LIZ ABZUG: MY MOTHER’S LEGACY

November 06, 2019 at 4:45 am

Bella’s daughter Liz tells us how she’s continuing her mother’s legacy and shaping a new generation of women leaders through the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute.

Aired on November 5, 2019. 

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>> BATTLING BELLA ABZUG WAS A
NEW YORK POLITICAL ICON IN THE
'70s WHO IN HER POLITICAL CAREER
AS MEMBER OF CONGRESS, AS WELL
AS IN HER PERSONAL LIFE, WAS A
PIONEER WHO FOUGHT FOR THE
RIGHTS OF WOMEN INSPIRING A NEW
GENERATION TO TAKE UP LEADERSHIP
ROLES.
20 YEARS AFTER BELLA ABZUG
PASSING, HER LAWYER LIZ HAS
CONTINUED HER VISION THROUGH HER
NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION, THE
BELLA ABZUG LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE
WHERE YOUNG WOMEN AND GIRLS GO
THROUGH FREE COURSES, WORKSHOPS,
AND TRAINING IN PREPARATION FOR
BECOMING FUTURE LEADERS.
JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT HER
ORGANIZATION, HER MISSION, AND
HER MOTHER'S LEGACY, IS FOUNDER
AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE
BELLA ABZUG LEADERSHIP
INSTITUTE, LIZ ABZUG.
NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE.
>> NICE TO BE HERE.
>> AS I SAID, I HAD INTERVIEWED
84 MOM YEARS AND YEARS AGO.
IT'S A NICE CLOSING OF THE
CIRCLE TO CHAT WITH YOU ALSO.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE INSTITUTE.
WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND IT?
>> I WANTED TO MAKE A LIVING
LEGACY, FIRST OF ALL, TO MY
MOTHER'S LIFE AND HER WORK AS A
CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER, AS A
POLITICIAN, AS A CONGRESSWOMAN,
AND ONE OF THE LEADING FEMINISTS
OF THE 20th CENTURY LEADERS.
ALSO MY OWN WORK AS A LAWYER,
PROFESSOR, FEMINIST ACTIVIST IN
ALL MY ADULT LIFE.
I WANTED TO SAY, WE NEED TO PASS
THIS ON TO THE CURRENT AND NEXT
GENERATION OF YOUNG WOMEN AND
GIRLS SO THAT THEY CAN GRAB THE
MANTLE OF LEADERSHIP AND FINISH
THE UNFINISHED BUSINESS TO
ACHIEVE FULL GENDER EQUALITY.
>> THIS MIGHT SOUND A FAIRLY
SIMPLICITY QUESTION, AND I DON'T
KNOW IF THERE'S A SIMPLE ANSWER.
OFTENTIMES PEOPLE SAY, WOMEN
OUTNUMBER MEN IN COLLEGES NOW,
YET WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE
LEADERSHIP ROLES YOU'RE NOT
SEEING THAT SAME TYPE OF
RELATIONSHIP.
WHY?
>> THE DISPARITY IS REALLY
GREAT.
WHAT I FEEL IS THAT -- AND
THAT'S WHY WE FORMED THE BELLA
AN ZUG LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE,
WOMEN AND YOUNG GIRLS FEEL SO
CULTURALLY STEREOTYPED THAT THEY
HAVE TO NOT BE AGGRESSIVE, NOT
BE AMBITIOUS, NOT GO TO THE TOP,
NOT SIT AT THE CENTRAL PARTS OF
THE TABLE.
WHAT WE NEED TO DO, THERE'S
