In this episode of The Forum Podcast Julie Kratz shares stories, ideas, and research from her new children’s book, “Little Allies.” She discusses the importance and impact of having conversations about diversity, inclusion, and allyship earlier with the children in our lives.
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Julie wrote her book in response to difficult conversations about racism at home with her own daughters. “Little Allies” and this talk are meant to be a resource to help parents and people leaders everywhere guide little ones along this journey toward allyship.”
- Why we need to talk to kids and start this conversation earlier
- What being an ally means: Allyship starts at home and kids naturally enjoy diversity
- How to be an ally: Allyship is a journey and adults are modeling it every day
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
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Speaker 1 (00:16):
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Ben Rue (01:06):
Hello and thank you for tuning into the forum on workplace inclusion podcast series brought to you by best buy I’m Ben Rue program manager here at the forum. We’re really looking forward to today’s episode, developing the next generation of little allies with Julie Kratz of next pivot point. In this episode, inclusive leadership speaker and trainer Julie Kratz share stories, ideas, and research from her new children’s books, little allies, she discusses the importance and impact of having conversations about diversity inclusion and allyship earlier with the children in our lives. Julie wrote this book in response to difficult conversations about racism at home with her own daughters, little allies, and this talk are meant to be a resource to help parents and people leaders everywhere, guide little ones along the journey towards allyship in this podcast. You’ll learn why we need to talk to kids and start this conversation earlier.
Ben Rue (01:57):
What being an ally means, allyship starts at home and kids naturally enjoy diversity and how to be an ally. Allyship is a journey and adults are modeling it every day. Julie Kratz is a highly acclaimed TEDx speaker and inclusive leadership trainer who led teams and produced results in corporate America. After experiencing many career pivot points of her own, she started her own speaking business focused on helping leaders be more inclusive, promoting diversity inclusion and allyship in the workplace. Julie helps organizations foster more inclusive environments. She is a freaking keynote speaker podcast, host and executive coach. She holds an MBA from the Kiley school of business at Indiana university and is a certified master coach and a certified unconscious bias trainer. Her books include pivot point how to build a winning career game plan one, how male ally support women for gender equality and lead lead like an ally, a journey through corporate America with proven strategies to facilitate inclusion along with her new children’s book, little allies.
Julie Kratz (03:06):
Hi, I’m Julie Kratz. And I’m here to talk to you about developing the next generation of what we call little allies and how to have this conversation around DEI with our children with the little people in our lives, whatever that looks like for you, but essentially how to start this conversation earlier because talking with adults about DEI as I do, and many of you do can be harder later in life. Our behavior is a bit more cemented. Our belief system is much more concrete. And so if only we could start this conversation earlier, but often people say, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. So if that’s you, you’re not alone. And that’s the subject of today’s conversation a bit about me. I’m Julie Kratz. I have business focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. Speaking in training.
Julie Kratz (04:05):
I host a few podcasts of my own, the diversity pivot podcast and the inclusion school podcast centered on this very topic. And my why for this work really is my own children. I have three girls and they are white identifying girls. However, I know that while their skin color and their abilities and to this extent their LGBTQ orientation our advantages however their gender identity as such is not, and we’re centuries away from gender equity existing. So if I get to be a small piece of the puzzle of elevating the voices of all voices that are different and bringing all those into the conversation and influencing the majority group through that I believe the world will just be a better place for all of us. So what I wanna talk to you about today is why we need to talk to this next generation earlier.
Julie Kratz (05:12):
So I grew up in the 1980s in the Midwest part of the United States in the suburbs, all that to say the narrative that I learned around race and LGBTQ and abilities is sh don’t talk about it, color blind, that’s personal, don’t talk to somebody about their disability. Well, that was super, I, I understand the rationale for that and not so helpful because if we don’t recognize a problem, then we can’t solve for the problem. So by being colorblind, by being indifferent two differences, we’re really not doing children. <Laugh> great service because they see differences. <Laugh> more importantly and they know folks are different and they actually have a natural aptitude and receptiveness to differences and appreciate them and see them as additive. It’s kind of later in life, we learn that these things might be things to shy away from might be things that are unpleasant for folks.
