IN POLITICS, movies, and the media, we tend to hear a lot of rhetoric about the glass ceiling, and the gender roles pushed on women by centuries of oppression and prejudice. As a woman and an admitted hopeless optimist, I like to focus on the role models who — regardless of their circumstance or the barriers — they made it up in their minds to achieve something — or be something — and accomplished it.
One particular story comes to mind. It’s a story on our own soil about an African American woman known as Madame C.J. Walker. Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 as the youngest of six, and the first of her siblings born free after the Emancipation Proclamation, there’s no doubt that she had barriers to get through. But, she didn’t let those barriers hold her back. Over the course of her life, she was an American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the first female self-made millionaire in America.
Madame Walker was a person. Before her gender, race, or age — she was a human being born with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Stories like Madame Walker’s inspire me — not to go out and become a millionaire or to break through the glass ceiling, but to embrace that life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that we all — as American citizens — have the opportunity to grasp.
It doesn’t matter if I’m a first-generation American, and the daughter of a humble pastor’s house … with a little spit and polish, and a lot of hard work, these unalienable rights are within my reach. And, they are within yours, too. As you are reading this edition of Central Florida Ag News, I hope you will be inspired by the people and their stories. These people — women, men, youth, and children — could tell you a little about hard work and how to get over barriers. Whether it’s an fourth-generation citrus grower who chose to diversify through peaches or a young rider looking to conquer the rodeo, they each have a lesson to share with us.
column by CELESTE JO WALLS
Celeste Jo Walls is managing editor of Central Florida Ag News. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.