9/11 Victim Was Model for Ethic of Generosity

I received this inspiring letter ten years ago from a woman whose mother died on 9/11. America needs Valerie Hanna’s ethic of generosity today–read on:

On September 11, 2001, my mother, Valerie Joan Hanna, Senior Vice President, Technology, at Marsh and McLennan was killed on the 97th floor of tower One. She was a women’s right activist, who started as a single mom with two of her own, on adopted, and somewhere around 17 foster children over the years.

She worked her way up the corporate ladder, a key punch operator, hitting glass ceiling after glass ceiling, changing jobs often, moving on to companies with a higher glass ceiling, ending up as a Vice President of one of the largest multinational insurance firms.

We started with government cheese, but even as she earned more money, rather than living the “good life” she helped more people and children get out of poverty. She provided each of us with an education to each of our individual abilities.

She was a very staunch reproductive rights supporter. Thank you for the work you do.

In peace, Lydia J. Robertson

That Lydia took the time to write her letter to thank me took my breath away. So I called her to thank her.

She said she had written because she wanted to document how strongly her mother believed and passed along to her children that the ability to control one’s fertility and economic well being are inextricably linked. She very kindly allowed me to print her letter in the book I was writing at the time, Behind Every Choice Is a Story.

I’ve always been convinced of the power of story telling. Rereading Lydia’s description of her mother today, a few days after President Obama’s jobs speech, was especially moving. I’d like for the greedy opposition to “government cheese” or any kind of hand up to honor the memory of those who died on 9/11 by adopting Valerie Hanna’s spirit of responsibility and generosity.


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.