There’s No Blueprint
Pamela Reeves

Serve the Truth

Advice from Women Who Lead

Speaking onstage at the Aspen Ideas Festival, 2015.

I’m from Cambodia. When I was 18 years old, my parents put me on a plane for Paris, France. That was not my choice. A year later, in 1973, I made my choice. I came to America. And that choice made me the woman I am today.

I lead by challenging leaders to look at the truth, to tell the truth, and to serve the truth. I say to my prime minister, who has been prime minister for over 30 years, that the truth is that the women who sell their bodies — it’s not their choice. Let them have their own choice.

I lead by challenging leaders to speak the truth and listen to the truth. Every day, as a member of parliament, I go on radio and I tell the truth about the workers, who need to not make $1 or $2 a day — they need to make a living, and live a life with dignity.

I challenge leaders. That’s how I see leadership.

I also challenge myself. I challenged myself three times. First, in 2009, I challenged myself by suing the prime minister of Cambodia. I got myself into trouble. He sued me back, but for two years, I went all the way from lower court to Supreme Court. I put this judiciary of Cambodia into action. I sued the judiciary of Cambodia. That is how I lead.

In 2013, my party, the opposition party, won the election, but it was stolen from us. In 2014, I went to Freedom Park that was totally barbwired by the army. I went there and I stood there. I went every day for almost 3 months, got myself into trouble again, and got into jail. Got out of jail, and now this is a challenge, and I need you to help me.

I am pulling together a program called Thousands of Lights for Women. In Cambodia, we are going to train 250 women from the opposition to run for elections at the lower level and to win this election. Thank you.