By: Gail Frances Issue: Vision Section: Collaboration Close Up
Women’s Foundation Luncheon Is A Winning Event
Celebrated tennis player and keynote speaker Martina Navratilova shared personal insights of her challenges and successes at the 24th Annual 2011 Women’s Foundation luncheon. “Think big, be bold, stay focused and accomplish more,” she reminded the audience. And the response to the luncheon confirmed her message. With over 2,000 attendees, the luncheon raised more than $850,000 (gross) for the organization’s mission to help women and girls across the state achieve their full potential. Navratilova’s message was both moving and inspirational. Born in Czechoslovakia, her family lost everything when they immigrated to the United States. Following the footsteps of her tennis playing mother and grandmother Navratilova took up the sport at the tender age of seven. At the encouragement of her father, the young Navratilova learned “to be good, to be bold … to go for it.” She said her father’s dream for her brought her dream to life.
Her touching story infused with loss, perseverance and many challenges kept the audience riveted. She became a citizen of the United States in 1981, “came out” shortly thereafter despite the discouragement of her handlers who warned of career suicide. Risking everything Navratilova decided not to listen to those who placed limitations on her. In her words, coming out as a lesbian woman she ultimately gained things of greater value. She said, “The human spirit thrives on being authentic.” She went on to win 59 Grand Slam Crowns, a record nine Wimbledon singles’ championships, and overcame the odds to become both one of the most successful tennis players ever and an equally successful leader.
An unwavering supporter of women’s rights, Navratilova encouraged the sold out audience to “Fight for rights—all rights—human, animal, women, gay and transgender.” She reminded the audience that the income disparity between men and women still exists, and women still earn only 81 cents on the dollar compared to men. She didn’t miss a beat in her rhythmic mantra to, “Turn your focus upward, rather than inward. Look outside yourself.”
Personal hardship did not deter her determination. Sharing the surreal news of her breast cancer diagnosis while she was busy traveling between continents made obvious her tenacity. After wrapping her head around the devastating news she remained determined to stay focused on the solution, completing a third of her radiation treatment in France. “The only failure is when you fail to try or to give your best effort.”
Through her intimate journey, Navratilova encouraged the audience to adhere to the many messages she finds inspiring and to remember that focus is our emotional currency; mental clutter is not a good thing; you must own your own future: and to never give up—women have the same brains/ability as men. She also encourages finding work for which you have joy; maintaining a great attitude; recognize your gifts and changing what displeases you; and finally to remember to add value to the lives of others Tireless in her energy and commitment to her sport, to women, to lifelong active living, and the many issues close to her heart, Navratilova closed by encouraging all to “think bold.” “The best way to predict your future is to create it. Own your future,” she exclaimed.
Gail Frances is a local writer with a background in finance, public affairs, marketing.