Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The "Aha" Moment: Guest Post by Marion Reinson

This is a guest post by my friend Marion Reinson. Thank you, Marion!

If you were able to attend the WIBA Women of Achievement Awards breakfast last week you had the good fortune to hear one of the honorees, Barbara Fox, speak about the special “AHA!” moments in her life; those moments when you realize the purpose of why you were put on this earth. If you missed the event, allow me to share with you what Barbara shared.

Barbara is 73 years old and holds an English degree from Duke University. She’s married to George Fox. That morning was my first time meeting George, and the love shared between the two is palpable – you can feel it from the way they look at one another.

Barbara is the mother of 3 wonderful children.

What many of you probably already knew about Barbara is that she is focused and determined. She decided, in 1976 while staying at home with her three children, to become a published journalist by writing a story about Elizabeth Dole for the Baltimore Sun. Barbara seized the moment when Bob Dole was nominated as a vice presidential candidate. Elizabeth Hanford Dole lived on Barbara’s hall in college and Barbara knew that if she was successful in writing a story about Elizabeth, the article would be published and she would become a published journalist. So she set out to scoop the
story of whether Elizabeth Dole would quit her job as a Federal Trade Commissioner, in order to campaign for her husband.

The Sun said ‘yes’ and agreed to pay Barbara $125, with the article due in 2 weeks.

Barbara continued to tell of her own two week experience - a disrupted family vacation, a $165 long distance phone bill (remember those?), conversations with Dole’s roommates, sorority sisters, family members and culminating with a brief, almost meaningless interview with Elizabeth (in true political fashion).  Being $40 in the hole didn’t stop Barbara. Off she trekked to DC, got more interviews, borrowed a typewriter from the federal government and typed the end of the story. She delivered the article to the Sun who changed her pay to $25 and the story was published the next morning.

Elizabeth Dole announced her resignation the next day at noon and Barbara’s career in journalism began.

Ten years later, Barbara got her dream job as the first full time reporter for U.S.1.  “When  others were splitting hairs over whether a business was in Princeton Borough or Township or West Windsor or Monmouth Junction, Richard Rein’s vision for U.S. 1 was to label them all part of a greater Princeton business community.” The paper began as a monthly publication, and the rest, they say, is history. There for nearly twentyfive years, Barbara had the opportunity to speak to everybody – CEOs, entrepreneurs, leaders in the nonprofit world, authors, artists and scientists. They all told their stories to her, in great depth.

Here again, Barbara shared an AHA moment of how childhood experiences - dance, piano, singing, elocution, drama, ice skating lessons and Girl Scouts all helped with the interview process. She shared her experience working in her parents’ cancer research lab. “Flaunting the child labor laws, when I was six years old, I was helping take care of laboratory mice.” When Barbara interviewed a person for an article, she very likely knew their language and could relate to the subject matter.

At 73, Barbara’s still going strong. Semi-retired and continuing to make those valued introductions through the Princeton Chamber, as well as at the Princeton United Methodist Church, a enriching and culturally diverse community.

Having grown up in the segregated south, Barbara actively supports the PUMC initiative co-founded by her cousin Ann Yasuhara, “Not in Our Town” an interracial, interfaith social justice group focused on combatting prejudice and racial bias in Princeton.

Another Aha moment occurred at a NIOT workshop on “White Privilege” – a tough topic. “Not in Our Town” was created to initiate these difficult conversations. One such conversation is focused on the inequities of the criminal justice system as told in the book, The New Jim Crow, which discusses how black men get sent to prison, and for the same crimes, white men go free.

I always appreciate and enjoy Barbara’s company and her unique perspective on the world. After having the privilege of listening to her share her life’s experiences, I cherish her even more. I wanted to share her speech with you because I felt that many of you would appreciate her stories and Aha moments as much as I did. Thank you, Barbara, for being you - a wonderful and caring human being who’s not afraid to speak her mind.

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