When I was about your age, I travelled to New York City by myself to participate in a United Nations program. There on a tour I was struck by the most beautiful mosaic: Norman Rockwell’s Golden Rule. The message of compassion resonated with me and I was mesmerized by the vivid colors used to portray people of all different cultural backgrounds. It cemented my own resolve to carry this philosophy with me throughout my life. And I used what little spending money I had to buy a poster that hung in my room back home on Cape Cod, came with me to college and found a prominent spot on the wall in my first couple of “grown-up” apartments in Washington, DC and Brooklyn.
It hasn’t always been easy to follow, particularly in highly competitive work environments. However, I’ve always felt proud when I allow the principle of the Golden Rule to guide me as a compass in both my professional and personal dealings. Like Norman Rockwell, I have found in my travels around the world that people of varying backgrounds welcome acts of kindness and words of respect with open hearts. Through that understanding, I’ve been able to establish bonds with colleagues or customers that have led to shared successes.
Still, it’s not enough. As a professional Black woman, you will also need to assert your expectation that this rule is applied by others in how they engage with you. Diversity is widely recognized as a desirable attribute in workplaces and communities. Yet, there’s still work to be done to establish inclusive practices as the norm. Sometimes people may need help understanding how you want to be treated—tell them. It took me a long time to develop my voice in this way. Truth be told, I’m still working on it.
Don’t you hesitate. Be fiercely optimistic when you encounter people who can help you reach worthy goals. Know that your perspective and your talents will enrich them just as much. Have confidence that you deserve all the esteem and generosity you bestow to others.
Never settle for less, and you’ll be golden.
Rebecca Lowell Edwards
Director of Strategic Communications
International Olympic Committee