It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
"The moment a woman comes home to herself, the moment she knows that she has become a person of influence... who is respected and recognized, the resurrection of the world begins." — Joan Chittister
I've Been Thinking...
The other day, my daughter Christina watched the documentary “RBG” about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and said she couldn’t believe how much this one woman has done in her lifetime on behalf of other women. She said it got her thinking about all the other women who have done so much, yet whose stories we know so little about.
Amen, I thought. Amen to acknowledging all that has been done before us, and all that’s still being done. Amen to taking a moment to acknowledge all the women whose shoulders we stand on.
Christina’s words came to mind this Tuesday when I learned that veteran journalist Cokie Roberts had passed away due to breast cancer complications. I gasped when I heard the news.
Like me, Cokie was a child of politics who found her calling in journalism. When I was starting out, Cokie, Barbara Walters, Linda Ellerbee, and Nancy Dickerson were among the women who were out there working hard so that women like myself could succeed.
I looked up to her. I admired how she combined her many roles with grace and class. Cokie’s death made me stop and think about all the other women who have inspired me over the years, and who paved the way for me and so many others.
When I look at the women running for president today, I am constantly reminded of all the pioneers who came before them. When I look at women fighting for social change today, I think about my mother and how she fought for the rights of the intellectually disabled up until her dying day. I also think about the hard work of Rosa Parks, Dorothy Day, Coretta Scott King, and others.
Like Christina, I am in awe of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I deeply admire her tenacity, her brilliance, her guts, her persistence, and her work ethic. I mean, I pray to God that I can still be out there pushing for change in my 80s, just like she is. I have the same respect for Sandra Day O’Connor, who I got to work alongside in pushing for the passage of the National Alzheimer’s Strategic Plan.
Every young woman today should know these elder women’s stories. They should know what they were up against, what they endured, and how they charted their own path. Thank God many of those I admire have written their stories down in books. Gloria Steinem’s “Revolution from Within" is a must-read. So, too, are Eleanor Roosevelt’s books. And Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift From the Sea.” And Joan Chittister's "Called to Question."
I’ve always been intrigued by people’s stories—their struggles and their triumphs. I’ve loved learning about the lives of women like Betty Ford and Mother Teresa because their stories humanized them for me. These are women who admitted to struggling with issues of faith, purpose, addiction, and loneliness. Yet they pushed on, nonetheless.
I share this so you know that whether you are a mother, a teacher, a business owner, or otherwise, you have the power to inspire and influence those who are younger than you.
Tomorrow night, I will speak at a memorial service in honor of one of my real-life heroines, Mary Oliver. When she and I became friends, I told Mary that her poem “The Journey” changed my life.
This week, I’m going to make a point of saying thank you—be it in person or in my heart—to all the women whose shoulders I stand on. After all, Cokie’s untimely death reminds me again that life is precious. It is fragile. That’s why there is no time like the present to thank those who have paved the way for us to do what we do, and be who we are.
Opportunities don’t just happen to us. They happen because someone pushed before us so that we could have that opportunity in the first place. They happen because someone else fought, persisted, and persevered.
This week, thank those whose shoulders you stand on. Honor those who came before you. Be grateful for those who paved the way for the life you have now. And, if you don’t know their stories, then ask them. Or look them up. Read about their lives or watch a documentary, like my daughter did. One of the best ways to honor someone’s legacy is to learn about it, and then carry their story forward in your life and in others.
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