Julie Kratz (06:22):
And we learn to shush them because that’s, what’s been modeled for us. So we need a new blueprint for that. And what being an ally means. We wanna talk about allyship. I know accomplice advocate, there’s lots of other words to describe allyship. I am centered on the word ally one because I’ve written books about it, but we need words. Simple words to define what we’re talking about. When we say ally, we’re simply just meaning being supportive of folks that are different from you that could be gender, race, sexual orientation, abilities all the dimensions of diversity. And when we say support, we don’t mean hiding in the shadows. We mean activity. So just to be clear this is not something you can just read a book on and, and be done. <Laugh> we are asking for actual actions as well because silent allies really aren’t allies at all, and then how to develop this next generation.
Julie Kratz (07:21):
Some really compelling data, some research I’ll share with you they may be aware of, or maybe kind of strung together might tell a different narrative. And I love for everybody just to think about what you’re taking away from this conversation and how you can influence the next generation, whether that’s gen Z entering the workforce alongside you, your own children kids, nieces, nephews, neighbors, just anybody in your life. You don’t have to be a primary caregiver to care about this topic and to care about the next generation and being a good ancestor to this next generation. So I just wanted to start with a personal story. I have had my business now for seven years, so I was deep in the DEI work as as many of you when the news of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 in the long overdue racial justice movement really came to the forefront of our news cycle.
Julie Kratz (08:17):
I was pregnant at the time <laugh> and I then had a six year old and being a white blonde girl. She was very curious about this topic. She was hearing a lot about. And we had just coincidentally bought the new Crayola crayons that had different racial skin tone crayons. And so she’s busy in her room drawing a picture, and she comes to me and I’ll never bring of this moment. She comes to me with this picture of her as a white blonde girl. <Laugh> asking a kid of color to be her friend. And while this might have hints of white saviorism, I can tell you with good faith that her intentions were pure and that she saw this as additive. She saw. I have a lot of friends that are like me. I want friends that are different from me, mom, where do, where do I make friends that are different?
Julie Kratz (09:06):
I wanna be supportive of black lives matter. Coincidentally just this month and a couple months ago, it was her birthday, her eighth birthday now. And she decided black history month wanted when she wanted that to be the theme of her birthday. And I struggled to be honest because we were going to a setting that was very diverse and we did have a very mixed racial makeup of, of kids coming to the birthday party, but to come in, you know, with a big black history month cake, didn’t feel appropriate. So we found different plaques, different markers of famous and, and some hidden figures of black history and put that on the cake and made it about appreciation. And I thought that was a really nice way to do that along with a t-shirt that had different black historical figures names on the shirt.
Julie Kratz (10:00):
And so just to say, you know, I’m not showing up perfect in this conversation, Jane, my daughter is not showing up perfect in this conversation and who knows with our little one <laugh>, that’s only a one plus right now, but we’re learning. And part of the allyship is stumbling and bumbling and not having the right answers. And for parents, I’d really love parents, caregivers, educators, you know, anyone that’s working with this next generation of little allies to think, how could we start this conversation earlier? Because we know as far as race is concerned and race is a social construct just to be clear, but there is a human primal response to this. We know from child development cycles, as early as three months, old, babies are drawn to faces that match their race because they see that as their parent and caregiver.
Julie Kratz (10:52):
So there is kind a natural matching and mirroring effect that happens as a human primal species, especially one that needs protection like a baby two and a half children begin using race as a factor in deciding who to play with. And the four to five learned racism, it’s at its peak <laugh>, and this is the most disturbing things. We’re not even having conversations at this age. Usually kids aren’t even school-aged. And oftentimes in our school system, we’re not talking about this anyway. But it’s interesting to know black and Latinx children don’t necessarily show that same preference to their own racial group because they’re swimming, you know, in the waters of racism already. And oftentimes that, that is a dominant issue image of, of white folks. And they learn that. And at age 12, our racial beliefs, a lot of times are cemented.
