Law students looking for advice about leadership were given a lot to think about when former Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner visited the Delaware campus recently for an informal talk in the student lounge.
Minner, who was widowed at 32 with three young children and only a 10th-grade education, said success is tied to confidence. If you lack it, don’t let it show.
“Perception is what I call 85 percent of the job,” she said. “If you show confidence they’ll think, ‘She knows what she’s doing, she’ll handle this problem.’’’
Her ability to stay cool under pressure has been tested repeatedly. Minner explained how she had to find work to support her children after her husband died, but she couldn’t secure a car loan without a man’s co-signature. She eventually managed with the help of an acquaintance in the auto business, but the roadblocks were enough to inspire a political career that led to Woodburn. She earned her general equivalency diploma, began work as a secretary in Legislative Hall and eventually ran for House of Representatives. Twenty six years and 11 successful campaigns later, she became Delaware’s first female governor in 2000.
To underscore her theme about confidence, Minner told the story of hosting a dinner party for 32 guests at Woodburn not long after the Sept. 11 tragedy. An airplane carrying 258 passengers became lost over Delaware, but without knowing the full extent of the problem public safety officials were quickly suspicious. The plane ultimately landed safely at Dover Air Force Base, but not before she was involved in some difficult briefings about the public-safety threat the situation presented, and even how the plane might have to be forcibly brought down. She maintained her composure with her guests, while also handling 11 phone briefings.
“On the inside you may be turning upside down but on the outside you can’t let it show,” she said.
Minner visited Widener on Wednesday, Nov. 4. She was the third speaker in the Local Leaders series launched this semester on the Delaware campus. The series is presented by the faculty and the Student Bar Association