While negotiating the walkway between the store at Paul’s Marina and the dock with my four-year-old granddaughter Phoebe, I was concerned that her small feet might get caught in the space between the slats. So, every time we came to a gap I’d caution, “Be careful, Phoebe.” After the third time, she said, “You don’t have to tell me every time!” I responded with one of my well-worn phrases, Everybody calm down.” To which she retorted, “You calm down, Dee!” 

I loved it! I loved that this little tousled blonde ball of energy had the confidence to take her stand and say, in effect, “I can do it on my own!” Thank heavens for little girls, especially strong ones. Tina rightly suggests that she is the source of Phoebe’s sassy gene. Incidentally, her parents roared when I related this story, surprised but proud that Phoebe spoke out. 

This event occurred about the same time that I was reading “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World,” an inspirational book by Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The Gates Foundation has made huge inroads in empowering women in underdeveloped nations by focusing on family planning, health care and equality in all areas. As Gates writes, “Understanding this link between women’s empowerment and the wealth and health of societies is crucial for humanity. If you want to lift up humanity, empower women. It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high-leverage investment you can make in human beings.” 

Not surprisingly, Melinda Gates is no fan of the current administration under Donald Trump, a man whose “concern” for women’s rights is reflected in his own braggadocio. As she notes, “This administration is using policy to shrink the conversation, suppress voices and allow the powerful to impose their will on the poor.” I can’t resist adding that the Trump Foundation was dissolved, having been shown to be just one more effort by Donald Trump and his family to enrich themselves at the expense of the gullible, the naive and the weak. 

Later in the book, she writes, “Love is what lifts us up. When we come together, we rise. And in the world we’re building together, everyone rises. No one is exploited because they’re poor or excluded because they’re weak. There is no stigma and no shame and no mark of inferiority because you’re sick, or because you’re old, or because you’re not the ‘right’ race, or because you’re the ‘wrong’ religion, or because you’re a girl or a woman. There is no wrong race or religion or gender. We have shed our false boundaries. We can love without limits. We see ourselves in others. We see ourselves as others. That is the moment of lift.” 

As an interesting side note, Melinda describes in her book the efforts it took to claim her own space in her marriage to Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, and in the running of the Foundation. Their marriage works well, and Bill Gates stands right with his wife in the Foundation’s work; she even describes him as being brought to tears in hearing the stories of some of the world’s poorest and most oppressed women. 

I applaud Melinda and Bill Gates in their efforts to empower women and enhance humanity in the process. Maybe my granddaughter Phoebe will work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the future. She already possesses all the right stuff. 

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]. 

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