Last Friday morning, the Ann Richards School was overflowing with supporters, parents, and current and former students and faculty. This large group was gathered to announce the official groundbreaking for our new school as well as to celebrate the successes achieved and the ones to come. And, of course, to thank all of those who helped our community reach the place we are today. Following a performance by the Tiarra Girls, a sister trio made up of Ann Richards alumni Tiffany (class of 2016), Sophia (class of 2017), and current student Tori Baltierra (12), opening remarks from seniors, Litzy Santana Trujillo and Almina, speeches from Ann Richards board members, Principal Kris Waugh, and the AISD president and superintendent, it was time to hear from the visiting groundbreaking women.
These recognized individuals including former ARS Principal; Jeanne Goka, Chair Emeritus for the ARS Foundation; Ellen Richards, Vice President of Girls and Women Strategy at the United Nations Foundation; Michelle Morse, and AISD CFO; Nicole Conley. This power team each took turns standing in front of the crowd to share their experiences as women leaders in the workplace and offer advice that would’ve helped them as young girls. This was a touching moment for all that brought tears to the eyes of many, and while each speaker had something beautiful to share, it was Michelle Morse that brought the house down. With grace, kindness, and a little bit of humour, Michelle Morse delivered a spectacular speech that we here at the Polaris Press believe should be shared with all the students and faculty that weren’t able to attend.
Please note that the following speech is published as it was originally typed, as it was to be performed.
WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE, I WAS IN A TERRIBLE RUSH TO SUCCEED … TO PROVE, TO REFUTE, TO OVERCOME, TO GROW UP, TO CONQUER … AND, HONESTLY, AT EVER INCREASING AND UNSUSTAINABLE VELOCITY.
I WAS ALWAYS UP TOO LATE, AND OUT THE DOOR TOO EARLY … MY BELLY NEVER FULL … BUT MY HAIR FULL OF HOT ROLLERS, MY BAGS FULL OF PROJECTS … AND MY BRAIN FULL OF WORRY.
MY ADVICE IS THIS … DON’T DO THAT … AT LEAST NOT ALL THE TIME. I DON’T RECOMMEND IT. HERE’S WHY.
LOOKING BACK, I THINK I WAS TRYING OUTRUN AND JUST OUTRIGHT HURDLE EVERY TIRED EXPECTATION I’D BEEN HANDED ABOUT WHAT A WOMAN COULD OR SHOULD BE.
SO, HAD I THE ABILITY TO SLOW HER DOWN LONG ENOUGH FOR A CONVERSATION, I WOULD REMIND THAT GIRL THAT NO WOMAN EXISTS SOLELY TO PLEASE EVERYONE ELSE. TO CONFORM TO CONVENIENT STEREOTYPES. TO SERVE THE WHIMS AND WILL OF OTHERS. TO BE MORE PERFECT AND LESS BRAVE. TO EXPECT LESS FROM LIFE OR HER FUTURE BECAUSE OF HER GENDER.
AND I WOULD TELL HER WHAT SHE ALREADY KNEW … THAT THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT HER GENDER THAT RENDERS HER LESS CAPABLE … OF ANYTHING … OR LESS WORTHY … OF EQUAL PAY, EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, EQUAL RELATIONSHIPS, EQUAL LEISURE, EQUAL AGENCY, EQUAL JOY.
I WANT YOU TO FULLY ABSORB AND EVEN TAKE FOR GRANTED THESE TRUTHS … TUCK THEM IN YOUR POCKET. AND HENCEFORTH … DON’T WASTE ANY OF YOUR PRECIOUS TIME QUESTIONING YOUR VALUE, YOUR WORTH, YOUR RIGHT TO THRIVE IN LARGER FREEDOM. AND DON’T SQUANDER ANY OF YOUR ENERGY ON PEOPLE WHO DON’T ACKNOWLEDGE, HONOR AND DEFEND YOUR EQUALITY, YOUR HUMANITY.
USE YOUR NEW-FOUND FREE TIME TO STRIVE AND SUCCEED IN YOUR OWN WAY AND ON YOUR OWN TERMS … AND THEN CLAIM THE RIGHT TO BASK IN OUR MODERN SOCIETY’S ONLY REAL ACHIEVEMENTS … THE ONES THAT NO OTHER PERSON AND NOTHING ON YOUR PHONE CAN GIVE YOU … SOLITUDE AND LEISURE AND SELF-DETERMINATION …. ALL OF WHICH ARE TOO OFTEN DENIED TO WOMEN IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.
IN OTHER WORDS … PLEASE … RESIST THE INCESSANT PULL OF VELOCITY WHEN YOU CAN … AND CLAIM YOUR RIGHT TO … READ A NOVEL, CONTEMPLATE A PAINTING, RIDE A BIKE FOR FUN, WATCH THE SUNSET, OR TAKE A TRIP, OR A NAP.
THE GIRL I WAS … THAT’S WHAT SHE’D WANT FOR HERSELF AND FOR YOU IN AN ALL TOO SHORT LIFE.
THAT, AND TO EARN ONE DAY THE PROFOUND PRIVILEGE OF REPRESENTING AND CHAMPIONING YOU … THE STARS OF THE ANN RICHARDS SCHOOL … AND THE SINGULAR OPPORTUNITY TO SEE YOU BREAK NEW GROUND … TO REJECT THE OLD BOUNDARIES … TO OUTSMART AND OUTLAST THEM.
Speech courtesy of Michelle Morse.