A Review of “One Day, All Children”

Before I sound like I completely condemn Wendy Kopp and all that she’s done in the field of education, I want to stress that I think Kopp has a very noble goal and (most of) her ideas were really inspring and resourceful in connecting an answer to a need. My biggest issue with “One Day, All Children” was the book itself—I had trouble moving past was the fact that I couldn’t tell what the purpose of this book was. I vacillated from, on one hand, thinking it’s an autobiography of Wendy’s experience with Teach for America, and on the other hand thinking it’s a book she wrote as a guide to inspire and mobilize young people around new ideas they have. Those were the two main goals I came up with when trying to understand the goal of the book, and maybe Kopp was trying to do both, but I have to say, unfortunately I don’t think Wendy achieved either objective.

“One Day, All Children” did not feel like an autobiography to me. While reading the book, I was often really frustrated with the lack of personal reflection Wendy included. For example, I was in awe of how, even as a recent graduate, she was somehow able to hold her own in meetings with top executives of Fortune 500 companies and senior people in the foundation world. She acknowledges her amazement at how these meetings came together, but she doesn’t reflect very much on how she gained the skills and confidence to lead a meeting with professionals, make a pitch about her organization, and firmly convince people to support her. For example, at one point Wendy recounts how she didn’t plan to leave a certain CEO’s office until he agreed to give some money to Teach for America, all with a pretty “matter-of-fact” tone like it was the most natural thing to do.

I was left wondering how on earth she gained the skills and the confidence to do all of this work with seasoned experts in various fields. It isn’t until roughly midway through the book that Wendy mentions that she is naturally an introvert, and that she had to learn people skills and conversation skills from one of her co-workers at Teach for America. This was a point that I was personally interested in because I consider myself an introvert in some situations. However, instead of thinking deeply about how she worked on this personal trait, she simply says that watching the coworker helped her get over her introversion. I can’t imagine overcoming that characteristic was that easy, and she doesn’t go into detail about how she learned to not only to feel comfortable simply conversing with others, but also feel confident making “asks” and inspiring confidence in adults. Kopp does little deep reflection about other issues that one would think were important to her, such as how TFA became increasingly professionalized and how she dealt with the fact that there was such little diversity early on in the organization. Reading about her honest personal experience with each of these issues would have made the book that much more meaningful.

While Kopp’s book fell short of truly showcasing her personal story, unfortunately I think she was similarly unsuccessful in providing a roadmap of how organizations form and how any young activist can follow her example. Wendy’s book highlights the nearly inhuman amount of work it took to build TFA, and she also stresses the fact that much of TFA’s success is due to a lot of luck. It is important to acknowledge the role good fortune has, but if Wendy’s goal is to inspire others to believe that they can act on their ideas too, her method of framing TFA in this book might not be the best way. I don’t mean to diminish the huge amount of work that many people did to make TFA what it is, but the ultimate takeaway I had from the book is that things often miraculously work out and funding will somehow come through at the last minute. While I’m happy that TFA had such good fortune, I am not convinced that that can happen for everyone.

If a reader is trying to get a sense of how organizations are started and what stages of growth they go through, they wont find that information in this book because Wendy doesn’t deeply address many of the nuts and bolts issues. For example, Kopp glosses over the fact that TFA’s pay structure changed from being egalitarian to more hierarchical. She simply says that it was a consultant’s suggestions, and doesn’t deal with the internal struggle she must have had when giving up this idealistic structure to be more professionalized and mainstream.

“One Day, All Children” was certainly a fascinating read, and I was on the edge of my seat at some points, wondering along with Wendy if their funding would come through from week to week. However, if I were trying to learn more about Wendy as a person or about her organization’s growth and structure, I would be somewhat disappointed on both accounts, for Wendy does not discuss many of the personal and professional obstacles she faced in enough depth.


Who gets left behind?

Reading about the LBGTQ rights movement this past week only added to the realization I often had this past summer during The Moxie Project—coordinating and building a social movement that seeks justice both in it’s own organization and the wider society is so much harder than I ever realized. Some of the lessons important to social movements that I gleaned from our readings this week include the effectiveness of coalitions, the need for a sense of urgency to effect real change, and the need to use all opportunities—even one’s opposition—to forward the movement. Lastly, above all, the readings reinforced the necessity of true solidarity among different segments of the population in order to achieve change that benefits some people without oppressing others.

