Who We Are

Who are our Circle Leaders?  Why do they do it?  Who better to hear from than Circle Leaders themselves.

Beth F. – Illinois

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you started a Policy Circle.

I was born and raised in Illinois and chose to raise my family here.  Sylvie and I started the first circle in our neighborhood because we wanted an outlet for intelligent discussion on issues that mattered to us.  Apparently others felt the same way because before we knew it we were at 60 women having these conversations every other month.  And these were women we just knew from around the neighborhood, most of whom were not engaged in politics or any sort of local activism.


What do you like to do outside of the Policy Circle?

Walking, playing tennis, reading and working with local anti-poverty organizations.  I also love writing and editing and get to put those skills to work editing the briefs for Policy Circle.  I have also recently started working with friends on some local issues, which has led to engaging with people both locally and nationally.


What is the best book you’ve read lately?

Steve Pemberton’s A Chance in the World.  An inspiring story of how people overcome insufferable odds and the human capacity for resilience and healing.  I’m also half- way through Hidden Figures – there is much more to that  story than is in the movie, which I also loved.


What is the best advice you’ve received?

Go into each day saying “thank you, thank you, thank you.”  It makes for a content heart and helps turn problems into opportunities.


What is advice would you give a prospective Circle member or leader?

Just do it.   Identify a few friends, send them a brief, then gather to have a glass and discuss.  That’s really how we started.

Also, keep it simple at your meetings and don’t worry about women not talking.  I have yet for that to be an issue.   There is plenty of discussion material in the Policy Circle Briefs library.  Or read a book or attend a local speaker or think tank event together.  One of our best outings was to hear Condoleeza Rice who came through town on a book tour.  We all got tickets and met up afterwards to discuss.  It was a nice complement to our regular Circle discussions.


What is something that surprised you about being in The Policy Circle?

I never thought of myself as having much to say, but I do — and I think every woman does.  Each person’s life experience enriches the dialogue in ways you can’t imagine.  It’s one of favorite parts of our discussions; while we discuss policy, we really hear about how life is being lived and how policy affects it.  Those nuggets of experience are priceless.


Katie G. – Indiana

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you started a Policy Circle.

I grew up on a family farm and live with my husband on our family farm in Indiana.  I started my career in politics then transitioned into the agriculture industry.  I started a Policy Circle in my community because I want women to feel more confident talking about policy issues.  Every issue is a woman’s issue and I want more women to be engaged in the political and policy processes.


What do you like to do outside of the Policy Circle?

I enjoy world travel, bird hunting, writing my blog, staying connected to my community and engaged with civic and political issues.

I like mentoring young women and men and helping them connect with various people and industries to help them and our communities succeed.


What is the best advice you’ve received?

You can do it all, just not all at the same time.


What is advice would you give a prospective Circle member or leader?

Don’t be afraid to invite women you do not know to your Circle and never be afraid to speak up if you have a different opinion!  Our differences are what makes the world go ’round.


What is something that surprised you about being in The Policy Circle?

As the daughter of a confident, involved woman and being one myself, I am still surprised at how many women lack the confidence to speak up about an issue but yet are so passionate.  I hope The Policy Circle will help give them the confidence to engage in the discussion and get more involved!

Petra S. and Ellen B. – New York

Tell us a little about yourselves, how you met and why you started a Policy Circle together.  

Petra:  I am native Midwesterner turned New Yorker who got “lured” to a Policy Circle meeting by a friend, given my interest in politics and policy and my desire to be conversant and convincing.  Ellen and I didn’t know each other, but having met, decided to march forward in a common cause and bring our two personal networks together!

Ellen: Petra and I were set up by friends who were both very active members of their local Policy Circles. Petra and I met for a “blind brunch” and decided to take the plunge to start the first Policy Circle in NYC— and it’s been incredibly rewarding so far! We are learning a lot from each other and sharing our networks well.


How did you become a believer in what human creativity can accomplish in a free market economy?

Ellen: I started studying economics when I was living abroad in Egypt because I was so fascinated by the role it plays in everyday lives. I had a front row seat as Egypt struggled to create new, free market-based economic policies following the 2011 Revolution. Later, going to graduate school for economic and financial policy, and now working in the Financial Services industry, I have strived to understand how policy and free markets can support one another.  It’s a never-ending struggle to perfect policy, but I truly believe the creative minds in the world today will come together to create change that will work for everyone.


What’s your circle’s relationship with the free-market think tank in your state?

