Leadership Core class invites author and activist to campus
Posted on January 08, 2024 by Sandra Huffman
“Trust yourself. There is no one in this room like you. You have gifts that the rest of us need. So, share them.” These were just a few of the encouraging thoughts author and activist Rita Mae Brown shared with the large crowd gathered in the Reahard Learning Gallery on November 9. Her presentation titled “You Can Make Change” was part of the Leadership Core 130 class on Women and Gender in the World. During his introduction, Professor Joshua Wheeler described Brown not only as the author of over 60 novels, seven screenplays and works of non-fiction, but also as a devoted equestrian and a hero for the work she had done for AIDS awareness, women’s rights, gay rights and civil rights.
Brown began by addressing the Sweet Briar students and telling them how, even though they are young, they’ve already seen and experienced a lot. One-hundred years ago, young women would be dead, married or mothers by their current age, she explained, so things have changed and where we are now is what she described as a fascinating place. “My feeling is it takes three generations to make social change,” Brown said. “We’ve made enormous changes, but are we where we are going to be? No.” The important thing she stressed was to keep fighting, “because,” she added, “nobody ever gives up power. You have to fight for it.” This, she said, did not just relate to politics. “In your life, you’ll be passed over, pushed over, and thrown away, so you need to fight for yourself.”
One area in which students can fight is by figuring out what they really want now, because they need to learn and have the skills necessary to compete and survive. She explained, “There seems to be a great fear of failure. Dump it. Failure is feedback for success. Every time you fail, use it. Tell yourself you are a rubber ball. The harder you get thrown down, the higher you bounce back.”
And in the end, she explained, each person has to develop a relationship with herself, by integrating her head, emotions, physical being and spirit, with spirit being one thing we typically don’t talk about. If we have an experience we can’t explain, then we should just accept it, because some information comes to us during these experiences. “That information can guide you to what you are really supposed to do in the world. Because you are not here for yourself. The world didn’t start when you came into it. You have to find a way to survive it and then change it,” she explained.
She also encouraged everyone to stop being disappointed in themselves and those around them. If there is an area where one feels they can do better, they can learn. The main thing, for Brown, is to trust oneself, believe you can do it, then help change things for the future. “You have opportunities not available to [my generation] and that’s great. The whole reason I did my fight was so you’d have them. What’s the point of being alive if you aren’t fighting for others and the people behind you? … Someone fought for us and we [need] to do the same thing.”
Leadership Core 130: Women and Gender in the World is a multidisciplinary study of the social, cultural, and political issues that influence women in societies across the world. The course introduces theoretical perspectives and social contexts for the diverse challenges that confront contemporary women.
Additional information about the Leadership Core classes can be found here: Leadership Core • Sweet Briar College (sbc.edu)