Admiration List: Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky is someone most people would not include on an admiration list because of her connection to President Clinton and the scandal that brought the White House under investigation and significant political fire.

She was 22 when her affair with President Clinton was revealed and exploited by both the Republican party and the news media (read: ratings, revenue, non-stop-sensationalist ‘news’ stories about every possible sexually graphic detail…you get the idea).

I was also in my twenties at the time and, as details about the investigation hit the news media, all I could think about was how this women was a victim. She was seduced by the most powerful man in the world. He was her boss, a career politician and a well known serial-seducer. By all accounts, she was neither his first, nor his last, conquest. This was predatory manipulation of a naive young women and, possibly, harassment.

Unfortunately, the scandal occurred during the 1990s, which was also when the details of the Anita Hill vs Clarence Thomas trial were frequently challenged as ‘not really harassment’ by most of the adults I knew. That trial outlined a situation that could be defined as workplace rape, yet people continued to justify it. As for Monica Lewinsky – presenting her as a potential victim was incomprehensible.

Not surprisingly, Monica Lewinsky faced a level of public humiliation, shame and ostracism that is hard to comprehend. She was publicly cast as a home wrecker, a whore and a litany of other things; while Clinton was…you know….a powerful man. You can’t blame him, it was that woman.

Fast forward many years and Ms. Lewinsky has resurfaced as a strong, confident woman. She is an anti-bullying activist, putting her own experiences with public humiliation to good use as she works to prevent suicide and fight cyber-bullying, face-to-face bullying and mobbing.

I admire all people who have faced incredibly difficult experiences and, somehow, managed to reach the other side. I have great admiration for people who use those experiences to become stronger and more determined to help others who have also been through the proverbial fire. Monica Lewinsky has done that.

Ms. Lewinsky has been added to my admiration list because, frankly, she deserves it.

Admiration List: Jennifer Brea

Jennifer Brea has been suffering from an un-treatable and not-yet-properly-identified neurological disease. She has been given diagnosis (e.g.: chronic fatigue syndrome) that basically mean nothing and was told it was ‘all in her head.’ This woman has been through the proverbial fire.

Yet, despite extremely difficult physical and social barriers, she has persevered, created a film about her experiences and pursued a life of activism, acting as a voice for all people suffering from invisible and un-diagnosed illnesses.

From her TED talk, you can see her strength, attitude and remarkable good will, as she expresses her hope that one day the medical community will learn how to face a disease like her own and speak the honest truth: I don’t know what is wrong with you.

I have to agree with her statement that this ability to be able to admit to not having an answer is a key step in eventually finding an answer.

Admiration List: Alaa Murabit

Alaa Murabit has achieved some pretty amazing things. She’s championed the cause of women in countries where that sort of activism could get a person killed. She has lived through death threats and all sorts of challenges. She has also successfully improved the status of women, within Muslim countries, by leveraging the same tactics used  by her opposition – quotes from the Koran.

Her resilient personality, positive attitude and ability to take all of the challenges in stride are evident in her TED talk. There are many things to admire.

Having said that, I must admit that none of those accomplishments are the reason why she is included here. The primary reason for my own, personal, admiration is the fact that I watched this video and kept thinking: How do I expand my social circle to include more women like her? I need more friends like that.

 

Admiration List: David Raether

David Raether went from having a extremely well paying job as a comedic writer for television, to losing absolutely everything and spend a few years homeless (on-the-street-homeless). Why? Because he decided to take a year off of work to address problems in his family. The house was paid for, they had money in the bank, it was a perfectly reasonable financial decision and exactly what his family needed.

Unfortunately, in the United States, taking time off of work to make positive changes in your personal life is tantamount to professional suicide. At the end of his 12-month sabbatical, David Raether was unable to find work. Since he and his wife were committed to keeping their children enrolled in the best school system in the United States, their cost of living remained where it had been when he was pulling in 100s of thousands per year. Without an equally good paying job, their savings dried up and things went from bad to worse.

This is an important story to be told about poverty (in general) and homelessness (specifically) within the United States. The far majority of Poverty Survivors are good, hard working people who hit on hard times.

Drug addicts and criminals are neither exclusive to, nor most prevalent among, the poor – there are plenty of addicts and criminals (white collar and otherwise) among the upper classes. But that’s a topic for another day.

David Raether has my admiration for surviving homelessness, pulling himself out of that tragedy, and having the courage to talk about it.

Admiration List: Rex Hohlbein

Rex Hohlbein started allowing homeless people use his office as a place to hang out during the day. This grew into a small and semi-official drop-in-center service where people could come to get out of the weather or pick up needed supplies.

That alone is admirable. Yet, what really stood out to me was the way this project got started because Rex took the time to get to know individuals. He didn’t just set up a charity, he started building relationships with poverty survivors and the network of donations grew out of those relationships. That is truly worthy of admiration.

 

 

Admiration List: Nacole

I have great admiration and respect for victims of horrendous crimes who find the strength and courage to speak about those crimes publicly. Nacole is one such brave soul who gave a TEDx talk about child sex trafficking – and what it’s like to be the mother of a child who has been lured away and sold.

This talk is brave, powerful and heart wrenching.

Admiration List: Kim Dempster

Kim Dempster worked with Freedom For All to lead the creation and organization of the Stop The Nightmare campaign, which focuses on raising awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery. The campaign included TV PSAs and a live performance of a present-day slave auction.

Here is her TED talk:

Admiration List: Kandice Sumner

This woman has some really good, and hard, things to say about education in the United States. A few quotes:

If you neglect a child long enough, you no longer have the right to be surprised when things don’t turn out well.”

“If we’re going to call public education ‘public education’ then it should be just that. Otherwise, we should call it what it really is: Poverty Insurance”

“Public education, keeping poor kids poor since 1954.”

Kandice Sumner:

 

 

Admiration List: Jesse Bach

Jesse Bach is a self-described freedom activist. He is the founder of the Imagine Foundation, which works to fight human trafficking and modern slavery worldwide. He is on my admiration list because of all of these things.

He is also on my admiration list because his speech uses both superhero analogies and the assurance that everyday people can make big changes in small ways…while wearing spandex (if they so choose). Of course, that spandex must be ethically made and traded but, otherwise, spandex is OK.

His TED talk is about the ways that everyday people can make a real difference in ending human trafficking. I encourage everyone to watch it.

Admiration List: Catalleya Storm

I have great respect for people who escape a horrible situation and then choose to fight the criminals that created that situation. It takes a lot of courage to stand and face people who have perpetrated unspeakably vile crimes. Simply facing these people in a court of law, under the protection of armed police officers, is extremely difficult. Continuing to fight after gaining freedom and establishing a life – that takes both courage and dedication.

Catalleya Storm survived human trafficking in Ohio, was freed through the help of law enforcement, and continues to speak out against human trafficking and sexual slavery. Her TED talk is focused on her own experience, the prevalence of these crimes in the United States and the very simple fact that combatting modern slavery and human trafficking of all kinds is everyone’s responsibility.

Catalleya is someone I would love to meet and/or hear speak. She is one of many people who I would add to my list of speakers at a slave-free city conference…if I were planning such a thing.