Skip to content

What distinguishes a true leader

Emma was one of HIP’s Summer Eats Interns from Teens in Public Service (TIPS). She received the TIPS Intern Fundraising Award and gave a speech on her experience working at HIP. What follows is the transcript of her speech.

Emma at Paramount Park Summer Eats site with Lucy the Alligator

Looking around here tonight, I see a room full of leaders. And this whole summer has motivated me to understand what makes a good leader.

My name is Emma Begley-Collier, and this summer, I interned at the Hunger Intervention Program. If two months ago, you had asked me what the most important traits a leader has, I would have had an answer. I probably would have said passion, confidence, hard work. All of which are strong leadership qualities. But since spending my summer at the Hunger Intervention Program, my answer is different.

What I saw there every single day was the power of humility and grace. One moment, in particular, stuck with me. It was the second week of my internship, and I, still learning the ropes, was tagging along, visiting sites with a coworker, named Pedro.

As we were serving meals, a man approached our tent. He questioned us defensively, asking what we were doing in his neighborhood, forcefully repeating that they didn’t need us here. It was the manner in which Pedro responded that stood out to me: he listened to the man, calmly, quietly, unguarded, nodding with understanding. “I hear you,” he said, then asked “are you hungry?”

And to my surprise, the man said that he was, so we served him a meal. This simple interaction showed me how humility derives trust; how humility derives respect. Most importantly, humility is learning from every single interaction we have; it’s always assuming that we have something to take in.

It’s taking a step back from the mindset, “I’m sixteen, so, I pretty much know everything.” Because more often than not, we do have something to learn. And to me, that action of thinking of others more is empowering. Seeing the grace at HIP allowed me to recognize that valuable trait in other leaders in my life. All of a sudden I saw that same grace in my moms, my aunts, my neighbors, my teachers. And now I work to see it in my own actions. I am beyond grateful for everyone at TIPS and everyone HIP, especially my supervisor Emily, for giving me the opportunity to learn.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *