Look Who’s Tweeting Now…

Posted on June 3, 2011

ITVS Education Manager Annelise Wunderlich profiles one of our newest followers on Twitter: Teresa Ann Isaac, the former mayor of Lexington, Kentucky and a major advocate of women’s leadership.


We met Teresa Ann Isaac via Twitter, when she messaged about the live chat we co-hosted with PBS NewsHour last month on Bhutto and women’s leadership. Turns out, Teresa Ann Isaac is a pretty amazing woman leader herself. She is the former mayor of Lexington, Kentucky and since 2005, the U.S. State Department has sent her to train women leaders in Chile, Argentina, Namibia, South Africa, Pakistan, and Uganda, as part of a democracy project.

As a young lawyer, Isaac wrote the grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Education and directed the resulting project that did much to bring equity to sports in Kentucky.  She went on to advocate for fair housing in Lexington, and monitored the first Palestinian elections in 1996. In April 2007, Isaac was presented the Halaby Award for Public Service, at the Kahlil Gibran "Spirit of Humanity" Awards gala in Washington, D.C.

Tell us a little about yourself and why helping women develop as leaders is important to you. I am an Arab-American, born in Harlan County, Kentucky, and happy to be a part of a large, community service-oriented family.  I served as a prosecutor, council member-at-large, vice mayor, and mayor of Lexington, Kentucky.  I ran for Congress in 1998 in the 6th Congressional District of Kentucky.  I have been honored to work for the U.S. State Department training mayors and police chiefs around the world in Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Namibia, Pakistan, and Uganda. I want to help develop more women as leaders because women are excellent problem-solvers and they are very inclusive.  Women are moral, compassionate leaders. Decisions are better when everyone is at the decision-making table. 

What do you think are the most pressing issues facing women today, around the world and in the U.S.? Globally, I think we have to focus on women’s economic empowerment, maternal health care, education, putting an end to domestic violence, and advocating for equal participation in government. Here in the U.S., we also need to work for more equal participation in government and on corporate boards. Too many women here also suffer from economic inequality and domestic violence. 

How do you motivate people to be active in their communities when the issues can seem overwhelming and one person can feel helpless in the face of all of it? I motivate others by establishing trust, showing confidence in others, teaching that persistence pays, breaking problems into manageable parts, using humor, leading by example, and showing how lives are improved one step at a time. 

Did you have strong, capable women in your life growing up who set an example for you? My mother.  She won the state basketball tournament in Virginia in 1952 and was a basketball official in Kentucky. She was the PTA president at my school.  She taught me to play with a big heart. She taught me to be fearless. 

How can men and boys help women and girls become leaders in their communities and government? They can encourage the women and girls in their lives to achieve at the highest levels possible.  When women run for office, men can campaign for them and give them a campaign contribution.  Men and boys can treat women and girls as their equals.  Men and boys can support the right of women and girls to be included in sports, in the corporate boardroom, and in the political arena. 

Your job is pretty intense — what inspires you and what do you do for fun? I am inspired every day by the dedication of police and firefighters who work 24/7 to protect the public.  I am also inspired by caring teachers who make a difference in the lives of children.  For fun: I enjoy live music and especially my son's band. He is a drummer.  I enjoy going to the farmers market with my daughter and going on walks with her at the Arboretum. 

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