Greek leaders received a revealing glimpse into the fast-paced world of live television and feminist activism on Saturday afternoon. Karen Obel ’88, an Emmy award-winning technical director of the Rosie O’Donnell show, was the keynote speaker at Saturday’s A.D. White Leadership Conference for Fraternity and Sorority Leaders, held in the Statler Ballroom.
An active member and officer of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority during her four years at Cornell, Obel is currently the director of the V-Day college campaign, a non-profit global movement that aids the effort to stop violence against women through performances of Eve Ensler’s critically acclaimed play, The Vagina Monologues. Obel praised Cornellians for their active support of the V-Day campaign.
“Cornell University has participated in the college campaign for all four years of [the campaign’s] existence,” Obel said. “My greatest joy and ultimate motivation comes from the college campaign participants themselves.”
Obel’s speech focused on the qualities of effective leadership, as she cited past personal experiences as a member of various Cornell organizations which prepared her to be an effective leader in television production and as a V-Day organizer.
“I measure my success as a human being by whether I can help change one life for the better,” she said. “Based on the hundreds of letters that I have received, I am blown away by the thought that I might have had a positive impact on so many people’s lives.”
Obel explained that, through performances of The Vagina Monologues, V-Day “brings attention to the issue of violence against women, to people who might not ordinarily be reached by this message.”
Since becoming director of the V-Day college campaign in March 1998, Obel has been actively involved in organizing performances of The Vagina Monologues on college campuses all over the country. Though the V-Day campaign is only in its fourth year, a total of 550 schools worldwide are participating in V-Day 2002.
“Directing the college campaign has been the most demanding job I’ve ever had but it’s also the most rewarding,” Obel said.
When asked about the upcoming performance of The Vagina Monologues on Feb. 14 in Anabel Taylor Hall, member of Kappa Alpha Theta Rachel Devries ’03 said that she was well aware of the V-Day campaign at Cornell.
“I’ve heard all about that because I’m on the Panhellenic Board and we try to work closely with women’s events on campus,” Devries said. “And just among friends, [The Vagina Monologues] is very, very popular.” Devries serves on the Panhellenic Association as vice president of Formal Membership Recruitment.
Leaders of the Greek system thoroughly enjoyed Obel’s speech, according to Maurice Ducoing ’03, a member of the Zeta Psi fraternity and vice president of Recruitment for the Intra-Fraternity Council.
“I liked the speech. I thought she communicated a lot of good points,” Ducoing said. “Leadership is what contributions you make [to the organization, and] what you bring to it.”
Faculty members felt that Obel served as an excellent role model for students who hold offices in their respective fraternities and sororities.
“I think it’s great for fraternity and sorority students to see someone like Karen who has been a student here,” said Adria Nobles, assistant dean of fraternity and sorority affairs. “She relayed a lot of different [experiences] that happened to her as a Cornell student and how those [events] helped to prepare her for all the challenges that she would face after Cornell, including the V-Day campaign.”
Obel ended her speech with encouragement for all the student leaders in her audience.
“So as you go through life and tackle exciting challenges, don’t judge your successes on whether you win or lose, but on the values you bring to the game,” Obel said.
Archived article by Meghan Barr