Pat Ramsay - ready to serve
"Here I am, use me." These were the sentiments expressed by Pat Ramsay, as she recently sat down with Outlook to talk about her past year at Harvard University where she completed an Advanced Leadership Fellowship, and her plans to put what she learnt to work for Jamaica.
It was an experience, she told Outlook, that "created a shift in my whole life". Of the 400 applicants who were nominated for the programme, Ramsay was the only one from the Caribbean and one of 35 who were accepted. She was named the distinguished fellow of the group.
Ramsay confessed that she knew nothing about the programme until she was nominated by the CEO of the International Women's Forum. Ramsay was the founding member of the Jamaican chapter of the organisation. "I said 'are you crazy?' At my age for me to go sit in a classroom? But she (Lillie Richardella) made it clear that she was not even asking me." Richardella, who holds two PhDs - one from Cambridge and one from Harvard, convinced Ramsay to go for it. "She is one of the most brilliant women I know, and she said, 'Pat, you are the perfect person for this'."
Her decision was made final when her daughter did some research and showed her what the programmed entailed. "I looked at it and said, 'Yes, this is what I want'."
Ramsay said her time at Harvard was not easy. "You will start at 8 a.m, and you don't get home until 10 at night."
She said that, in the advanced leadership programme, she had all the faculties at her disposal and was encouraged to do something
outside her area of expertise. She chose the Kennedy School - a graduate school preparing leaders for democratic society and contributing to the solution of public problems.
Ramsay heard one of the professors - Marshall Ganz - being interviewed in Jamaica, and was impressed with him. "What he said about leadership resonated with me and I said, 'I am going to stick with him'." So she decided to audit his course, 'Leadership - organising people, power and change'.
But half-way through the first semester Ramsay felt like she wasn't getting it. "Five of us decided to go with this audit. The first semester was very challenging, very intense. Three quarters of my colleagues left - they registered elsewhere. What he was doing was perfect, it was my not getting it. When I saw them leaving, I felt I needed to offer him an explanation that it had nothing to do with him, it was me. But there was this gnawing thing in my gut saying 'Pat, if you don't do this you will never cross over to the other side'."
Ramsay recalls sitting outside the professor's office, her exit speech in hand. Before she entered, she meditated and said, "God, if it's my ego that is standing in my way, give me the clarity to absorb it." With that she entered his office. "He said to me, 'I never saw you as a quitter' and I said, 'I'm never so I don't know why I'm having these challenges.' And he said, 'Do you want to leave here the same way you came here or do you want deeper learning?' He said, you have to unlearn to learn. And just then I had an epiphany. We had the most beautiful conversation and I left opening myself to embrace so many things in my life."
For her final project, Ramsay decided on an Institute of Moral leadership. "I don't want people to think I'm arrogant or a symbol of morality. I want them to know I'm doing it from a place of truth." She noted that it focused on four main things - authenticity, integrity, love, and commitment. "We have to be the game changer; we have to be the game itself. We have to take responsibility and stop blaming everyone outside there. If we can touch our real being, we can come up with all this good stuff waiting to be revealed."
Ramsay has returned to Jamaica with a whole new perspective and outlook on life. "I'm trying to live in the present. I probably wasn't thinking like this before. I try to really open myself. What happens to a lot of us in my age group is we get stuck. We talk about transformational but its transactional. A lot of time it's not new information, it's information we have recycled in yourself. You don't just tell people what to do, that's not touching their soul. With PowerPoint presentation, it's not integrated into their being."
Renewed and refuelled, Ramsay is pumped and ready to go to work for her country. "Right now, my life could not be much better. Who would have known that, at this stage, I would be at Harvard? I am now more grounded in what I want to do in my life - and that is service, especially to my young people. I want to help build them and I hope they will accept me. I want people to feel comfortable with themselves. Do not get stuck, open yourself to life, that's when life becomes an adventure. I am grateful. I give thanks every minute even if my day is not going well. We will never be able to get out of the rut we are in if we are not able to say this is not working, let me go back to the drawing board."