Erin Brockovich, who once took on the might of a major U.S. utility company and won, urged a Cayman audience this week not to underestimate the individual’s ability to make positive change in society.
In her keynote speech to the “Power of the Purse” gala lunch fundraiser for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre on Wednesday, Ms. Brockovich spoke of the empowerment of self-belief.
Her work 22 years ago brought about the largest medical settlement lawsuit in history against the energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electrical Company (PG&E), which was accused of contaminating water. This led to the making of “Erin Brockovich,” a 2000 movie directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Julia Roberts as Ms. Brockovich. The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards; Ms. Roberts won the Oscar for Best Actress.
In her speech titled “The Power of One,” Ms. Brockovich echoed the strength and determination her character showed in the film.
She spoke to the 500 attendees at the lunch about the importance of awareness: “When we as people do not feel safe, do not feel we can trust, and when we don’t know something, it leaves us defenseless.”
Her latest program is known as RAM (R for realization, A for assessment, and M for motivation), the definition of which she explained is “to achieve something by pushing things out of one’s way. The obstacle, while we do not want to admit to it, becomes ourselves. It is not until we understand this that we get to move forward and to be happy and be healthy and be safe. It becomes very empowering when we stand up and believe in who we are.
“We live in a crazy world,” she added, “so when motivation escapes us … we need self-renewal. That place to find yourself is in your own backyard. Take time for yourself to step back, reboot your brain, your heart and your gut. Because when you do that … you will find the energy again to go out and make a difference.” She ended the speech with a quote by Henry S. Haskins but very often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Ms. Brockovich, who has two TV series and three books under her belt, now has a research and consulting group working on various cases dealing with groundwater contamination. She said she answers every one of the 100,000 “Dear Erin” communications she receives each year from people in 126 countries who ask for help and support, and has created a world map of all the situations on her Facebook page.
She also spoke of some early inspiration. As a child she struggled with dyslexia at school. Her mother, a schoolteacher, always said “Erin, where is your ‘stick-to-it-iveness?” She said her father, an engineer, taught her about passion, honor, loyalty and respect and embodied leadership.
Responding to Ms. Brockovich’s speech in his closing remarks, Len Layman, chairman of the board of the Crisis Centre, told her, “What you are trying to do for us today is what the Crisis Centre is doing for people every day.”
He added, “We are trying to empower people to make changes in their life for the better. The shelter was started to support women and children who are ready to make those changes in their life to move from a life of fear and abuse to a rewarding life, a happy life and a fulfilling life.”
Governor Helen Kilpatrick and Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs Tara Rivers also spoke at the event.