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Former governor says obstacles fuel determination

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Collins spoke during Prospect chamber's leadership event

By Danna Zabrovsky

The Prospect Chamber of Commerce celebrated International Women’s Day with a women’s conference featuring one of Kentucky’s most prominent females.

Former Kentucky Gov. Martha Layne Collins spoke to a group of about 85 local ladies at the Hunting Creek Country Club Tuesday – the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Her speech was part of the “Strong Leadership, Strong Women” event hosted by the Prospect Chamber.

Women at all stages of life attended the event, including full-time moms, unemployed women, businesswomen representing companies and organizations such as Brown-Forman, Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, Stock Yards Bank and Trust, BB&T and individual proprietors.

The day offered something for everyone.

In the morning, Debi Magnes with the Kentucky Center for Self Growth spoke about finding your life’s passion, and Marcella Arnold of Edward Jones spoke about money matters and taking control of finances, attendees said.

In the afternoon, Karen Bonura of Mary Kay talked about professional image, which comprises not only physical appearance, but also personality and attitude.

Marilyn Cannon of Best Body spoke about the inefficacy of diets, and the power of asking one simple question before eating: “Am I hungry?” Kathy Jacobs, executive director of the Prospect Chamber and organizer of the event said she hopes the speeches gave women “a sense of how much they’re worth.” Collins’ speech, which drew on her personal and professional experiences, was an empowering call to women to give life their all.

“The only restrictions you have are the ones you place on yourself, ” she said early in the speech.

Collins began with a story from her childhood.

Determined to build a pool in her Bagdad backyard, Collins got to a good start digging up the earth and creating a big hole.

Collins’ dream of having a swimming pool was short-lived, however, because her mother ordered her to stop digging and fill in the hole.

“Even though she crushed my bubble, ” Collins said, “it probably made me more determined.” It’s not easy being a woman, Collins said, and especially difficult being a female leader.

“There’s never enough time to do everything you’re supposed to do, ” she said.

“I had dreams that didn’t come true.” In 1985, after the Kentucky House and Senate passed resolutions encouraging General Motors to locate a Saturn plant in Kentucky, the company chose to build the plant in Tennessee.

Despite the loss, Collins didn’t get discouraged.

When Toyota came along, looking to place one of its plants somewhere in the United States, the company whittled down its options to Tennessee and Kentucky, Collins explained.

This time, Collins made her dream come true.

She sent aides to New York to meet with the heads of Toyota.

She wined and dined them when they arrived in Kentucky, treated them to a fireworks demonstration and a show of Kentucky folk music, and told them she looked forward to working with them in the future.

In the end, Kentucky got its Toyota plant thanks to hard work and dedication.

“I had a lot to do.

I had a lot to prove, ” Collins said.

“I was trying to do a good job so they wouldn’t say, ‘A woman can’t do this job.’” Attendees responded with a standing ovation and a renewed sense of empowerment.

Carolyn Makhlouf, who is retired and used to work for Brown-Forman, said Collins’ speech reinforced her belief that there is no limit to what women can do.

“She is still working and believes so much in Kentucky, ” Makhlouf said.

Makhlouf said she wants to encourage young women to dream big, take care of their health, and jump at every opportunity to learn.

“Education, education, education, ” she said.

“Get as much of it as you can.” Brenda Daniels, a golf teaching professional and member and associate of Pre-Paid Legal Services, attended the conference seeking advice on becoming a leader in her company.

“What better person to learn from than our one and only female governor, ” she said.

The most important message Daniels took from the conference was the importance of personal development.

She described being a female in a sporting profession as “a struggle, ” and said the speeches inspired her.

Personal development is not emphasized in schools and colleges, Daniels said, and motivation and empowerment are something women need more of.

E-mail us about this story at: danna@oldhamera.com.