May 9, 2018

Gloria Estefan, Singer-Songwriter and Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

Johns Hopkins SAIS was honored to welcome Gloria Estefan as part of the Women Who Inspire lecture series. Estefan shared her experiences as a Cuban-American woman and generously dispensed advice for not just the students of the school but all members of the community. The discussion was moderated by Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute.

To understand the beginning, sometimes it’s necessary to start from the end: Estefan spoke about how she has the luxury of choice today–when starting out, we may have to do things that we may not necessarily want to and “ride on the momentum.” Today though, Estefan can choose where to focus her energies: on family, for example. She highlighted the role her husband, Emilio, has played throughout her life–balancing her out, being each other’s best cheerleader, and their combined desire to maintain who they were in the music industry and evaluating the value of their work in order to ultimately stick to that commitment. “[You] don’t want to succeed [while] not doing what you like. [If] you’re going to do that for the rest of your life, you better like it!” Estefan advised.

Estefan also talked about the power of example and how being around the women in her family who did everything showed her that there was no glass ceiling. In the same vein, she encourages cultural diplomacy in her music by broadening the scope of her songs to reach as many people as possible, while pushing open the doors for other artists such as Shakira, Ricky Martin, among others. On speaking about her accident, she pointed out that fame was never the goal and it can easily be taken away. Instead, she emphasized the power of connectivity–that everything we do can make a difference in someone else’s life.

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