Next week, we will not only celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but we will recognize the inaugural National Day of Racial Healing, and bear witness to both a peaceful transition of power with the inauguration of our 45th President and the mobilization of several hundred thousand women and girls for the Women’s March on Washington. And all within the third week of 2017. As I reflect on the historic significance of it all, a quote by Dr. King comes to mind:
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
Well, that time is now.
Over the last two months, I have been a part of many private and public conversations with friends, family, and colleagues, and I’ve closely watched the public discourse around how we move forward as a country. The divisiveness we see and feel, the name calling and complete disregard for civilized debate, and the general sense that we are being pitted against one another has left many at a loss for how to move forward. As a leader, I’ve been forced to confront my own uncertainties, fears, and discomfort around the task before me as I continue to fight for women and girls, but it was a simple conversation with my 17 year-old daughter that moved me to action. Last week, she said to me, “Mommy,” (yes, at 17 she will still on occasion call me mommy), “I don’t feel like I have a voice, and I don’t know what to do.” My own daughter, the girl I’ve very consciously raised to be a strong, independent feminist, was at a loss, and her words were a wake-up call for me.
“The time is always right to do what is right.” And so I’m pushing my fears and uncertainties to the side, and I’m diving in with everything I’ve got because I never want to hear those words from any woman or girl ever again.
We have a voice, and we are powerful. It’s how we choose to harness our voice and power in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead that matters. We cannot be overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. There are actions each of us can take in our daily lives to make a difference.
- Make an effort to understand opinions and beliefs that are different from yours. Read books and articles that explore different opinions and perspectives. Seek out media outlets and journalists that you may not necessarily follow. Have meaningful conversations with the friend, neighbor, or colleague with whom you may disagree.
- Get involved locally. Feel passionate about an issue in your community? Get involved and learn more. Find the organization leading the charge on the issue and get connected. Attend local government meetings or hearings on the issue you care about. Connect with your local women’s commission. Volunteer.
- Become politically active at the local level. Regardless of your political affiliation, become informed about races happening in your own backyard. Learn more about the candidates and their positions. Attend events and voice your opinion and concerns. Support the development of the next generation of political leadership. Consider running for office.
- Use your voice. Speak up when you see a wrong that needs to be righted, whether it’s in your neighborhood, your school or your workplace. Write your local political leaders. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed.
The New Year brings with it a sense of optimism and the idea that one can wipe the slate clean and start anew, whether that means you resolve to eat better, spend more time taking care of yourself, learn something new, etc. This year, I did not make a New Year’s resolution. Why? Because I am resolved that my resolution is not simply year-long but lifelong. At no time in my short 44 years have I been more resolved and committed to fighting for a fairer and more just and equitable community for women and girls than I am today, and I urge you to do the same. Our women and girls deserve nothing less.
Yes, the time is always right to do what is right.