Simone Biles, Melinda French Gates, Kamala Harris advise women

I’m USA TODAY Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll and this is The Backstory, a look at our biggest stories of the week. If you would like to receive The Backstory in your inbox every week, sign up here.

Here’s the thing about successful women: so many have achieved great things because of adversity, not despite it.

They have faced challenges or setbacks that have made them fight harder and dig deeper. They have used that knowledge, that courage, to do great things in their fields or in their communities.

That’s certainly true of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year. We shared their stories during March, Women’s History Month. We’ve compiled their insights into a special video show, and you can hear them on a series of podcasts next week.

Here are some of my favorite lessons from this year’s awardees:

What is your definition of courage?

Melinda French Gates, Global Advocate for Women and Girls:

“Knowing you’re going to get into something really tough and doing it anyway. Whether it’s a difficult meeting, a bold conversation, or using your voice. For me it was using my voice on some things that might not have been that popular or people wouldn’t like me or have a different opinion.

“Like the first time I talked about birth control. I believe in them, we use them in the United States, but I’m Catholic too. And the Catholic Church does not necessarily condone condoms or birth control. So I had to learn to just go ahead and use my voice for what I knew was true because I had heard it from so many women around the world where I met with them and they said : “Are you kidding? Can I no longer get contraceptives in this small health clinic? Don’t you see, I have too many children. It’s a life and death situation for me. I can’t feed my kids.'”

Kizzmekia Corbett, helped develop the COVID-19 vaccine and saved millions of lives:

“Faith’s little sister. Courage is the strength to do what faith says you must do.”

Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance:

“I’m really thinking about doing the right thing, if nobody’s listening, if you don’t have an audience, if it’s just you and you’re not being influenced, you know, will I get a promotion? will i show up on social media? Did I say the right thing?”

Simone Biles, all-time top gymnast and mental health advocate:

“I think it would be to believe in yourself and no matter what you do, you’re on your own. For me I’ve always been very open and I’ve always tried to stay true to myself between fame and gymnastics, awards, whatever that is. But I’ve always believed in being able to stand on my own two feet. And if I ever set my mind to something, it’s to strive not to change, to have the courage to say something, to say something, even if you’re the only one doing it. Because it can be very daunting, especially with today’s social media.

USA TODAY’s Women of the Year: Get to know all honorees

What advice would you give your younger self?

Cheryl Horn, Missing Indigenous Women Attorney in Montana:

“Love yourself more. You grew up as a brown girl with dreams and hopes. You have to do things that make you feel good because teenage years are the most important years in a girl’s life. If I could do it all over again, I “would say to myself, ‘You are stronger than you think and the path ahead is so great. It’s all up to you. Today is not the rest of your life.’ … This is but a small page in your whole book of life.’ “

Linda Zhang, Chief Engineer behind the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning:

“I think I would tell myself not to sweat so much over the little things. I think one of the things that comes with getting older is that perspective and real understanding that there are a lot of things to get stressed about when you’re young that at the end of the day it’s really just little potatoes. And to focus on the big things, to focus on what, in this case, makes me happy and to strive for it.”

Nina Garcia, editor-in-chief of Elle magazine:

“Say yes to the opportunities that come your way. I think sometimes we’re so afraid to risk something that makes us nervous or uncomfortable because we don’t know how to do it, right? An opportunity might come up and you’re like, no, I don’t know how to do that, I’ll say no.

“I think say yes because those are the opportunities that really make you grow. These are the opportunities worth investigating. The ones that make your stomach crawl and then make you nervous and doubt you. say yes, say yes This is an opportunity to learn.”

DO YOU KNOW AN INSPIRATIONAL WOMAN? Nominate her as one of USA TODAY’s Next Women of the Year

Do you have a motto or a mantra?

Heather Cox Richardson, author, historian, and professor of American history at Boston College:

“Not a mantra, but there is certainly a guiding principle. And that is that I firmly believe in human self-determination. I firmly believe that people have the right to choose how they want to live their lives and that democracy is the system of government that best empowers us to do so. is it perfect Absolutely not. Do people always make good decisions? Absolutely not.

“But I believe we have the right to make these decisions. And what’s most important to me is upholding the right of people to make their own decisions about their own lives based on reality, and to try to support democracy as part of that system of empowering people.”

Janet Murguía, President and CEO of UnidosUS, the largest national Hispanic advocacy group in the US:

“My guiding principle is a Spanish word. It’s called ‘adelante’ and means to keep moving forward. Always pushing forward. For me it means never giving up. You can never give up.

“And I think it ultimately reflects my optimism and belief in a bigger, better future and the fact that we have to work towards it. My father had a saying that he shared that I remember often. In Spanish it’s ‘el sol sale para todos.’ He says the sun is out for everyone, but you have to be determined and work to get out there and look for what you want.”

Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, US Department of Health:

“I think the guiding principle would be compassion for others and helping others, serving others and helping others. And that’s what I’ve really always tried to do in all aspects of my life, to consider other people and to make the best of it, I can help them.”

Roopali Desai, Arizona attorney who defended the integrity of the 2020 presidential election:

“Pay it up front. I think I always try to think about doing something because it’s the right thing to do, with the idea that it’ll make things better for all of us later, rather than having a transactional approach to my work. I’m sure there are many times I could have called in a favor to get promoted to a position or a job or a client, but I don’t. I really try to make decisions about the cases I work, the boards I sit on, the activities I participate in, based on whether it’s the right thing to do and whether it will lead to positive or positive development later on .”

Honored Woman of the Year:Diverse stories, similar threads connect them all

Make a statement:Shop our exclusive Women of the Year merchandise collection

What would you like to say to American women?

Kamala Harris, first female Vice President of the United States:

“Know that you are not alone. Know that you have support and know that your voice is strong. It is strong and do not let circumstances diminish it or sap your strength. You are powerful. You are powerful.

“And when we all stand together…then we are our best selves. And continue to let us know that we are not alone. We’re all in this together. And keep doing what you’re doing, because you’ve got an incredible amount of courage from it. You have incredible persuasive powers. You are devoted. So you know this is a sign of strength.

“The measure of strength, I think, isn’t based on who you knock down, it’s based on who you lift. And I know you lift people up every day.

“You are strong.”

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Nicole Carroll is the Editor-in-Chief of USA TODAY. Reach them at [email protected] or Follow her on Twitter here. Thank you for supporting our journalism. Here you can sign up.

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