Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Sharing the wise words of Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Lina Canon

Happy New Year!  It has been quite a while since I've blogged, so here goes to kicking off the New Year with some motivational messages from some inspirational women!

A few weeks ago, I was able to cross off a bucket list item:  to be in the presence of Oprah--yes, the Oprah Winfrey.  She was speaking at a fundraiser for the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.  I am beyond grateful to my friend and colleague Susan for letting me know about the event--and then giving me the hope that we could actually purchase tickets among the other thousands of Oprah fans calling UMASS Lowell at the same time!

One of Oprah's messages was the importance of every day acts of kindness.  She shared that after she built her school for girls in Africa she spoke with poet Maya Angelou.  She told Maya Angelou that she had just built what would be her legacy--even more than her talk show.  Maya Angelou shook her head and said, Nope.  Oprah said she was once again humbled by the phenomenal woman herself--Maya Angelou.  Maya Angelou said, your legacy is in your every day acts of kindness with individuals from all walks of life.  Yes, building a school to provide equal opportunity education for girls from Africa is noble. However, one's legacy is doing the next right thing--regardless of whether someone sees you do it. And anyone can do the next right thing regardless of how much money or power you have.

I am equally as appreciative to my friends Paula and Molly who said, let's try for tickets to see Michelle Obama on her book tour Becoming at the TD Bank North in Boston.  Michelle Obama gave the heartfelt message that there are a lot of good people in our country and in our world; we must remain hopeful despite times and relationships of division.  She shared the importance of story-telling as a way of connection across all divides.  We all have stories of what/how/why we are becoming.  

And lastly, I am in awe of my former student Lina Canon who recently spoke to two of my journalism classes.  One might ask, you are grouping your former student in with Oprah and Michelle Obama--two iconic women in our current day culture?  And to that thought, I say, ABSOLUTELY!  Lina is the next Oprah and Michelle Obama in the making...and I promise you, you will hear about Lina some day.

It has been almost ten years since I taught Lina during her high school years--even then, I knew she would achieve to whatever she set her mind and heart.  Her story is one of struggle and perseverance (see a future link to her story).  And now in her mid-twenties, Lina is a strong woman with strong messages:  be compassionate, do not think in black or white--there is a lot of gray area, don't be an obstacle to yourself, network, and never compare your journey to someone else's. If only I was that wise at Lina's age!

And how do I know she had an impact on my students--by the number of students who waited after class to speak with her, by the students requesting her email address so they could connect with her because they connected with her story. And for the fact that my students wanted to write an article and tell Lina's story.

Lina now works in philanthropy.  She co-hosts and co-producers a podcast called The Activist Hustle
(https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/brandon-rush/the-activist-hustle). And she is currently in El Salvador doing relief work.

So over the past month, I have been filled with messages of hope, optimism, and the importance of action.  As I look to the New Year, I continue to be grateful to the amazing people who I like to consider part of my village--those I have never met like Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama and those who I know like Lina.  And I'm reminded of all of my family, friends, colleagues, former and current students who continue to do the next right thing, who share their stories and listen to mine, and who are compassionate people.

Be well in the New Year!

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