role models

In memoriam: Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison and Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC

Toni Morrison and Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC

Last summer, I went to the National Portrait Gallery to see Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama. While there, I was struck by her placement near Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. Morrison’s painting by Robert McCurdy looked so regal and wise. After reading more about Morrison’s lifework, I found that she is admired as much for her work as for her empowerment of other writers as an editor for Random House and as a public figure.

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.'

-Toni Morrison, as told to Pam Houston in Oprah

When I took this photo, I thought of all of the mentors in my life. May we all live long and meaningful lives, and like Toni share our freedom and power with people who need a lift.