Being the 4th of July holiday weekend, I thought I would speak about the freedom to be who we choose to be. The one and only You. Regardless of outside conditions, circumstances and constraints, we all have the ability to choose and live our life the way we want to.
Yes, it takes courage, it takes persistence and determination. It takes what some may call, work. It may take overcoming many or a few challenges, hardships, illnesses, struggles, shortfalls and lack. However, we have the power to change and transform our life. We are free to be who we want to be. We create the thoughts we think and decide to live by.
As we were growing up, we learned so much from our parents, siblings, family and friends. Some of us had role models that encouraged us to be ourselves, some of us may not have. I give thanks that I was encouraged to be me and allowed to go after my dreams my way. And regardless of how you were brought up, you can stop being controlled by stereotypical thoughts and create your life the way you want to be. No one can take that away from you. You have the freedom to be You.
I recall being impacted by the Free to Be…You and Me children’s initiative conceived, created and executive produced by the actress, Marlo Thomas. The original idea to create the album began when she wanted to teach her then young niece Dionne about life; in particular that it is acceptable to refute or reject the gender stereotypes expressed in children’s books of the period. In an Emmy Legends interview Thomas explains:
I told my sister Terre “it would take Dionne 30 years to get over it (stories featuring traditional gender roles) the same as it took all of us. We need to find her some different books to read” and she said “You go and find them.” Well there weren’t any. And not only weren’t there any, I was in the bookstore one day looking around and found this one (picture book – I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl by Whitney Darrow Jr.) that showed a pilot on one page and a stewardess on a facing page (with a caption) that said “Boys are pilots, girls are stewardesses.” Well, I nearly had a heart attack right there in the bookstore. So I said “I’ll make a record for Dionne. I’ll ask everybody to donate their talents and it’ll be fun.”
Produced in collaboration with the Ms. Foundation for Women, it was a record album and illustrated book first released in November 1972 featuring songs and stories sung or told by celebrities of the day.
Marlo Thomas interviewed and asked her friends what would they wish they had been told as a child. From those wishes came the songs that would inspire all children and adults with relevant important lessons to be learned. Be You.
2 years later, in March of 1974 came an ABC television special using poetry, songs, sketches and dance. The basic concept was to encourage post-1960’s gender neutrality, saluting values such as individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one’s identity. A major thematic message is that anyone – whether a boy or a girl – can achieve anything. The show won an Emmy and a Peabody, the book became #1 on the New York Times best-seller list and the record went gold. Marlo Thomas said, “We were floored by the impact it all had. My little message for Dionne had gone straight to the hearts of moms and dads and aunts and uncles and, most of all, teachers, who embraced it as a way to teach the kids in their lives a new way of thinking about themselves.”
What a gift! Thank you Marlo Thomas.
With Light and Love and Freedom to be You and Me,