Julie Kratz (11:41):
So if we are taught to be colorblind, not talk about it, not notice differences, or even just to appreciate it without understanding the problems, the, the real challenges from a racist, from a sexism perspective, from an ableist perspective, a homophobic perspective. And again, we’re gonna be unequipped to solve those problems later in life representation matters too. I was shocked to learn that the cooperative children’s book center school of education at the university of Wisconsin, Madison actually does an annual report on books and they dissect it from a racial representation perspective. And what they found in 2019, which is 1% of characters in children’s books are American Indian, or first nation or indigenous of five, 5% Latinx 8.7% APAC, or at APAI rather Asian Pacific Asian Pacific Islander, and then 10 or 11 it’s a tick actually went from 10 to 11% in 2019 of African American representation.
Julie Kratz (12:48):
More shocking is that there’s 29% animals. So if you add all of the underrepresented groups together, they in total are out represented by animals. And then of course we have white representation pretty high at 42%, and you might be thinking, oh, well, that’s reflective of the world we live in. Well, it it’s, it’s not <laugh> right. I think the animal factor really drives home. We can do better, we can do better. And certainly we wanna have animal characters in our books, but if, if kids, kids need windows into other racial identities to other gender identities, to other sexual orientations, they need to see windows into other types of families, other types of characters, as well as mirrors of themselves. So if they can’t see mirrors of themselves in a storybook that that sends a signal early in life, you know, maybe I don’t belong, or maybe I’m not a part of this story.
Julie Kratz (13:46):
And so if you always get to be the protagonist and see yourself in a story that that’s a privilege, right, and often a white privilege and a male privilege. And then interesting to know some other data gen Z is the most ethically and racially diverse generation in history. So if you look at the us census we see for the first time not majority white just by SLI 49.6% AC, according to the, the data that was released in 2018 and 2020 showing even more of a shift here. But about 26% Hispanic, about 14% black just over 6% Asian, but increasingly the number one growing demographic from a racial perspective is multicultural biracial multicultural folks that identify as multiple racial identities. And in fact, the whole question around whiteness and how we define whiteness is central to this narrative, because who decides what that is, if you are mixed race, or if you have biracial in your bloodlines, right?
Julie Kratz (14:50):
What, what is, what is white? So really interesting data, I think just to show this, this is an issue that will continue to emerge in the workplace. And if we don’t start this conversation earlier, we’re just not gonna be equipped to handle it when it, when it really starts to impact us, because this change is, is coming. The, the runway is, is very much running out and being proactive with DEI. And then a concept that I was taught, as I mentioned, as a kiddo was colorblindness. We don’t see color racism. I was in fact, taught racism didn’t exist anymore, which was super problematic. And instead, what I’d encourage folks to do instead of color blindness talk about color bravery, you know, there’s a wonderful Ted talk. I believe Melanie Hobbs has that is about bravery and seeing color, seeing differences.
Julie Kratz (15:49):
And that’s in all spaces, not just at work, not just at home, there’s no on and off switch for ally shift. This is gonna show up in all spaces we are. And a couple key tidbits. I always like to share in case you’re not aware. And we found from the, the book of the confidence code, that a girl’s confidence peaks at age eight, eight. I, I mentioned my daughter just turned eight, so it’s a horrifying statistic for me. How do we keep that confidence surging into adolescence especially as they find their identity and their coming of age years and kids racial views are solidify at age 12. So thinking we wanna talk about DEI later in the workplace, maybe it would be helpful to start the conversation a little earlier. And what do we mean when we say ally? You know, the simplest definition I shared before is being supportive of someone different from yourself.
Julie Kratz (16:43):
Okay. Again, across any dimension of diversity and diversity goes way more than just race and gender. We of course, wanna talk about disability, LGBTQ socioeconomic status geography. Neurodiversity is an increasingly talked about topic thankfully, and something, a lot of our kids are experiencing that the rates of autism have grown up significantly. And so the rate of autistic potential employees in the workplace, and, and how do we facilitate an inclusive workspace for all folks, neuro divergent folks, neuron, normative folks. There’s just kind of everybody. And so when I think about allyship, I think about the role we can play especially as young people, most simply being a friend, diversifying your friends, set and encouraging that and modeling that and who you invite into your home, who your friends are, who you spend time with as an adult kids pick up on these things that we’re modeling for them every day, what we expect from them.
