Soon, however, the distinguished guests for the
groundbreaking “Excellence in Leadership" panel took their places
and the crowd quieted in anticipation of what advice the three
accomplished individuals would share.
oining Lincoln College President Dr. David Gerlach,
who moderated the panel were:
Zach Fardon, the
former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois
Paul R. Tetreault,
director of Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. and
Dara Torres, a
five-time Olympian and 12-time medalist in swimming
President Gerlach introduced each one with accolades
saying, “Thank you for agreeing to participate in this panel where
you come from such diverse backgrounds. I am hoping that that
diversity will show difference of leadership, determination, and
inspiration, and we will all gain insights from your esteemed
careers in words of wisdom. It is my hope that the three of you will
bring your own perspectives, but also that your responses may
inspire other reactions.”
He went on to explain that he had several questions for the panel to
answer but questions from the audience were acceptable and even
Many questions were asked in the hour-and-a-half time together, a
few select questions follow:
What are you doing now?
Fardon worked as the Presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney in
Chicago from 2013 until March 2017 when all U.S. Attorneys were
dismissed by President Trump. He is now doing something he has not
done in 29 years, taking a break. He is, however, still working on
the gun violence issue in Chicago from outside the office.
In 2015 Tetreault and his staff at Ford’s Theatre commemorated the
150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination,
which was a huge undertaking as the site was open for 36 hours
straight, being covered from around the globe. This past fall he was
instrumental in helping with a musical entitled “Come from away,”
which was nominated for seven Tony Awards and is currently playing
on Broadway to sold out audiences.
Torres joked that all she has done is “jump in the pool and splash
around.” Her last Olympics was in 2008. After knee surgery, she met
with her coach who encouraged her to try one more time. After he
passed away, she went on training but missed the 2012 Olympic team
by 9/100th of a second. Since that time, she has moved on with her
life. She is currently working on a talk show, “We need to talk,”
the first all-female sports talk show. She is also working on a
brand for “Age is just a number.”
What was it that made you decide to work in the career that you
worked in and what was a pivotal moment?
Torres has 4 older brothers and because of her competitive energy
she wanted to do whatever they did. When they jumped in the pool,
she followed. She was only 15 when she broke her first World Record
and that is when she thought about trying for the Olympic games. The
pivotal moment for her, was when she made the Olympic team at the
age of 17.
TV has always been a passion, she thought it would be important for
her to learn what happened behind the scenes before she got in front
of the camera. She worked on a lot of different shows to learn about
sports technology so she would be well rounded knowing about more
than just swimming.
Tetreault joked that he got into theatre after “playing a table” in
grade school. In High School he “majored” in drama club. He always
had a knack for numbers so he went to college for a business degree
but immediately started to be in plays and thought “this is crazy.”
He transferred to a college for theatre.
He has always been involved in the theatre. His pivotal moment
happened thirteen years ago when a headhunter called and asked him
to come to Ford’s Theatre to turn the theatre around.
Fardon has spent the bulk of his career as a lawyer in the criminal
justice system. The pivotal moment for him happened in 1992, just
after he graduated from law school. Griffin Bell needed a “lackey”
to help with the investigation into Iran-Contra after Lawrence Walsh
accused President Bush of misconduct.
Fardon said, “I was the one sitting at my desk” when he (Bell)
Who was your favorite teacher (K-12) and why would you claim them
as your favorite?
Fardon suggested that he was not a very good student. He only had
one teacher, a 10th grade physics teacher, who took him aside and
said “Look Fardon, you’re either going to end up under a bridge or
President of the United States. You need to decide which one of
those two it’s going to be.”
The teacher who is not looking for the student with a polished apple
is the teacher that is going to make a difference. It is the teacher
who can recognize a kid with potential that is special.
Torres recognized her Latin teacher who pushed her. As an average
student, Torres knew she would get into a prestigious school because
of her swimming, but it was this teacher who made her want to be
better than just an average student.
Tetreault pointed out that he was on a panel with three average
students who didn’t really apply themselves in school. He recognized
his 10th grade U.S. history teacher who utilized theatre to make
history come alive.
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They learned about slave trade, Abraham Lincoln, and Civil War by
acting out the events. It was certainly the first “A” Tetreault
received because a teacher taught in a different and unique way.
If you had it do over again, what would you change?
Tetreault would have listened a lot more early on. He would have
taken advantage of opportunities that came his way.
Torres likes to learn from her mistakes; unsure that she would
“change” things because each mistake has made her who she is today.
However, if there is something that she needs to work on, it would
Fardon does not regret any of his major life decisions. Having said
that, he would suggest to students to “relish every moment. Take
stock in important moments.” It’s hard to know that until you are
past it, but each phase of your career is exciting and so we forget
to appreciate it more.
What keeps motivating you to do what you do?
Tetreault hates to sound corny but “young people. The salvation of
our country is young people.” Over 750,000 people visit Ford’s
Theatre each year and half of them are young people. That’s the
future. We are probably the ones who screwed things up. It’s the
young people that are going to fix it.”
According to Tetreault, he holds a lot of faith in that hope.
Torres always wants to be better. She tweeted, after Michael Phelps
quit swimming, “Who wants to bet that he’s not done.” He tweeted
back, “I’ll bet you that I’m done.” Torres suggested she should have
taken that bet.
Athletes have a mentality to always do better and that is what
motivated her to keep going.
Fardon is motivated by the idea that he impacts people's lives in a
very profound way. He is in a career where most are motivated by
money, but he is grateful for work that he does that is not about
money, but about work that matters.
Greatest accomplishment, greatest risk, greatest failure - in one
Her daughter is her greatest accomplishment.
Competing in her fifth Olympic games was her greatest risk.
When asked about her failure she responded, “What failure?”
His greatest accomplishment is being a dad.
His greatest risk was leaving a lucrative law office in Washington,
D.C. for a 300% pay cut to be a public defender.
His failure was “not winning 12 Olympic medals.”
His greatest accomplishment was meeting Laura Bush in 2004.
Greatest risk is “to be true to yourself.”
What is your contribution to leadership qualities of people who
look up to you?
As a leader and as a boss you want to tell people what to do. But
since we all make mistakes, Tetreault likes to say to the people he
works with, “Make mistakes, but let’s make new ones.” He doesn’t ask
others for perfection, he asks them to keep learning.
For Torres, it is important to be selfless in sports. It is
important for people to learn from her by example.
Fardon has never asked someone to do something that he is not
willing to do himself. “What you say and how you say it matters.”
The panel ended the afternoon with these thoughts:
Torres thanked Lincoln College for the invitation and the
opportunity to sit on the panel. “What a great idea.”
Tetreault suggested that there is something in all of us that is
unique. “Find, and run with it.”
Fardon concluded the discussion by saying “What you do and how you
do it on your not-so-best day is what will help you succeed.”
Dr. Gerlach concluded the afternoon by thanking the panel for
participating, the audience for coming, and wishing the graduating
students the best of luck.
If you missed this groundbreaking event, you missed a great
afternoon. Lincoln College plans to have more opportunities like
this one so be watching for details about future events.