It was especially heartening to read Suzanne Pharr’s comparison of the LGBTQ rights movement of the late 60’s and the movement in the late 90’s, for I felt that she really hit on some of the characteristics that are necessary in any truly just movement. She writes about how the LGBTQ community must learn from the experiences during the Stonewall era and seek solidarity among queer people and people of color, support queer youth, fight for economic justice, and break down the gender binary. Even though some of these issues, such as class and the gender binary, may seem disparate, Pharr urges activists and the LGBTQ population to see connections among their varying struggles and view their liberation as “bound up” with all other oppressed peoples.

To me, Pharr’s ideas are incredibly necessary, but I can see how they become hard to implement, especially when reflecting on the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the activism around this issue. The repeal of DADT was officially implemented this past week, and seeing a fellow member of the Duke community blog about his desire to serve in the military and his experiences as a bisexual male in the ROTC program made the issue feel even closer to home. However, as I did some further research about DADT’s repeal, my excitement about this major step in LGBTQ rights waned a little bit because I soon found that transgender members of the military still face being discharged from the military if this aspect of their identity is discovered.

Transgender individuals are still seen as “unfit to serve” because they “may be considered medically unfit because of Gender Identity Disorder” and/or if they have had “genital surgery” (Transequality.org). Thus, even though the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” represents a huge step for LGB individuals, transgender folks continue to be left out of such progress. I think it’s too soon to tell if LGBTQ rights groups will continue to fight for transgender individuals’ right to serve openly in the military. I worry that securing this right for LGB people will be enough to appease the movement so that the issue (as it pertains to transgender people) will be conveniently “forgotten” for now. However, knowing that activists such as Suzanne Pharr and countless others in the LGBTQ movement understand the necessity of true solidarity gives me hope that transgender rights will not continue to come second to LGB rights.

Lessons Learned

Lillie interned at Third Wave Foundation this summer.

I learned so much this summer—about myself, living and working with others, and the non-profit community—it is hard to isolate only a few learning experiences for this blog post! Overall, reading about feminism, the ideals feminists profess, and the ways feminists act on their beliefs, has shown me how to think critically about social movements, activism, and how to create social change. Before The Moxie Project, I did not always think to question activists and non-profits—I guess I always assumed that they were simply trying to “help” people and serve others, so how can this be a negative thing? I have learned that, even when an activist’s motives come from a good place, it is still always important to think critically about the work being done and not take activism and service at face value. Even though it can be hard to come to terms with one’s privilege and recognize the mistakes one might be making in their activism, it is necessary to confront these issues to create a movement built by people in true solidarity. Prior to participating in the Moxie Project, I would have never considered the many layers to social movements and non-profit work.

I have also appreciated the moments where our readings connected with my internship and made my work experience all the more meaningful. I especially enjoyed reading about how feminism influences the way one can structure a non-profit and organize the power dynamics of a group. Seeing firsthand the way the our different organizations dealt with hierarchy, power dynamics, and other structural factors showed me how such decisions can have far reaching implications for how the non-profit functions and contributes to social change. For example, the role of an organization’s board can be especially complex, for its role in an organization often dictates who can be on the board and how they can contribute. The issue of how feminist organizations structure themselves (and how this can change over time) was far more complicated than I had ever imagined, and being able to see the different methods of organizing through our internships helped me understand the implications these decisions have.

Lastly, as an incoming senior, I wish I could say that this summer has set me on a specific path for my future, but unfortunately I’m still pretty undecided about the next phase of my life. However, even though I still don’t have a set career path, my experiences this summer have opened my mind to the many ways one can be involved in the feminist movement. I used to see involvement in social movements as very black and white—either you’re working for a non-profit and supporting social change, or you aren’t at all. Reading about and discussing the many ways we can attack issues has demonstrated to me that feminists who will push the movement forward are needed in every field, from banking to church work to politics. Working solely through non-profits or solely through the government will not create lasting, all-encompassing change. Rather, we need people in all sectors of society to push for gender justice, and I think The Moxie Project has given me the tools to do just that, in whatever field I choose.

