Rudy Westervelt, CEO of ‘Power In Learning’ introduced himself as “a Rotarian, a business owner, and a humanitarian trying to resolve conflicts locally and around the world.” In this interview, we traced his journey from a businessman to a peacebuilder influencing and making this world a better place.
Through MBBI, Rudy explained that he has been able to build connections with great mediators and humanitarians worldwide and had the privilege of taking classes with the father of modern mediation, Kenneth Cloke. Rudy recommends “anybody and everybody who is able to sit down and cause a conversation between two parties, be it somebody who studied mediation or engaged in business like me” to join MBBI.
When asked, Rudy instantaneously preferred mediation over litigation. He explained that while there is a winner-looser stance in litigation, mediation provides a win-win situation. In mediation, “both parties come to a vision together with a third and better solution that is agreeable to both.” He recommended the following fundamentals for a mediator to follow:
- Set ground rules where parties can sit down and negotiate in a secure environment.
- Be impartial and shall not choose sides.
- Facilitate the discussion, act as a facilitator.
- Try to bring out from each party, their thoughts and the way they think.
- Understand the variety of conscious and unconscious biases and develop an understanding over and above it.
- Continue learning every day because no two mediations can be the same.
There are many experiences that played a major role in shaping Rudy’s journey as a mediator, a peacebuilder. He has been involved in ‘Rotary Youth Camps’, such as ‘Rotary Youth Leadership Awards’ for many years. He explained to us how everybody at the camp wears same color sweatshirts and are divided into teams of equal numbers of males and females. There is a culture walk which gives students a chance to share and understand that they are not the only ones handling problems. The students are asked deeper questions that they may have faced, including about harassment, abuse, and bullying. “And that’s where a girl spoke about her being raped once and a 7th-grade boy expressed how he would like his mother’s boyfriend to stop beating her. Also, a young girl said that her best friend committed suicide because of being cyberbullied.” By the end of the stay, they come out of their shell, their ability to connect with each other and create peace between them increases. Rudy has continued focusing on saving and improving the lives of children globally.
“Each of us can be a peace builder and should be.”
Another experience was during his time at Kroger Co. He made sure that his employees represented all genders and races who lived in the surrounding communities. He reflected on how each person was given the right tools to be successful. Rudy instituted Behavior Science Technology (BST) into his manufacturing plant to reduce and eliminate workplace accidents. “This technology really helped in understanding and identifying at-risk behaviors and substituting safe behaviors for at-risk behaviors,” he said. In addition, the same behavioral changes carried over with improvements in cooperation among employees, respect for each other, and improved efficiencies.
Putting his expertise to use, the ‘Peace and Conflict Resolution and Prevention Conference’ in 2016, that Rudy convened, also made a far-reaching impact on society. He shared with us how a Rotarian after this conference, was able to combat human trafficking in northern California with the help of organizations ‘Truckers Against Trafficking and iEmpathize.’ Rudy is the Convenor of the Rotary World Peace Conference 2020 that will build on successes from 2016’s conference and present solutions to major issues in our lives and communities.
Rotary has six peace centers, five of which offer master’s programs and the other is a 3-month certificate program, having over 1000 graduates across the world. Many of the graduates, he explained, are currently working as peace ambassadors with Institute of Economics and Peace. Many are partnered with Rotary International, and others are working with humanitarian organizations that work on conflict resolution training, literacy, eliminating nuclear risks, and more.
In addition to his efforts to equip youth with the necessary peacebuilding skills, Rudy believes in the crucial role women play in building peace. He expressed his belief by explaining that “if we are going to empower women and girls of all ages, we have to give them the respect and support they need to be successful.” He also gave a word of advice to the male population, “it starts with you,” respect all the females you encounter and “treat others like you want to be treated”.
Rudy had a most meaningful experience when he had the opportunity to go to Haiti last year. In this visit, he was able to see the work that Rotarians were doing while dealing with the poor living conditions due to the earthquake. “They need to develop a plan for effective waste management,” he explained. Rotary International recently announced a 12-year plan to provide clean water and sanitation for all citizens of Haiti.
Rudy shared the Four-Way Test that Rotarians should use every time they speak or act by asking: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Is it beneficial to all? Will it build goodwill and better friendships?” He further invites peace builders, members of MBBI and of other communities to:
- Treat each other with respect and dignity
- Help others by using mediation, and active listening and communication skills in your peacebuilding activities each day
“Each one of us has the power individually to make a difference every day,” Rudy concluded.
Article by Divya Sugand, MBBI Writer