The Sum Volume #6: Diverging from Freedom

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis.

Welcome to the Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt.

Word of the week is, as you would guess, freedom.

And it’s also divergence. As in how the country often diverges from the principles of freedom that we celebrate on July 4th.

I’m a sappy patriot. All four of my grandparents immigrated to this country to escape persecution and enjoy the blessings of a free society. I tear up at the sight of the Statue of Liberty even though I’ve seen it thousands of times, and I grew up believing in the words of Emma Lazarus’s poem at its base: “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

So I was especially moved by this commentary by Maria Harper-Marinick, Chancellor of the Maricopa Community Colleges. She sees the US from the perspective of an immigrant who grew up in a dictatorship. “I have a profound appreciation for what the Fourth of July represents. It is a reminder of how an open and inclusive society can thrive when it embraces the diversity of its people and promotes respect and responsibility.”

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #6: Diverging from Freedom”


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Why Everyone Should Celebrate Juneteenth

I recall Juneteenth being widely observed by the local African American community when I was a little girl in Texas. There were barbecues, church services, and speeches, along with a general air of celebration. Today is the 145th anniversary of Juneteenth–June 19, 1865–the date when the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring the end of slavery, finally reached Texas 2 1/2 years late:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in September, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863. There are several versions of why the news traveled so slowly to Texas, a Confederate state, none of them particularly pretty, most having to do with foot dragging shenanigans and entrenched resistance to ending slavery, at least until another cotton picking season had finished.

In any case, this is why Juneteenth was first celebrated in Texas where it became an official state holiday in 1980.

During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, Juneteenth grew from a historical marker primarily recognized in Texas to a day celebrated nationally and even internationally; it has continued to grow in prominence not just in the African American community but across a spectrum of progressive political and social organizations.

Juneteenth’s resonant message can be interpreted many ways. There’s the literal date on which the slaves in Texas were legally freed from their bondage. But for those engaged in social justice work, its meaning is bigger.

First, as Martin Luther King observed,  the arm of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. We don’t have to be patient, but we must take the long view, stay optimistic, and know that change can happen–will happen if we stick with it.

And second, the liberation of anyone is the liberation of everyone.

Juneteenth, with its distinctive and particular African American dialect serves as a reminder to us all that the human aspiration to freedom and justice is universal.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Justice Ginsburg’s Right About Roe, Wrong About Solution

Several people have e-mailed me today to ask what I thought about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments about the Roe v Wade decision in today’s New York Times.

“The court bit off more than it could chew,” Justice Ginsburg said in remarks after a speech at Princeton in October. It would have been enough, she said, to strike down the extremely restrictive Texas law at issue in Roe and leave further questions for later cases.

“The legislatures all over the United States were moving on this question,” she added. “The law was in a state of flux.”

Roe shut those developments down and created a backlash that lasts to this day.

“The Supreme Court’s decision was a perfect rallying point for people who disagreed with the notion that it should be a woman’s choice,” Justice Ginsburg said. “They could, instead of fighting in the trenches legislature by legislature, go after this decision by unelected judges.”

It’s also old news that Ginsburg believes, as many others have said over the years that the Court’s decision in Roe leapfrogged over public opinion that was heading in the prochoice direction anyway, so they should have just waited for the legislative process to work.

Seems to me that if you buy that, then you would also buy the notion that the court should not have decided Brown v Board of Education when they did, and in both cases you would be totally wrong from a social justice perspective.

If your goal is not to upset the applecart, then maybe you could make the argument that Roe was too much too soon. But as they say, justice delayed is justice denied. And pray tell, why should women so often be the ones who are told they should wait?

Ginsburg has long been on record also that she thinks the Roe decision wasn’t a sustainable one because it wasn’t based in women’s rights but in privacy. I agree with her completely on that score and in the interest of efficiency, here’s a link to an article I wrote for Democracy Journal on why Roe was necessary but not sufficient, and why I believe we must build a human rights basis for reproductive justice legally and culturally.

Interestingly, the article in which Ginsburg was quoted about Roe today was relating the “wait till the legislatures catch up with you” the same notion to gay rights an same sex marriage. And it’s just as wrong-headed there as it is in regard to any other civil right, if for no other reason than American citizens shouldn’t have to deal with a patchwork of state laws where some states respect them as equal citizens and some don’t.

And she shares her opinions on why she thinks it is appropriate for the U.S. to consider rulings by foreign courts in its decisions in another Times article today. Perhaps she might want to take a look at Supreme Courts in countries such as Mexico that are increasingly ruling in favor of reproductive rights to see that the U.S. is in good company.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.