“I will too go back to school!” I exclaimed to my mother after I announced I would be leaving university after my Sophomore year. Mom was, shall we say, anxious for me. She had dropped out of college at 22 to marry my dad in an era when women did that. She had always regretted having an uncompleted education. She was smart, and certainly could have finished. Her choices were complicated by a a honeymoon baby.
Needless to say, my university graduation three years later was a proud moment for me and for them. And three years after that when I received a Masters’ degree.
This week my eldest daughter will graduate from Whitworth University, a small liberal arts school in eastern Washington state. I am so proud that she will become the 2nd Parks woman to make it through the flurry of learning and social drama university grants us. It wasn’t easy. Dorm life for an impressive introvert is rough. Expectations for class performance, lack of sleep, late night conversation at a mostly conservative institution for a girl raised by her left-wing spiritual mama and her bright, always learning father who is quite happy living on the left coast certainly created some moments of clarity and questions and definition. Only a few I have been privy to. And so much more. She has made her way through with grace and determination.
And here she is. Ready to launch!
The past few years I have learned a lot about education and it’s importance on a global scale. Especially for girls and women. The barriers for girls to receive even a primary education are daunting in much of the world. Poverty, lack of birth control, war, violence in the home, cultural mores such as child marriage, trauma from rape and violence (1 in 3 women), structurally reinforced misogyny, unequal pay, are just the start. In the U.S., white women are paid 74 cents to a white male’s dollar. I just heard a statistic about NYC regarding women of color that disgusts me. The study showed that they receive around 60 cents to the dollar.
And yet, when women divorce, which half of them do, they usually never completely recover financially while men remake the income in 3 years and then are back on track.
In the US, a woman with a high school education will work in service jobs that keep her always fighting to make ends meet, at an enormous personal power disadvantage if she partners with a man, and less likely to develop skills that will empower her movement to create change in her way in the world.
So today, as I fly to be with my amazing daughter for her graduation, I am grateful for her determination and focus and faithfulness that allowed her to accomplish this. We do not know what is ahead in life. Life is full of challenges. This will advantage her to realize more of her potential as someone who was born to contribute to the world, her community, her family.The best is yet to be!