Yes, I Can!
This week my Positive CJ Thoughts, PCT's will not be as humorous as last weeks. What I can promise is that they will truly be positive.
This week I'm going to write about so many amazing women who set a goal and let nothing stop them in a achieving it.
Maya Angelo said "You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise." This is one of my favorite of her poems and the words will ring true well after I am gone. It exemplifies "Yes, I Can."
This week, a Navy veteran pilot successfully landed a damaged plane with 149 passengers on it after an engine exploded during flight. Unfortunately, one passenger was fatally injured. Captain Tammie Jo Shults has been described as having 'nerves of steel'. She was one of the first female Navy fighter pilots but…because of their policy on women in combat, she was not allowed to take her place among those who flew combat missions. Before she ever started her career, she was bluntly told she would never even be able to be a pilot- period. She let nothing stop her and said, 'Yes, I can'.
She was good enough to be an instructor and train those who would go into war, but because of antiquated thinking, she was denied that final step. Her skills saved 148 passengers from certain death, along with her crew. Thank God, for women like her.
Today's blog will be about a group of women that I admire. I feel that way because in one form or another, each said, 'Yes, I can'.
Did you know that the famed Paul Revere was not the only person to sound the alarm that the British were coming? Sybil Ludington was asked by her father to ride out and alert patriots of the coming battle.
She covered nearly forty miles on horseback, alerting Colonel Ludington's militia. THIS was twice what Paul Revere covered. She was sixteen years old. SIXTEEN! When her father asked her to step up, she proudly rode off with a 'Yes, I can' attitude.
How about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, and Lucretia Mott? Now I might not agree with everything these women believed in, but the fact that they rallied, protested and screamed from the streets, and resulted in those of us with the X X chromosome now having right to vote. They and many other women suffragists made it possible for woman to have a say in what happens to our government, something that up until 1920 was not allowed. That’s right, it's been less than one hundred years since we were granted our right to vote by the 19th Amendment. Trust me, there are still many who wish we couldn't and would love to take that right away from us.
A statue to these three women sat in the Capitol Crypt where it sat for the next sixty years. Legend has it, that there is a section of the statue unfinished to allow for the first female president's to be added. The reality is, according to the artist, that it was left incomplete to symbolize that women still had a long way to go…and still do. These women suffered greatly, and yet they held to the charge, 'Yes, I can'.
Katherine Johnson, Dorthy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson- Nasa's human computers that helped put astronauts like Neal Armstong, Alan Shepard, and John Glen in space. These women calculated incredibly multifaceted mathematical equations…BY HAND.
These calculations helped these men break into the great beyond. They were mostly unknown until their story was told in the film "Hidden Figures."
I am proud to say that two of those women, grew up in my home state of West Virginia. At a time when so many said they couldn't because of their gender and their color, these woman quietly but oh so effectively said. "Yes, I can!"
Temple Grandin was born in 1947. At two, she was diagnosed with autism. Back then, it was considered 'brain damage'. Temple has gone on to do incredible work in the field of psychology and animal science. She is the leading advocate for those with autism. My favorite quote from her is "I'm different….not less."
She is a hero to parents and those who have autism because she believes that 'Yes, I can and so can they'.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the notorious RBG. Supreme court justice since 1983. She was not the first, nor will she be the last, but she is a force of nature and an advocate of the law.
She was instrumental in many sex discrimination cases and was instrumental in launching the ACLU's Women's Right Project in 1973.
She certainly stands as a testament to 'Yes, I can.'
Billie Jean King, is still fondly remembered as a tennis force who stood up to sexism and pushed for equal prize money. In her "Battle of the Sexes" with Bobbie Riggs.
As one of the first openly gay athletes, she is a force to be reckoned with as a gay rights activist.
Her never quit attitude has made her a well recognized advocate and I am so glad when Bobbie challenged her, she resolutely answered YES, I CAN!
In 1977, one of my all-time greatest hero's, Brenda Berkman, fought the New York Fire Department and the discriminatory rule that woman could not even apply.
She became the lone named plaintiff in the suit that eventually prevailed. Sadly, that wasn't the end of it. She spent years being harassed, physically threatened and eventually sexually assaulted while she stood her ground to protect and serve. She retired from the service in 2006 at the rank of captain. She works tirelessly to makes sure that the voices of female emergency service workers present on September 11th at ground zero, are not lost. She is now an incredible artist and volunteers her time as a guide at 9/11 museum built on the site of the horrific events she spent months sifting through the rubble at.
She stood strong in the face of incredible adversity and prevailed. She clearly said, 'Yes, I can' and made me believe that I could too.
In 1993, Astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, broke the barrier of earth and went into the great beyond as the first American woman in in space.
She answered a newspaper ad looking for astronauts in 1978 and never looked back. At thirty-two, she became the youngest American in space and would go a second time. Dr. Sally ride passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012. Her widow, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, is chief operating officer of Dr. Ride’s company, Sally Rides Science.
