Team Talk by Chris Stafford

Dear Michelle…

USA Gymnasts

Chris Stafford takes a detour from sport to share some thoughts on the impact one woman has had over the past eight years and to thank her for being a shining light

For the first time in my life I feel the urge to write to a public figure to thank them. It’s a rare experience and one I believe I may follow through with because this woman has moved a nation and inspired generations. Her raison d’être has proved to be a mission to encourage, support and reassure youth but her reach and impact has extended far beyond today’s students. They will look back as adults and remember the time that they were privileged to meet her, that they listened to her championing them in every walk of life, through diversity, and especially as minorities. Her impassioned cries to give us hope and to believe in our future have echoed through the corridors of power, the halls of academia and alleyways of urbanity.

It’s the kind of leadership and inspiration that we all need but especially the youth

She has been an example of how to overcome so many of life’s challenges when you grown up in ordinary circumstances and make your way to a successful future, despite it all, and she has led by example in her position of power and influence. For so many, this has been, and will continue to be, a significant movement for empowering, not just women but all youth, because it’s her life’s work. She has created a momentum that she clearly wants to be maintained, not least of all because of the uncertain political future that lies ahead, not just in Third World countries but in some of the most powerful nations in the world.

At a time when we can look back and be proud of the progress that has been made over the past decade in areas of gender equality, diversity, women’s issues, health, education, natural resources, global warming and the environment to name but a few, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the fabric that was so painstakingly woven is being undone at an alarming rate. Soon so much of our cultural and social progress will be eroded, stamped out, negated at the stroke of a pen. And it may be some time before the balance is restored.

RELATED: Yes, We Have Hope

With this realization has come fear. Fear and apprehension of what lies ahead. So when we watch her emotional plea to have hope and stay strong — when she rallies all, especially youth, to believe in themselves, their values, ambitions, and potential, regardless of what people look like, their faith, their politics and who they love, it sends a current through us all. It’s the kind of leadership and inspiration that we all need, but especially the youth who have watched as their friends, their communities have been brought to their knees through hatred and bigotry. They have to believe that there is a better way but we need to amplify this chorus now more than I can remember. We have to stay strong and empower ourselves.

I recently wrote of the progress in women’s sport and our reason to hope, which was also inspired by this woman. What she has shown us is the importance that this ethos needs to be embraced and championed whatever your race, religion, gender and education. I could go on but I have a letter to write to the First Lady.

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