LeadBoston Creates Personal, Professional Impact
(This speech was originally given by Attorney Susan Stenger at the 2012 LeadBoston graduation)
"Good Evening, Lead Boston Class of 2012, and welcome to all of your friends and family members.
My name is Sue Stenger. I am a proud member of the Lead Boston Class of 2009, and it is my privilege to host you here tonight at Burns & Levinson.
If your Lead Boston experience has been anything like mine was: Lead Boston has opened your mind to issues and points of view at an organic level, and to which you otherwise would not have been exposed; Lead Boston has opened doors to places you otherwise would never go; and Lead Boston has opened your hearts to people and communities you otherwise would not know.
You have each had rich experiences this year that will remain with you. From my time in Lead Boston, two events stand out in my memory. My first program day, we did a scavenger hunt, with small teams dispersed to assigned neighborhoods throughout the city. My team and I went to Mission Hill. Despite living nearby, I had never been there. Being a litigator, my competitive self set out to find all the items on our list and win the hunt. One sought after item was the price of a head of broccoli in Mission Hill. I soon learned, however, that the lesson for me here was not the price. Despite going to three food stores, we could not find a fresh head of broccoli in Mission Hill. The fresh produce selection in each store was dismal. Also during the hunt, we noticed several alternative health storefronts on the main street, which sits just a couple blocks from the world renowned Longwood Medical area. Asking some locals about this, we learned that many of the residents in that area chose alternative health over the world renowned doctors and hospitals down the hill, because they lacked health insurance, or because they needed quick appointments so as not lose their jobs, or because immigration issues deterred them from filling out paperwork at a hospital.
The other Lead Boston program day that especially affected me was doing the “privilege line” with my classmates, where the entire class stands in a line holding hands, shoulder to shoulder, and take steps forward or backward based on their personal answers to questions revealing opportunities available to them growing up. As the leader asked more and more questions, our hands ripped apart from each other, as some classmates moved toward the head of the room, and others stepped farther and farther backward. I was really upset by this exercise, as if I were losing the grasp of someone falling over a cliff. But the comments of some of my classmates who ended up at the back of the room were both enlightening and comforting: they expressed pride both in where they had come from and in how far they had come. And here we all were in Lead Boston -- together and for a common purpose.
Since my graduation a few years ago, I’ve tried to stay involved with Lead Boston. As you will, I run into classmates on the T and at events around town. My class has had several informal reunions. The friendships and bonds you’ve formed here will last.
I try to bring the Lead Boston social justice sensibility to whatever I do, whether it’s talking with my young nephews, or planning events here at my firm. I’m proud to say Burns & Levinson won a diversity award this past year for its involvement promoting women in the legal profession, supporting LGBT causes, and mentoring and hiring Brighton High School students of color. My business partner Renee Inomata and I are both Lead Boston grads and, like others at my firm, do our best to nudge things in the right direction.
I try not to simply pull my social justice hat out of the closet for certain events, but to remember what Lead Boston has taught me as I go about life in general. May the aura of Lead Boston stay with you as you go off in your many directions"
Susan E. Stenger is a partner at Burns & Levinson where she focuses on probate and entertainment litigation. She is a 2009 alum of LeadBoston.