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Thoughts to Remember on a Year to Forget

January 1, 2021

December 31, 2020 Auburn Hills, Michigan  USA 

Many of you have emailed me, even from as far away as Nepal, asking, "Where have you been, Anne? Why haven't you written to your global network since last fall?"

I've been quiet because I felt we were all so overloaded with bad news that there was no value in adding my voice to the deafening drumbeat agonizing about COVID-19, racist atrocities, the most divisive political climate of my lifetime, or the growing reality that women are bearing the motherload of the pandemic toll, with both their families and their careers. 

Of course I was elated and relieved by the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice-president. But it's too soon to celebrate. America is still enduring the destructive death throes of Donald Trump's cruel, corrupt and incompetent presidency.

Plus, the world remains in the grip of some of the darkest weeks of this pandemic, with the death toll in the United States now 340,000 and climbing. 

Ironically, I was anticipating 2020 to be a joyful year, full of national celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which changed my life and those of millions of women decades before we were born.

Several of my closest friends and I had reservations in Seneca Falls, New York, birthplace of the Women's Suffrage Movement, where we planned to join thousands of others to honor the leadership of Susan B. Anthony, Lucrecia Mott and the legions of American suffragists who tenaciously persisted through the 75-year, often brutal fight for the right to vote.

How ironic that the 100th anniversary of their 1920 victory occurred in a presidential election year when American democracy hung by a thread and women voters, particularly African American women, made the critical difference. 

As I watched the long-anticipated celebrations of a gigantic step in women's herstory pass as a whisper in the pandemic's wake, and began to comprehend the toll that this deadly virus is claiming, particularly for women, people of color and our most vulnerable citizens, I turned inward. Rather than thinking of what I could write or what inspiring podcast guest I could interview, I found myself voiceless. 

But my silence was neither acceptance nor resignation to the multitude of injustices that 2020 forced the world to notice. If anything, I am even more determined to use my experience, my influence, my networks, my resources and whatever years remain to me to do whatever I can, where I can, when I can to help those who cannot. 

I've found inspiration from a multitude of talented, ambitious, kick-ass younger women of every generation. Here are just a few who are inspiring me to rise to the possibilities of 2021, rather than wallow in the reckonings of 2020. 

Kim Brooks, writing in the New York Times that "Feminism Has Failed Women," calls for a New Feminism that is "grounded in solidarity (with other women and men who support us) rather than (merely) success." 

Gitanjali Rao, a 15 year old, brilliant young scientist and inventor, selected by TIME MAGAZINE as "Kid of the Year." Rao told interviewer Angelina Jolie, "I think more than anything right now, we just need to find that one thing that we're passionate about and solve it. Even if it's something small. Don't feel pressured to come up with something big." 

Kate Davis, deputy editor of Fast Company magazine who did a fascinating POWER UP WOMEN! podcast with me about her powerful commentary, Whitmer vs. Cuomo: A Case Study in American Sexism. 

And, of course, Kamala Harris, who will become the first woman and woman of color to become vice president of the United States, on January 20 of the New Year we all so eagerly await. We must have her back as she faces the inevitable sexist headwinds that still blow so hard against women who dare to push the edges of possibility. 

So, as we close the book on 2020, let's not hurry back to NORMAL LIFE. I hope you'll join me in taking the time to embrace the many lessons of a year that refused to allow us to look away.

For me, the most important lesson has been the reminder of the collective responsibility we all have to one another and to the children, planet and all living things in our care. For those of us lucky enough, as I am, to have come through 2020's many tests with our health, a safe place to live, food for our families, health insurance and without fear of what tomorrow may bring, we are called upon to do MORE.

After nearly five decades of often finding myself on the front line of fights for human equity and opportunity, there are days when I think it is time for me to step aside. There is nothing that gives me hope more than watching talented, diverse, ambitious kick-ass women stepping forward and tackling complex problems that my generation has left unsolved.

But I was recently issued a fresh challenge by Karina Funk, one of the "100 Most Influential Women in Finance" and a leading voice and expert on Sustainable Investing, whom I was privileged to interview for the January IWF GAME CHANGERS podcast. We were talking about the courage that it requires for women to ask tough questions and advocate for diversity and the planet in boardrooms or executive suites where we are still minority voices. 

"If you are (a woman) in a boardroom, you are already at a point in your career where you've made a lot of decisions that have built your reputation," Karina urged. "Use that reputation to take career risks... to make an impact."

So that's my New Year's resolution: to accept Karina Funk's challenge, which reminded me of the inspiring words of Mary Lou Anderson.

"Leaders are called to stand in that lonely place between the no longer and the not yet, and intentionally make decisions that will bind, forge, move and create history. We are not called to be popular. We are not called to be safe. We are not called to follow. We are the ones called to take risks. We are the ones called to change attitudes, to risk displeasures. We are the ones called to gamble our lives for a better world." 

So long 2020. Let's get started 2021! 

 

 

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