Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dorothy I. Height

Transcript of the video (with additional portions):

While in Washington, D.C. this week, I had the incredible opportunity to visit and work in the Dorothy Height building, home to the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women.

I was very much moved by the history of the building and the powerful people who have roamed its halls. I thought about all of the historical conversations and decisions that were made in this place and what an absolute privilege it was to be invited into this energy.

There was a magic in seeing tributes to those that shaped civil rights in our country, including distinguished educators and civil rights leaders Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and of course, Dorothy Irene Height, whose office I’m showing you right now.

Dorothy Height, according to her biography on, was a civil rights and women's rights activist focused primarily on improving the circumstances of and opportunities for African-American women. She was a leader in addressing the rights of both women and African Americans as the president of the National Council of Negro Women. In the 1990s, she drew young people into her cause in the war against drugs, illiteracy and unemployment. The numerous honors bestowed upon her include the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1994) and the Congressional Gold Medal (2004), where President Barack Obama referred to her as the “godmother” of the Civil Rights Movement.

While in this office, I was able to see many of the awards bestowed upon her and see the many pictures of Dorothy with the likes of Tina Turner, Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, Oprah Winfrey, and many others.

I looked out the window at her view and imagined the thinking that happened in this space and how she was inspired to be both a leader and an activist for equality and justice for all.

My only regret as I view these life artifacts is that I never got to meet her. I was overwhelmed with the presence of the past and thinking about what we, as a country, have learned from the sacrifices of the previous generation. In the 21st Century, how modern are we really and how much do we still need to improve?

I imagine the conversation I would potentially have had with Dorothy Height in this office at this moment, and I imagine her being a woman of just a few, but important words: peace and justice. We are all in a better place because of women like Dorothy Irene Height and I feel so blessed to have been offered this glimpse into the life of such an extraordinary woman.