It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love the movies. I love the smell of the theater, the sometimes uncomfortable seats, and the hustle and bustle that evening at the movies can sometimes produce. But more than anything, I love the way the stories are told. Sometimes they are fantasy, sometimes animated, sometimes dramatic, sometimes romantic, sometimes scary (I don’t enjoy those…), and sometimes they are real and raw. Movies can tell the stories of those who came before us that have been forgotten and encourage us to look back at our history so that we can see where we have been and what has brought us to today.
Yesterday afternoon, I watched one of those real and raw movies, I saw “The Post.” I must admit when the trailer first came out, I found it intriguing but I really wanted to see the movie because two of favorite performers were acting in it: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. I didn’t realize when I walked into the theater and sat down in the surprisingly comfortable seat that the next two hours would not only capture my imagination but make me grieve the many parts of history that I didn’t know.
Knowing my love of story, you can probably guess that I love to read. I have read many history books, biographies, and autobiographies just to be able to soak up stories of real-life people. You see, I believe, history tells us where we have been, how we have gotten here, and sometimes it can tell us where we must go from here. As I watched this film play out in front of me, I tried to find in my memory this story. I tried to think back on all of the history classes that I have taken over my lifetime and the books that I have read, and I could not place this story and it grieved me. By the end of the film, one thought was in my mind, “It is because of this woman and women like her that I have the ability to do what I do. It is because of their willingness to give of themselves to risk everything that they had for something they believed in.” Why do we only hear about these stories once Hollywood decides to write a screenplay about their life?
Yes, this film was a film that was probably a little bit dramatized but it told the story of one woman who was willing to risk her entire company and her life for something that she believed in. Growing up, I heard that women fought for their rights, that they fought for the right to vote, for the right to work, for the right to have equal pay (something that we still work for), and in the church, for the right to be ordained. But I didn’t grow up in the time that this story of Katherine Graham actually existed, so to me, it has always just been a story, been a part of who I am, yes, but a story nonetheless. But yesterday, as I watched the difficulty and the way that Katherine was treated, not just by her adversaries but by those whom she called friends, it allowed me to grasp just a moment of what it was like. It allowed me to see just how much she was risking. It made me think about all that I have taken for granted in my life. I took for granted that I was able to be educated and receive a college degree; I have taken for granted that I have the ability to vote; I have taken for granted the fact that I could be an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. While Katherine Graham may not have directly affected any of these things, it is because of people like Katherine Graham that I can take these things for granted, not that I should.
I stated earlier that I didn’t grow up living in that time, I didn’t have to fight for any of my rights, I didn’t have to fight for my ordination, but I have friends who did. I have friends who like Katherine Graham, gave all that they had so that I and so many others could. And it is those friends and Katherine Graham that I have to thank. Thank you for being willing to teach those who would come after you how to stand up for what you believe in, even if it means risking your job, your company, your relationships, or even your life.
Katherine Graham was a pioneer. She, along with other women set a precedent that would lead us to where we are today. While I didn't grow up in that time, I am growing up in this time and even in the last 30 years, I have watched the roles of women change and I can see that there is still a long way to go, and it makes me wonder, do I have the courage to give of myself for something I believe in? Would I have been willing to say, “publish it,” knowing that I could lose everything? Will I have the courage to stand even when others say I shouldn't? May we not take for granted that which has been gifted to us by the many others that have come before us. May we live in such a way that their gift isn’t forgotten or taken for granted, but celebrated.
Thank you, Katherine Graham.