When she passed, President Obama said, “She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools,” he said. “Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve.” It was Sally's wish to “make science and engineering cool again.”
I would say that she inspired a myriad of young women and men to say "Yes, I can," because she certainly did.
I can remember sitting in a bar in Morgantown, WV, in 1997 and clapping and screaming the moment Ellen DeGeneres leaned over a microphone and inadvertently broadcast to everyone in the airport, "I'm gay," on her television show.
To say it was a ground-breaking moment in my life and millions of other lesbians, is an understatement. After that, Ellen lost her show, was publicly vilified, and in many ways, had to start over. She healed the bruises and said. 'Yes, I can.' She is now a beloved talk show host and philanthropist. She is one of the most visible openly gay presences in entertainment.
I will forever be grateful that, as she said to the world 'Yes, I am'- she made it easier for me, years later to say,' Me too.'
My last hero is the most near and dear to my heart. I have known her for almost twenty-three years and I have no doubt, I am still in my profession because of her. Fire Chief Jan Rader of the Huntington Fire Department, is the first female professional Chief in the state of West Virginia. Jan started out as a gemologist near D.C. and was there when a patron experienced a medical emergency. Jan decided she wanted to learn to do what the two, female emergency medical technicians did in helping to handle the medical emergency. That led her down a path to become a professional firefighter. I was there when they pinned that Chief's badge on her as she took command of the department. I have always been so proud of her.
Over the last few years, her city has been under attack by a heroin epidemic. Jan and two other pioneers were the subjects of a Netflix short film, Heroin(E). This film took a very frank look at heroin addiction and treatment. It was nominated for an Oscar. Just recently, she was named to Time Magazines 100 most Influential People. She is a warrior when it comes to doing all she can to give that addict a chance to redeem themselves and become a productive member of society.
I am proud to call her my twin and sister. I will be forever grateful for her decision to answer the call and become a firefighter. Her decision to say 'Yes, I can' has been a very bright shining light in my life.
My point to bringing attention to all these women, is this… I wanted to show that from all walks of life, all ages, and at varying points of time, women have stepped up to say "Yes, I can."
I could have given another thousand examples of well-known and even more unpublished examples of incredible women pioneers that let nothing stop them from making a difference.
We have to continue to encourage little girls to be anything they dream and let nothing stop them from doing that. We need to be advocates for women in mathematics and science. It is our job to keep them from limiting themselves to someone else's expectation.
Children, both boys and girls, need positive role models to look up to and emulate. With so many negative influences constantly bombarding our most vulnerable, the positive inspiration must be the stronger of the two forces.
We have to keep holding ourselves and others to a higher standard and not settle for mediocrity. If we are to change society on an elemental level, we must be the change we want to see.
I've watched what positive roll models can do, what believing that you are worth more than what your social class or financial status dictates-can do.
With the allure of the bad boy/bad girl image, our youth are being drawn to a life that, on the surface, seems glamorous. Scrape back the top soil and you find nothing that supports healthy growth and instead produces only weakness and failure. We as a society must put aside the prejudices of past generations. These prejudices will never be a step to broader understanding, they are a chain that anchors us to an antiquated thought process.
The belief that one race, one religion, one form of acceptable love, is all that is allowed is only a mirror to a fear and frailty that cannot stand.
A computer can create 16.8 million colors and as recently as October of 2017, a new color YInMn blue, was announced.
How sad in a world of infinite colors, we chose to be so black and white.
'There is only one way to think. There is only one acceptable way to love. There is only one race superior to all others and one gender that reigns supreme. All others are inferior.' What narcissistic line of thinking that is.
How much better would we be if we could believe in the worth of others before automatically dismissing them without having even the slightest shred of information beyond a physical appearance? I remember an ad called Love Has No Labels from in 2016.
People were behind a large xray machine. As they embraced and danced, all you could see was their basic bone structure. They all looked the same and the perception only changed when you could see the outside physical appearance.
When they came from behind the screen, there were lesbian couples, gay men with kids, interracial couples, people with disabilities, different religious leaders, children and a host of other images. They were all the same until you could see the physical appearance. It is still one of the most powerfully moving ads I've ever seen and remains a favorite. You can watch the add here at this link.
I can only hope that a day will dawn when we will evolve into human beings that sees the worth in every person until the prove unworthy. That someday, the fact that we are all human beings will be enough for them to be loved and valued. That the words to John Lennon's song "Imagine" could roll from the lips of every person and bubble up from the truth of our true center.
Today, each of us must bring positive light to the brightest shining stars that we can to both aspire to and stand beside.
Hold Fast in a warrior pose and announce proudly, 'YES, I CAN!'
Someone is watching you and may just find the courage to say, 'I can too.'
As always my current book, 'frame by frame' is available for purchase at your favorite outlet. My new work in progress is in beta readers hands and in various stages of editing. Thank you all for taking the time to read my musings.