Longtime community activist Melodie Peters started her career of helping people as a nurse. Melodie also served as a state Senator for twelve years, and the American Federations of Connecticut Vice President for twenty years. And President of the American Federation of Teachers of Connecticut. Melodie has made a significant and positive impact on Connecticut’s youth through the great work she does day in and day out. In addition, Melodie also served on the Board of Directors for the United Way.
- Did you always know that you wanted to serve others?
I don’t think one can enter the field of nursing without a desire to serve others, and initially that was certainly my motivation. I had no idea when I began nursing practice nearly fifty years ago that my professional life would follow the path I’ve followed, yet everything I have done leads back to an inherent desire to serve the best interests of coworkers, colleagues, friends, family, and the community.
- Can you walk us through how you first got started in your career path?
The roots of my career in community service and with organized labor began with my work in organizing clinical-setting health care professionals. These efforts afforded me opportunities to develop and hone the organizational and consensus-building skills necessary to achieve strategic goals. Representing divergent interests as the President of both the Thames Labor Coalition and the New London Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, required further skill building to meet the needs of all parties, negotiating to maintain basic human and civil rights of workers and their families, while at the same time understanding when compromise and/or “biding our time” was necessary. Over time, and with increasing exposure to the community in which I lived, I decided I could be of further service to the greater good and entered the arena of state politics. I am very proud of the twelve years I spent in the Connecticut State Senate, and am confident that the skills acquired early on allowed successful coalition building and resulted in the passage of numerous pieces of legislation favorable to workers and their families.
- How did you handle the bumps in the road? Were there any moments when you wondered if all your hard work was worth it?
One doesn’t spend nearly fifty years in the labor movement without experiencing bumps in the road, but we all know it’s a job we signed up for. I think the key requirement for a labor leader or prominent community activist is to have a thick skin, i.e., work as hard as you can toward not taking things personally. It is always worth it!
- I’m wondering if you can help us understand what you attribute your success to.
I hope it doesn’t sound immodest, but I think I have a well-honed ability to think and act globally. I try not to get bogged down in minutiae, and my leadership style is to look at the big picture, set a course for action, and then delegate the tasks. I am extremely lucky to have always been surrounded by good people who share my philosophy and interest in labor, politics, and community service. I appreciate them for their specific skills, I trust that they will get the job done, and I always “have their backs” publically. It is never wise to throw your staff under the bus in a public forum.
- What do teens need today more than anything else?
Hope. They need to have hope that they can have successful futures. That there will be jobs for them that will allow them to support themselves and their future families. They need to know that they live in a world that actually cares about their future.
- What would you tell a teen who was struggling?
I think no matter the struggle, teens need to know that it is okay to talk to someone. They need to find at least one person—a teacher, guidance counselor, clergyperson, adult family member or friend, or anyone—in whom they confide. A burden is halved when it is shared with another.
- What else do you want to tell us about what you do and what you want to eventually be doing?
In my capacity as AFT Connecticut Director of Organizing, I believe people have the right to organize giving them collective voice. My hopes are to continue to offer the opportunity as it becomes available now and going forward.
- Can you please share with all of us something else that I should have asked you?
I have five beautiful grandchildren that also encourage me on a daily basis to effect change that benefits their quality of life.
- How can people get in touch with you if they have additional questions?
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 860-257-9782.
Thanks for your time Melodie and keep up the good work! Our youth needs more people like you!
Author and Speaker of the Granddaddy’s Secrets teen leadership book series.
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