Carol Bellamy has dedicated her life working to make the world a better place. She has left an inspirational mark in each organization she has led, both in the public and private sector.
Carol became the first woman to be elected to citywide office in New York City when she was elected President of the NYC Council in 1978, a position she held until 1985. Her 13 years as an elected public official included five years in the New York State Senate. And in 2004, she was named one of Forbes magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women in the World.
As fourth Executive Director of UNICEF, Carol led the agency from 1995 to 2005. During her tenure, she focused on five major priorities: immunizing every child; getting all girls and boys into school, and getting all schools to offer quality basic education; reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and its impact on young people; fighting for the protection of children from violence and exploitation; and introducing early childhood programmes in every country. She was also the first former volunteer to become Director of the Peace Corps.
Carol completed a three-year term as Chair of the Board of Directors at the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2013 where she oversaw some significant transformation of the organization’s governance.
Carol was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, by the Government of France, in 2009.
With such significant credentials, we were fortunate to have Carol Bellamy as chair of our IB Board of Governors 2009 till 2015. We got in touch with Carol as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations for her perspectives on the following.
In today’s increasingly complex world, what role does the IB play and how do you believe the education is making an impact?
The IB is about creating global citizens—and that means people who are open minded to the world. It’s about understanding that you are not always right, but that you can be accepting of peoples’ views. I think IB students have a confidence, which doesn’t mean that they think they are better than everyone else, but that they have a better understanding of who they are.
The skills the IB gives students which they need for the future are how to think critically, how to be inquisitive—essentially the IB is about building a human being for the future.
You’ve had an incredible career in public service, education, volunteering and your work for Unicef, what was the most valuable skill you brought with you across all those disciplines?
There is no one single skill I would say, more a mixture of things. Good management is very important, but you need to have passion with management. Passion is key. Management without passion is horrible. Curiosity is critical, as is being able to listen and having respect for differences.
The skill that I think is very important, and one that I don’t have, is patience! It’s important and I wish I had more of it.
I also think you need to be prepared to make decisions and to fail—failure doesn’t mean failure—it just means that something hasn’t worked the way you wanted it to. You can learn a lot when you fail at something.
What advice would you give students today on how they can prepare for the future workplace?
I have three key pieces of advice.
Don’t specialise too early, broaden yourself and be a “full human being”. And get out of your bubble. Don’t just do things within your comfort zone, push yourself further.
Volunteer, whether that be local government, through your church, overseas or just three blocks away from your home. Volunteering is a great thing to do.
Be bold, always be bold. Being bold doesn’t mean being crazy. Be prepared to take considered risks.
What about your thoughts for the future?
The future has the potential to be so exciting, and we mustn’t be afraid of what it could hold—just take it on. The IB gives you a grounding, a foundation to take on a very exciting future.