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5 Things I Learned from Gloria Steinem

On Wednesday night, hosted feminist icon Gloria Steinem, in conversation with her longtime friend Congresswoman Maxine Waters. The 81-year-old read from her newest book, “My Life on the Road,” that chronicles her life as an activist and women’s rights champion through her itinerant lifestyle. Steinem also used the opportunity to share her personal side, showing humility and empathy to both the moderator, her longtime friend, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, as well as any and all of the women (and men!) who asked questions. Below are just five of the many things Gloria Steinem shared with the crowd:

1. “The road is my substitute for meditation. It forces you to live in the present, to be alive in all your senses.”

I love to travel, and I used to think that traveling had me live in the future, always planning the next trip and thinking about the next place I can go. Steinem shared that many of her friends implore her to take time to meditate and be introspective; instead, she sees her time on the road as her opportunity to breath, to reflect, to be present.

2. “Voting isn’t the most we can do, but it is the least. The voting booth is the one place on earth where the least powerful equal the most powerful.”

As our country enters into another presidential election year, voting and voting rights are front on the minds of many, especially here in Washington, DC. This was a beautiful understanding of the right and privilege of voting, highlighting that each and every vote not only counts, but counts equally, regardless of the power one holds outside of the voting booth. Steinem read a passage from her book that outlines a small margin loss for a congressional seat that triggered a chain of events that led to the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. Every vote counts and can have a national impact, even – especially – at a local level.

3. “Social justice movements come from telling the truth. I can’t ask anyone else to tell the truth if I don’t tell the truth.”

Steinem dedicates the book to the British doctor who performed her abortion when she was twenty-two years old. This is just one of many examples of sharing one’s own truth in an effort to make systematic change in our country. From the right to choose to have an abortion, to protecting the lives of domestic violence victims, to the advocating for marriage equality, social change cannot take place unless people are willing to share their stories just as Steinem has shared her own.

4. “The only thing worse than trying – whether you succeed or not – is not trying.”

While this is not a unique statement (Yoda famously said something similar), it is important to hear and act upon. Fear of failure should not be an excuse to leave things as they are, especially in the realm of activism and change making. Additionally, when things feel so large and hard to grasp, it often feels like there is no way to make a difference or to make a situation better. As Steinem models time and time again, it is important to do something – even something small – to help move the needle on bringing about change.

5.“We become reliable allies when we have an interest in the other person’s liberation.”

Steinem spent the evening asking those of us in the audience what activism could take place following our evening together, and through the questions and answers we heard from people making a difference locally and nationally, advocating for changes to be made for women across the country, regardless of race or nationality. Her eagerness to hear stories from those of us in the audience, to know what we needed for our causes, personalized her and the opportunity to be in the same room as her for the evening.

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