Petra: We work with two think tanks:  Reclaim NY and the Empire Center.  We now hold our meetings at Reclaim’s offices which are centrally located. We are building quite a good relationship with Reclaim and want to give a special shout-out to Candice there.

Ellen: And Candice has now become a very active Policy Circle Member, offering her network and expertise for research and guest speakers. It’s an incredible think tank – a non-partisan organization promoting data-driven policy research, which we feel coordinates well with our Policy Circle mission.


Any words of wisdom for new circle leaders?

Petra:  Do what works for your group and local geography. Get input on what issues people are interested in, speakers they think would be interesting — make members feel this is THEIR group!

Ellen: And don’t worry too much about repeat attendance or getting active members in the first year—people are busy and have crazy schedules. Each meeting has its own individual fire, and even inspiring one person on one day, you’ve made a difference.


What’s your latest circle conversation about?

Petra: Taxes!!  We have the Empire Center presenting–as you know our jurisdiction is one of the most heavily taxed in the United States. It is important to understand what is proposed in Albany and locally in City Council as well as what may happen in Washington and the impact on us.

Ellen: Going to be very timely given the season!


What’s your favorite part about your circle meetings?

Petra: Watching a very diverse group of women (ages, professions, backgrounds) come together, learn and share their views. They walk out at the end of the evening better educated and engaged in the subject matter.  Plus we do have some fun!

Ellen: Meeting new women with incredible backgrounds and stories, watching our members break through the “policy not politics” wall, being educated and taking the time to understand policies that affect me and my family, and learning how to get involved and hold our elected officials responsible.


What’s next?

Petra: Public housing will be our next subject!

Ellen: Yes, and our May meeting will cover an overview of the 2017 NY legislative session, which will have finished by that time. Citizens are really paying attention to what politicians are saying and doing these days, and it’s important to hold them accountable, at the local level especially. I think if our locally-elected officials don’t create policy that actually moves our state forward this year, we will start to see a new level of activism – and look forward to Policy Circle being a part of that!


Jane C. – Missouri

Tell us a little about yourself and why you started a Policy Circle.

The Policy Circle has given me hope.

I first learned of it through Angela Braly, who I’ve known and respected for nearly 20 years. After a close review of the Policy Circle I became convinced of the importance of the movement. Not only did I know it would enrich my life personally, I could see the larger picture of how engaged women could change the course of our communities and restore the personal freedoms and concept of Liberty that is the envy of the world. Together with my co-leader, we created “Libertas”, the first Policy Circle group in St. Louis, inviting women we knew to be thought leaders in the community.

How did you become a believer in what human creativity can accomplish in a free market economy?

I grew up in what you might call an “underserved area” in western New York where generational poverty is the norm. People who live there survive with a check from the state, one way or another. I knew at an early age that I wanted to find the American dream. Between studying political philosophy in college and following Jack Kemp’s free market movement I became convinced that the key to the American dream was not a check from the state, but the opportunities created by the free market. While living in Washington, DC for eight years after I left Buffalo, I quickly learned that I could control much of my destiny by working hard — I had the freedom to choose where I lived and for whom I worked. It was incredibly liberating to be in control of my future and not dependent on the state for my livelihood.

What’s your circle’s relationship with the free-market think tank in your state?

The Show Me Institute has been on the forefront of promoting policies that encourage free markets and personal liberty in Missouri. The Policy Circle formally connected our Circle with the Show Me Institute for state-level content and local events to attend. I couldn’t have asked for a better local partner; not only do our philosophies align, they have been incredibly responsive to any and every request for Missouri-specific economic data. I’ve also been able to leverage this resource to provide educational “field trips” for our circle members: whenever the Show Me Institute offers a speaker or program I include the event in our circle feed.

Any words of wisdom for New Circle Leaders?

For prospective leaders, I would recommend carefully considering the makeup of your founding circle members. The respectful exchange of diverse viewpoints is key to a meaningful conversation. Once your circle is established, start adding to your numbers in a way that will ensure your culture is preserved.

What’s your latest circle conversation?

We’ve tackled Poverty and Health Care. Next up is Civic Engagement. We plan to invite several prospective new circle leaders to this meeting and hope that the topic will stir up the desire to form additional circles.

What’s your favorite part about your circle meetings?

I was surprised how engaged all of our members have been, considering I had not really had previous policy conversations with them individually. We decided to try meeting over the lunch hour and that has worked well for this group. I envision another circle might form in our area with a nighttime option.

What’s next?

Becoming engaged through the Policy Circle has been highly rewarding. I’m excited to see additional circles be formed throughout Missouri. It is heartening to see women find their voices in the discussion of free market solutions.



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