Mrs. President

Lillie is interning at Third Wave Foundation this summer.

Do we need a female president? Does having a female president matter?

These are two questions that I struggled with last week, when we focused on women in government and politics. When I reflect on these issues, a couple of different levels of complexity emerge in my answers. First, let me just say, yes. We do need a female president. At the very least, having a female president would mean bringing a new perspective to the position. Like many people, I think it is very important that our leaders come from diverse backgrounds, and it is clearly impossible to achieve this goal if we only elect men.

However, to me, the obvious next question is, if we need a female president, which woman should it be? Can it be any woman, regardless of her political views? Does she have to be a feminist? These may seem like obvious questions with straightforward answers, but it gets somewhat confusing for me, especially when women like Sarah Palin claim the title “feminist.” I have relatively liberal political views, especially regarding social issues such as a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, trans health issues and more. So, to use the abortion issue as an example, electing a right wing, anti-choice woman to be president is not appealing to me, even if it means achieving the goal of having a woman in office. I hate to sound judgmental, like I am trying to define how “feminist” other women are, but at the same time, I do not think someone can be anti-choice and a feminist. Thus, I would not support an anti-choice candidate, no matter what their gender is, because having a woman in office is not as important to me as having a president who takes feminist issues seriously and supports the feminist movement.

Thinking about whether having a female national role model matters is an equally tricky issue. On the surface, I think it does matter. As Rebecca Traister writes in her book, Girls Don’t Cry, it was an incredibly significant moment when Sarah Palin immediately turned to pick up her young child on national television after a key debate. While I’m sure this act was partly meant to gain goodwill for Palin, even for a woman who is absolutely not a Palin supporter, Traister writes how that moment was extremely powerful and profound. Having a female president (or better yet, having more women in high profile government positions in general) is essential because it will hopefully broaden Americans’ view of what a powerful person looks like, break down stereotypes about how women lead, and implicitly encourage other young women to view themselves as leaders because having women in power will not be seen as an unusual, unnatural thing.

Even while I see the real effects having a female national role model can have, I still strongly believe that feminism’s goals cannot be achieved only by having feminist women at the top. Rather, change also needs to be come from the common people and the corporate world. Now the question is, how do we make change happen? How can we all bring change to whatever sector or environment we find ourselves in?

Social Change

Lillie is a rising Senior and she is interning at Third Wave Foundation. Third Wave is a feminist foundation that provides funds for grassroots organizations with a focus on women’s and transgender issues.

One of our major topics of discussion for this week was how money will shape our involvement in social change. This is kind of scary for me to think about, especially considering my almost-complete obliviousness when it comes to personal finances. I am very blessed to have had a comfortable lifestyle growing up. I was lucky to not even have to really think about money very much, and I think this has lead, in part, to an embarrassing lack of knowledge about basic information relating to money—like, how much money is enough for one person to live on? What would a “comfortable” salary be? How much does it cost to live in a house with utilities, internet, etc.? An apartment? And how much should one budget for groceries, restaurants, clothing, and other needs and wants? (any suggested reading or general advice about how you, readers, figured these things out as a young adult are welcome!)

Because of my almost complete lack of knowledge about these things, it was hard for me to realistically answer the question, “how will money shape your involvement in social change.” After reflecting on some aspects of life that are important to me, I have come to the tentative conclusion that I do not think I could be involved in the women’s movement by working at a feminist non-profit and also live the life that I want to (unless I were married, maybe). Some aspects of my life that are important to me include having at least two children, traveling widely, and living a in a city (which, I’m learning, can be quite expensive!).

While I don’t exactly know what the common salary is at a non-profit, and I’m sure it varies, I have a feeling that it isn’t enough to cover all of the things I want to do. However, I am learning through the Moxie Project that, just because I can’t work directly at a feminist non-profit, doesn’t mean I can’t be involved in the women’s movement and social change. Two alternative forms of involvement that come to mind include philanthropy and fundraising. If I am able to create a lifestyle like the one I’ve grown up with, I definitely plan to give money to organizations like Third Wave Foundation.