Julie Kratz (17:46):
And they won’t naturally diversify their friend cycle. And if you live, you know, in a more many of us white people live in very white dominant spaces, it could be really intentional then about visiting other places. And that could be where you choose to have dinner, right, showcasing other ethnicities, other cultures, celebrating things like Chinese new year DWAI of course there’s black history month and some of the big women’s history month and some of the big programs pride month but really celebrating it all year and diversifying who you spend time with and modeling that as well as being a supporter. You know, sometimes allies are quiet allies and not in the sense that they’re not doing anything, but they’re sitting with the person and empathizing with them. And this is what kids are brilliant at doing, just sitting with the person that’s experiencing pain and being there for them.
Julie Kratz (18:41):
And with them can also be an amplifier as an ally amplify the voices of folks that aren’t heard, if you see something, absolutely say something. My daughter was on the school bus last year. And in fact she had a, a boyfriend who’s his first grade. So <laugh>, they used the term boyfriend that was a Chinese American boy and someone on the school bus, a girl said that it was illegal for them to get married. And, you know, this is happening in age seven real time now, and it was deeply disturbing, but thankfully, because we’d had conversations about it, Jane had the wherewithal to say that’s racism and the person quietly stopped talking about it and shied away from the conversation. And hopefully it was an educational moment for this person. But to be intolerant of racist, sexist comments teaches our kids to really draw that boundary in that line.
Julie Kratz (19:40):
So that that behavior doesn’t continue, can also be an advocate, you know finding shirts that have diverse representation and positive mantras and showcase, hidden figures of our history. Great way to advocate and to display put on display. You know, the flags you use, the signage you have in your yard are signals to folks sharing your pronouns another great way to signal and, and being a listener. You know, if someone’s experiencing the pain, the trauma associated with the adversity of, of diversity, that one of the best things we can do is listen, and kids are actually really good at this and listening and being empathetic. And they’re learning social, emotional learning in school, which empathy is really at the forefront of. So I’m really thankful that to see that connection. And it’s important to note that not everyone is an ally, right?
Julie Kratz (20:36):
We might be thinking, oh, everyone gets it. Cuz we get it. And we’ve insulated our circle of people, do all people that get it. And <laugh> as someone’s experiences this with family members used to be close, personal friends, you know, there’s about a third of us that I would say get it. And that’s important for critical mass. So critical mass is about 30% of a given population. Once we have that positive momentum, it can really spread. So I’m, I’m thankful that most of the data shows that most folks were on board with DEI, at least 30% are actively engaged, but that means 70%, not so much. And most of that group about 50% of that group is curious. Don’t know what to say, don’t know what to do. And if that’s you, you’re not alone. That’s where most people are. That’s still where we’re at in 2022.
Julie Kratz (21:27):
And so just think about how could I leverage some of these tools to be more curious and enter a conversation I might be afraid of. And where is that fear coming from, right. How could I overcome that? And about 20% of folks are apathetic, right? And this is where I urge people to be careful, don’t focus on the folks that don’t get it, especially if they don’t wanna get it. So if they wanna deny racism, sexism, they just wanna say work hard myth meritocracy at all. You know, if that’s their belief system and they don’t wanna change that belief system, I accept that. And I hope that they come into the conversation later. But for me to spend my energy, there is quite frankly a waste of my time. So all I had to say, it’s a journey, not a destination. We don’t wanna give up on folks or cancel culture people.
Julie Kratz (22:14):
But I would say the best use of our energy is focusing on that magic middle. And this is where kids are. They’re curious. They wanna come into the conversation. If they’re shushed or not given tools, they might end up in that apathetic camp. And that’s exactly precisely what we do not want. All right. So if you’re curious and you wanna know more about how to talk with kiddos, hopefully by now you’ve seen, this is an issue we should care about it, how to show up as some, some tangible framework around allyship and what this means now, what I want you to understand are some tools. And so when I wrote the book, allyship in action did a lot of research on existing tools out there, and you might not be surprised. A lot of the tools are consistent with inclusive leadership. You know, folks like bene brown have been talking about the importance of vulnerability and empathy and really addressing or shame triggers for over a decade.
