Simple Mistakes

Silke Hansen

Senior Conciliation Specialist, Community Relations Service

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

I was invited to participate by a community advocacy organization. I was to then meet with an institution where there were some racial conflicts. And I was under the impression, I thought I'd asked, but I might be wrong, that the institution knew I was going to be there. It turns out that they did not know that I was coming. All they knew was that they were getting hassled by this advocacy group, and all of a sudden, the Justice Department was there as well. I didn't find out until afterwards. I thought the meeting had gone pretty well. We were even looking towards mediation and they had expressed a willingness to mediate.

But it turns out later, they did not know I was going to be there and they were furious that the Department of Justice had come on site without letting them know first. It eventually worked out, but you know what? I ate crow. I admit I was wrong. I said, you know, I made the assumption that you knew, and that was unfounded. I am so sorry! But I still think that I have some things that I can offer in this situation. It ultimately worked out OK. But I certainliy learned a lesson that I make sure that all of the key parties know that I am coming into a situation before I come. I don't leave that up to anyone else but me to make sure they know that. I don't know in the overall scheme of things, if that's a profound insight. But it's something you can overlook and then oops! I won't make that mistake again because I really learned my lesson.