One thing I’ve learned while being at Third Wave is that anyone can be a philanthropist, even before achieving a high-level, well-paid job. Prior to working at Third Wave, when I thought of philanthropists, a vision of older, wealthy, white people came to mind. I also imagined fundraising events to entail wealthy people inviting their similarly-wealthy friends to fancy cocktail parties at their expensive homes and encouraging attendees to donate to the organization being honored that particular night. Learning about Third Wave’s donor base has taught me that, even though the model I just described is still valuable and important for many organizations, philanthropy and fundraising can include a much wider variety of people and events.

To use myself as an example, I have definitely been known to spend too much money on designer jeans. Even though I do not consider myself to be incredibly wealthy, if I am okay with spending close to $200 on jeans, I can definitely spare some of my allowance and income for a feminist organization’s cause. When I enter post-college life next year, as long as I make enough money to be relatively comfortable living on my own, I will make philanthropy a priority in my life. I can also see myself emulating some of the more accessible styles of fundraising that Third Wave has demonstrated to me. This can include inviting younger people to an event with donated drinks and hors d’oeuvres, educating them about the organization the event is for, and asking them to each give $10-20. In addition to allowing me to continue to be involved in the women’s movement in a way that makes sense for my life, I believe that an event as simple as the one described can also spread awareness, empower others to view themselves as philanthropists, and ultimately build a movement.

I realize that the plans I just described all require me to have a secure, decently paying job, which is still pretty up in the air. Moreover, thinking about alternative ways to stay involved in the movement still makes me question if simply giving money and educating others is enough involvement. At this point, I can’t shake the guilty feeling I get when I think about working outside of the women’s movement. How does one reconcile wanting to lead a “comfortable” lifestyle with the pressure to work directly within the feminist movement? The Moxie Project has also started to make me see underlying systems that perpetuate gender oppression and other forms of oppression—is simply giving money enough, even as it becomes clear to me that money cannot address some of the larger struggles we are facing?

A Feminist Future?

Lillie is a rising Senior and she is interning at Third Wave Foundation. Third Wave is a feminist foundation that provides funds for grassroots organizations with a focus on women’s and transgender issues.

I can’t think of one time when I decided to be a feminist. I almost saw it as a “given,” where even if I wasn’t totally sure about its definition, I knew I probably was one. I think part of the reason why feminism felt natural to me is because I grew up in a family that is relatively liberal, and my paternal grandmother was even an activist in the second wave feminist movement. In college, I’ve made amazing friends who have introduced me to the Duke Women’s Center and broadened my understanding of forms of inequality like racism, homophobia, and sexism, so I’ve never felt seriously uncomfortable with calling myself a feminist.

Even as I publicly identify as a feminist, I’m still trying to figure out what it actually means to be a one (hopefully that doesn’t break any rules…). I can definitely tell I’m not completely clear on my own definition because everytime I hear a definition that I like from someone else, I think to myself “Yea! That sounds so right!” but then I’m unable to put their words into my own. I hope this summer, in conjunction with our Moxie Project classes about women’s history, feminism, and activism, helps me find my own definition—even though I’m sure it will change as I grow.

As a soon-to-be senior, I am entering a time in my life when considering careers and starting job searches is about to get real. One specific aspect of my definition of feminism keeps coming up as I think about my future—how do I want to live out my feminism? To me, acting on one’s feminism when sexism arises in everyday life and publicly identifying as a feminist are integral to “living out” one’s feminist beliefs. But lately I’ve been wondering if being a feminist requires one to go further than that. Does identifying as a feminist necessitate being active in the women’s movement? What does it even mean to be an activist in the women’s movement? And how should all of these questions influence my ever-approaching job search?

As my family and friends know, my ideas about future careers encompass a huge range of fields and my preferences change from week to week. My hope for this summer is to not only do my best to support Third Wave Foundation, but also to gain some direction—or at least some understanding—of what I want my future to look like and how (or if?) my feminist ideals can be integrated into my career path.