Thursday, December 1, 2016

Be my Bill, I'll be your Mindy?

After partying and feasting with my Ghanaian family on Thanksgiving night, I had gone home and stayed up to watch President Obama don the Medal of Freedom recipients. The event had happened two days before, and with Thursday/Friday rolling in as public (and site) holidays, I made time to watch it.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. In the president's words, the awards were to "celebrate extraordinary Americans who have lifted our spirits, strengthened our union, pushed us toward progress." He, the president, said a lot of great things about the twenty one honorees, a lot of who I was familiar with, However, some things he said about certain people stood out for me (text emphasized in transcript below) and made me feel really proud.

I was applauding of course when he spoke about Grace Hopper, who was one of the honorees. Of the late Rear Admiral he said, "If Wright is flight and Edison is light, then Hopper is code." Ha! I paused to process that. So sleek. He went on, "... Hopper followed her mother into mathematics, earned her PhD from Yale, and set out on a long and storied career ... She saw beyond the boundaries of the possible, and invented the first compiler, which allowed programs to be written in regular language and then translated for computers to understand. While the women who pioneered software were often overlooked, the most prestigious award for young computer scientists now bear her name. From cell phones to cyber command, we can thank Grace Hopper for opening programming to millions more people, helping to usher in the information age and profoundly shaping our digital world." What a force! And how about that for honoring the legacy of someone's light years after they had passed on? I love it! Yes #womenintech.

Margaret Hamilton was another one that made me proud. A pioneer in software engineering also (yes #womenintech), she wrote code for NASA- getting America on the moon. About her, Obama said, "Her love of exploration and innovation are the source code of the American spirit, and her genius has inspired generations to reach for the stars." And the next time he'd talk about her, he would say, “... her example speaks of the American spirit of discovery that exists in every little girl and little boy who know that somehow, to look beyond the heavens is to look deep within ourselves, and to figure out just what is possible.” Too profound.

I cracked up so bad when he spoke about Ellen DeGeneres, but there was so much warmth and depth in his words about her, "It's easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law, just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago. Just how important it was not just to the LGBT community, but for all of us to see somebody so full of kindness and light, somebody we liked so much, somebody who could be our neighbor or our colleague or our sister challenge our own assumptions, remind us that we have more in common than we realize, push our country in the direction of justice. What an incredible burden that was to bear. To risk your career like that. People don’t do that very often. And then to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders... And she did pay a price ... for a pretty long stretch of time, even in Hollywood. And yet, today, every day, in every way, Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together, inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time." How heavy and yet beautiful?

Group chat with BFFs whoever cares to listen :D
So many laudable accomplishments in the room, and indeed, watching this event ignited sparks of pride and inspiration for me. Was pure joy to see Michael Jordan, Tom Hanks, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Bruce Springsteen, Robert DeNiro, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar get honored, all of whose work I had enjoyed in my own time (generation). 

But I won't wrap up this post without commenting on the awesome partnership of Bill and Melinda Gates, who were both honorees. Both doing fantastic work together impacting lives with philanthropy and business, serving up serious couple goals. And then talking about Melinda, Pres. Obama said, “Melinda's mom told her an old saying: "To know that even one life has breathed easier because you lived, that is success.” Boom! Some 24K mantra stuff for life!

A couple that reads together? Damn! Legit standards, man!

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