrepreneurs, like the graduates of the program. Entrepreneurs “see possibilities,” said Fiorina, “Something that wasn’t there before.”
“You have to have courage to challenge the status quo,” said Fiorina, adding that there will sometimes be enemies who try to prevent or block you from moving forward. It is impossible to get innovation without also accepting risks and tolerating mistakes, she explained, and this is a direct challenge to those who are benefiting from the status quo, whether that is in Rwanda, Afghanistan, or even a bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.
In closing her speech, Fiorina came full circle and said, “Women make a better world,” and no matter the problem, “If you get women involved, the problem gets better.”
“Women change the world,” said Fiorina. “We count on your leadership.”