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Monday, December 2, 2013

Columbia connection to the Iranian nuclear negotiations

   You might not have know that the woman in many of the pictures with Secretary of State Kerry during the recent negotiations in Geneva about controlling the nuclear development in Iran has a very local connection.  Wendy Sherman, in the picture above, is an Under Secretary of State and the lead nuclear negotiator for the State Department.  So the local connection?  Wendy grew up in Jim Rouse's house in Columbia.  Wendy is the daughter of Malcolm  Sherman who was Rouse Co. vice president with responsibilities for all residential land sales in Columbia.  Mr. Sherman has a strong belief in racial diversity in housing and was responsible for seeing that this existed in Columbia.  Jim Rouse purchased Mr. Sherman's house as his Columbia residence.
    I got to know Wendy as a graduate student at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in the mid 1970's.  That's right a trained social worker is this Country's lead nuclear negotiator.  As I remember it Wendy was the first student to graduate with a 4.0 average. Wendy and I were part of a newly created program at the school for social activists.  This program, called the Social Strategy Program, was formed by Dean Daniel Thursz when he came to the school.  It was dwarfed by the number of students in the clinical social work tract.  It seems like our numbers were less than 20. Most of us came out of some social activist background and we wanted to obtain a professional credential that would help us in our careers.  There weren't that many professional credentials for social activists! I got to know Wendy very well as we shared many of our classes together. Her brilliance in those classes was all too evident as she soon became a student activist at the school.
     Wendy and I did our field placements at the National Association of Social Workers in DC.  Her issue at NASW was women's issues and mine was programs for the elderly.  With a lack of staff with expertise in either of these areas we found ourselves in position to do some significant work on behalf of the organization.  One memorable way we worked together was to negotiate a pay amount for student interns at NASW who would work the summer during our internship.  Originally the amount we were to be paid was not much more than minimum wage.  We decided to go into a negotiation session with the Executive Director of the NASW and pointed out the inconsistency of this amount when NASW was trying to increase the salaries paid to social workers in the United States.  NASW had proposed social worker salaries based on education and experience to be guidelines that organizations should use in paying social workers.  In our meeting to plan our presentation Wendy came up with using this strategy to our benefit.  It was a brilliant negotiating strategy. Based on that criteria we negotiated a much higher pay amount.  The Executive Director even praised us for our negotiating skills.  I will never forget the look on the Executive Director's face when we presented him with the words of his own organization!  Lesson to be learned?  When asking for a raise take a nuclear arms negotiator with you!
      Somehow I feel proud that a social worker is leading our nuclear negotiations and a community organizer is now our President.  Lawyers of this Country take note!

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