A Message From The President

December 2019

During this season of cherished celebrations, I am grateful for my Athena sisters who all, with their diverse talents and gifts, make an impact.  Beginning at home – be it with children, grandchildren, spouses, partners, aging parents, neighbors and friends – Athena’s reach is deep and broad. In the larger community, it includes thousands of combined volunteer hours given to community organizations and efforts. Athena members are also driving forces in corporations and non-profits, providing early-through-tertiary education, arts and culture, medicine, finance, law and justice, and governing our civic endeavors.  Athena members are at the forefront of critical leadership in our region, state, and nation, where members advocate to elevate the status of women and to make our communities healthier, safer and stronger. 

In our Fall programs, we have seen the effectiveness of a single person’s actions – from mayors who  are standing up for women to be included in the U.S. Constitution through the Equal Rights Amendment and visionaries promoting the global education of women, to individual Florida journalists working together to report on how communities around the state are meeting the challenges of climate change.

I am reminded of Dr. Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt Movement and 2004 Nobel Laureate, who saw that her mother country of Kenya was devastated by poverty. Those in power were clear-cutting the beautiful forests of Kenya for quick profit and leaving the country decimated with no trees. Without trees, the topsoil would not hold, so crops on farms and seeds in family gardens could not grow. The country was starving. Wangari’s idea for change centered on paying local women a penny for each tree seedling they planted. This evolved into the International Green Belt Movement, with over 51 million trees planted to date. In addition to restoring the land so that crops could grow, those pennies earned by local women became dollars they used to start micro businesses that enabled and empowered them to feed and educate their families. Wangari faced and overcame many challenges, including arrest. She went on to become a national hero and the first woman elected to the Kenyan Parliament. In 2004, the international community honored her with the Nobel Peace Prize. 

When Earth Charter U.S. and USF WLP hosted Wangari to Tampa in 2005, she shared her favorite story about a hummingbird that went something like this:

There was a huge forest being consumed by a fire. All of the animals in the forest came out and watched the forest burning. They felt overwhelmed and powerless – except for a little hummingbird who said, ‘I’m going to do something about this fire!’  

So the hummingbird flew to the nearest stream and took a drop of water. It flew back and dropped it on the fire, then it did it again, and again, back and forth, back and forth, from the water to the forest as fast as it could. 

In the meantime, all the other animals, much bigger animals, stood there baffled. And they said to the hummingbird, ‘What do you think you can do? You are too little. This fire is too big. Your wings are too small and your beak is so tiny that you can only bring a drop of water at a time.’

And without wasting any time, she turned to them and said, ‘I am doing what I can.’ 

One of the gifts that is Athena, is each of us ‘doing what we can,’ then joining arms to create a multiplier effect for positive change. With steadfast commitment, we are elevating the status of women in our communities, through educational scholarships and grants, as well as through our Community Action Committee initiatives on the Equal Rights Amendment, early childhood education, gun safety and pay parity. 

As we celebrate this season of light and joy, thank you to every Athena member for all you are doing, individually and collectively, to make our world better and more equitable for women.