Inspirations from USOW 2018

by Loretta Stagnitto, Rise Up Leadership Council member

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the United State of Women (USOW) summit in Los Angeles as a member of the leadership council of Rise Up. Not only was I open to the invitation to attend because I was curious and interested after my great experience at the United Nations State of Women Summit in New York, also through Rise Up, in 2017; I was even more excited because my 25-year-old daughter, who lives and works in Los Angeles, attended part of the Summit with me. Neither one of us knew what to expect (except traffic, crowds, and no parking), but we knew the promise of hearing from Jane Fonda and Michelle Obama were enough to get me on a plane to Southern Cal and a commitment from my daughter to join me.

Yet it was not only these two passionate, committed, “celebrity” women that overwhelmed our hearts with hope and inspiration; it was every speaker on the stage on Saturday that I found inspiring and committed, powerful and courageous, hopeful and contagious, each of the celebrities in their own right, their own communities, and known especially for their own truths.

Throughout the day as I listened, I texted myself quotes and phrases that struck me, made me smile or be overcome with emotion, shake my head in agreement, or caused me to pause and reflect. Here are some of those:

  • “If not us, then who?”
  • “We will never have peace in the world until women have power.”
  • “Defending democracy is women’s work.”
  • “We need to change the rules we did not make and cultures we did not create.”
  • “Women don’t abuse power, we share it.”
  • “This will end with us.” — Tiffany Lopez, US Olympic Gymnastic Team Sexual-Abuse Survivor 
  • “We have everything inside us to succeed.  We don’t need other people’s permission to be great.” — Ibtihaj Muhammad, U.S. Fencing Team
  • “Because I’m white, the lens I have been looking through has been too shallow.” — Jane Fonda
  • “If our vote wasn’t important, then people would not try to take it away from us.” — Brittany Packnett, Activist, Educator, Writer, and Co-Founder of Campaign Zero
  • “I’m a joyful warrior.” — Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator for California
  • “Be strong, be bold, be kind and don’t be afraid to take a chance.”
  • “Let your existence be resistance.” — Tarana Burke, Founder of the “me too” Movement

Michelle Obama:  

  • “Kids know when they are being invested in and when people don’t give a crap about them.”
  • “As a kid, practice who you want to be every day.”
  • “If we want our daughters to dream different, we have work to do.”

Coming down from such an omnipotent ‘girl power’ experience, now nestled in my office two days later, I’m reviewing in my head all the injustices I learned about, and the opportunities we have to address them.  I think about the formidable tasks ahead and the significance of the empowerment and life-changes that can be created if we are successful in addressing them.  And I wonder if I, personally, am doing enough to move us forward, move us faster.  I bet I was not the only one to ponder that either or think to myself, “why was it not me on that stage…”

Many of the those who were, however, shared the same message. It can be overwhelming to think about all that needs to be done on a global scale, let alone in our own country, state, and especially our own cities, to support the empowerment of women and girls. But we can do more than sit in the audience and be enamored by the accomplishments of those that have stepped forward to serve. We can start at home, or start on a global scale. In my case, I became aware of the enormity of the needs and committed to working for solutions, as a member of Rise Up’s Leadership Council. That work is also driving my curiosity to see where I can contribute in my own community as well. Keeping me on the smaller stage, but not in the audience.  I think the quote from the USOW 2018 that stuck with me the most was one from Tarana Burke, founder of the “me too” Movement, who said, “Let your existence be resistance.”