Julie Kratz (23:10):
You know what I’ve found in her research and listening to her podcasts is a lot of the principles apply to helping this next generation be inclusive. So from a vulnerability perspective, as someone that spends time with this next generation model, the behaviors of vulnerability specifically around admitting mistakes, this is something we’re working on really hard is I’ve gotta knit my mistakes and I make one, right. Even if it’s just leaving the diaper bag at home, when we’re at the restaurant, it’s like, oh yep. My bad. I made a mistake. I’m sorry, because you know, little years are listening. And if I said, well I thought someone else was gonna get it. And I shamed and blamed my way out of it. They would learn that same behavior. So as an ally, admit the Bumble and stumble when you make a mistake, just own it.
Julie Kratz (24:00):
So if I said, or did something that wasn’t so inclusive or didn’t use the right vocabulary, I would want to share that as an example of, Hey, I, I made a mistake and here’s what I learned, right? That’s the important piece, not being afraid to fail on modeling that for kids, cuz they will make mistakes. They, they’re not gonna say things perfectly with this. And they might finger point at somebody, which is a great opportunity. If that person is different, say, Hey I saw you, I saw you pointing your finger at somebody. Right. I wanna know what that’s about. And I wanna know that it’s not okay to point your finger because that makes that person feel different or othered. Okay. And explaining that, unpacking that a little bit with them as the learning opportunity, you can also just say, I don’t know, to demonstrate vulnerability, you know, I don’t know, but I’m gonna look into that.
Julie Kratz (24:49):
There’s a lot of things that kids ask about that we don’t know and it’s okay to say, Hey, I’ll look that up or let’s find out together. Right? What great modeling there, but it’s okay to be uncomfortable. And you know, through this, this journey and I’ve been on DEI you, I watch sad documentaries, sad stories that I just wish weren’t true. And you know, oftentimes my daughter will ask me like, oh mom, are you watching something about racism again? And I will model for her. Yes I am. And mommy’s sad. Because this shouldn’t be happening, right. This is unfair. And just to show that I’m uncomfortable with it too. I don’t have to be this stoic protector all the time. Of course we wanna shield our children and, and not show them, you know, all of our weaknesses all at once because they, they, they need to feel protected and there’s a delicate balance in demonstrating that vulnerability and that empathy for them so that they can do that safely, psychologically, safely with their friends and peers as well.
Julie Kratz (25:56):
Spreads. It’s the beauty of allyship empathy, empathy in addition to vulnerability. And I, I think kiddos are so brilliant at this. I think humans are actually pretty good at this. We just unlearn it through the course of our life, but perspective taking, you know, Dr. Theresa Wiseman introduced this term. And I just love it. It’s not about wearing someone else’s shoes. I mean, I don’t have the same shoe size as you <laugh> please don’t wear my shoes. It’s probably not good social distancing practices nowadays instead try on the perspective. And so just, that’s a great question to ask a kid. Well, what do you think the other perspective was? You know, if they get into an argument with somebody or somebody’s being bullied, you know, what is the perspective of the other person empathy first? Cause I create spaces for others to feel belonging in those spaces.
Julie Kratz (26:39):
And a lot of times it’s paradoxical, you know, DEI, there’s not a black and white solution. A lot of times it’s a gray area. It’s ambiguity that we’re living in and that’s the challenge. And that’s the fear factor in why people withdraw from the conversation. Sadly, you know, I love <laugh>. My daughter would come home with me. There was some bullying going on last year at school and she would come home and just then share all these, you know, really troubling stories, but things were happening to her classmates. And at first I’d be like, here’s what you need to say. Here’s what you need to do. She into rescue mode. Cause you wanna protect your kids. But she quickly, I saw her withdraw and stopped sharing things with me after a few weeks. And I asked her how things were going. She’s like, well not good.
Julie Kratz (27:23):
And I said, well, do you, what do you want from me? Do you want me to give you advice? Or do you want me to listen? She’s like, mom, I really just want you to listen. <Laugh> and so now I will ask, is this a time when you want me to listen or give you advice, 90% of the time it’s listening. And alls I say is, I’m glad you shared that with me, might ask a clarifying question. But a lot of times she just wants to be heard and isn’t that just a human primal need. So you don’t have to have all the answers you just need to show up and listen. And that is easier said than done. <Laugh> I have to like breathe like, oh, like, you know, clench my mouth, like, oh, they wanna say something, but you know, she’s gotta figure things out on her own too.
Julie Kratz (28:00):
And offering support in the form of listening is often the best gift we can give. We also have that candor, you know, this is about being comfortable, getting uncomfortable and, and modeling that for its it is okay to feel uncomfortable and call out problematic behaviors. The worst thing we could do is not say something. If we see something problematic, our obligation as an ally is absolutely to say something and to do something. So a great tool here that we love is the Beal test cause representation matters most over 70% of movies have white male protagonist. Okay. Still today. So the Beal test is really helpful because it’s simply asked, does your movie have at least two female characters? And you can actually do this with not just gender, but you can do this with race. You can do this with dis disability, other dimensions of diversity.
Julie Kratz (28:45):
I kinda like broadening it to all dimensions of diversity, but the Beal test works with gender. It says, does your movie have at least two female characters? If yes. Do they talk to each other? <Laugh> if yes, do that, do they talk about something other than a man? Oh my gosh, whoa. Full data on this passing those three factors. Does it have at least two female characters, they talk to each other about something other than a man, most movies don’t pass the standard. It is sad and true. And so we’re really perpetuating patriarchy. By continuing to show these images of women, just kind of at the sidelines of the conversation, not participating in the conversation. A couple more curiosity kids are naturally curious and appreciate others’ differences. I found this through this work with little allies, ask open questions. So if you’re in listening mode, but you are curious, clarify with a what or how question not a do could should question, cuz those are just gonna get one word answers or test your assumptions, ask a question.
Julie Kratz (29:45):
Like what do you think? Or how do you think that person got there? Or what should we do or what are your ideas much more expansive or what questions do you have not, do you have any questions? Totally different response. Do you get to those questions just by changing one word, listen with the intent of learning and seeking to understand versus be understood that old co cubism and we wanna meet our kids where they’re at. I love the phrase, a, a phrase and a word that I’ve I’ve bought into my vision board and my value system is wonder, I love the phrase. I wonder. And if only as parents, as caregivers, as educators of stewards of this next generation of allies, if we could only say that more, I wonder, I wonder about that and just let the conversation naturally evolve. You will. I guarantee you will learn something with that statement for allyship to work.
Julie Kratz (30:36):
It has to be intentional and consistent over time. It is easy to sniff out folks that say the things and don’t do the things. So make sure you don’t fall prey to that and diversify your bookshelf, your media. You know, when I saw the data on books, I was like, well, not on my bookshelf. <Laugh> unfortunately my bookshelf looked very much like that. Lots of animals, very few kids of color. So we’ve been really intentional about adding books, star, bookshelf, and there’s some great books out there. You know, I love LeBron James book. I promise I love market street. I love the day you begin some great children’s books. I have a really great ma message as well as happen to showcase kids of color in the forefront of the book and have great learning lessons. So I encourage you think about why this matters, share a lot of data with you about why this is having this conversation earlier is important.
Julie Kratz (31:32):
Also what being an ally means to you personally. Cause it is a very personal definition, but just leverage my Def definition for you as a springboard. You know, what does support look like for somebody different than you and how do you reach, you know, this next generation with that, you know, think about vulnerability, empathy, modeling, candor, curiosity, meeting kids where they’re at because developmental cycles are important. You know, the conversation K through five is very different than the middle school conversation and the high school conversation and the adult conversation. So by asking questions, demonstrating curiosity, and that wonder factor, you can easily more easily meet folks where they’re at. I’d love to stay in touch with you. If you like this content, if you like this episode, you can reach firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Instagram, the little allies account. And we do have a website dedicated to the little allies, the little allies.com there you can find our children’s book, our ally promise, a free downloadable resource and our activity guide as well as discussion guide for the book. And all of the proceeds from the little allies goes to a nonprofit focusing on this work and having this conversation earlier with our kiddos. So I thank you for listening. It has been so fun to share this information with you and cheers to this next generation of little allies.
Ben Rue (33:01):
Thank you so much, Julie, for this wonderful podcast and thank you to our listeners and sponsor best buy, to learn more, find email@example.com or at next pivot point or on LinkedIn. New episodes of the forum podcast are firstname.lastname@example.org/podcast. You can also find the podcast on apple podcast, Spotify, anchor, and Stitcher. Thank you again for listening. Have a great day.
Speaker 1 (33:25):
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Speaker 1 (33:49):
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