REALLY A PROBLEM IN THE FACT
THAT THERE'S STILL A SELF-ESTEEM
PROBLEM, THERE'S STILL A FAILURE
TO SAY, BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE,
BASED ON MY TALENT, I CAN GET
AND ASSUME THE TOP LEADERSHIP
POSITIONS IN EVERY SECTOR.
SO THEREFORE WHY WOULD THAT BE,
WHEN YOU HAVE SOME OF THE MOST
ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN, NOT ONLY IN
MEDICAL SCHOOL, LAW SCHOOL, MORE
THAN MEN IN LAW SCHOOL.
THE ONLY AREA WE'RE FLAGGING A
LITTLE BEHIND IS IN ENGINEERING.
WHY WOULD THAT BE, THEN?
THAT'S BECAUSE THERE'S STILL
THIS STEREOTYPE OF THE WAY
SOCIETY VIEWS YOUNG WOMEN
AGAINST YOUNG MEN, AND THAT
YOUNG WOMEN HAVE INCORPORATED
THAT INTO THEIR PSYCHES AGAINST
THEIR BEST INTERESTS.
AND SO WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO
IS UNWIND THAT.
>> AS A FATHER OF A DAUGHTER,
AND WE'VE TALKED BEFORE, MY
DAUGHTER FORTUNATELY HAS DONE
MARVELOUSLY.
CANCER SURGEON, ATHLETE IN
COLLEGE.
I WOULD SEE GIRLS AROUND HER
THINKING, YOU'RE SMART, YOU'RE
TALENTED, WHY WOULDN'T YOU STEP
UP ALSO?
WHAT DO YOU DO NOW AT THE
INSTITUTE THAT HELPS YOUNG WOMEN
TO DO THAT?
>> FIRST I WANT TO SAY ONE THING
ABOUT THAT.
I'M A PROFESSOR AT BARNARD
COLLEGE, A WOMEN'S COLLEGE AND
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, URBAN
STUDIES.
IN ALL THE YEARS I'VE BEEN
TEACHING I WILL HAVE GIRLS RAISE
THEIR HANDS AND APOLOGIZE FOR
ASKING QUESTIONS, RIT PALLIZED
APOLOGY.
BOYS WILL NEVER DO THAT, I HAVE
YET TO SEE A GUY DO THAT.
AT THE INSTITUTE WHAT WE DO IS
WE -- COMBINATION OF LEADERSHIP
SKILLS.
HOW TO MAKE A PUBLIC SPEECH.
HOW TO DEBATE.
WE ARE AN UNUSUAL ORGANIZATION
IN THIS COUNTRY, WE BRING
TOGETHER LEADERSHIP SKILLS,
SELF-ESTEEM, ADVOCACY, DEBATE.
WE SHOWGIRLS WHO HAVE NEVER
DEBATED, WHO WHO WERE ON DEBATE
TEAMS, MIDDLE SCHOOL, HIGH
SCHOOL, COLLEGE, FROM THE
TRI-STATE AREA AND ACROSS IS
COUNTRY, HOW YOU GRAB THESE
TECHNIQUES SO THAT ANY KID,
YOUNG WOMAN GOING FORWARD,
WHETHER HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE,
REALLY FEELS A SENSE OF STRENGTH
AND EMPOWERMENT.
AND THAT THEY CAN'T BE TALKED
DOWN TO, AND THAT THEY CAN
INTELLECTUALIZE AND ARTICULATE
THE SOCIAL MOST CRITICAL ISSUES
TODAY.
>> IT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE I'VE
SEEN AN EVOLUTION.
MAYBE YOU ARE SEEING ALSO.
I'VE BEEN TEACHING AT YALE, A
SEMINAR NOW FOR TEN YEARS, AND I
HAVE MARVELOUS STUDENTS.
GREAT KIDS.
I'M SURE YOU SEE THE SAME.
>> SAME THING.
>> I'M SEEING, FIRST OF ALL,
MORE WOMEN IN MY SEMINAR THAN
MEN, ROUTINELY.
>> THAT'S CORRECT.
>> 150 TO 250 APPLICATIONS EACH
YEAR, THEN THERE'S A SELECTION
PROCESS.
AND YOU'RE SEEING THE WOMEN MUCH
MORE ASSERTIVE I'M SURE THAN YOU
SAW IN YOUR TEACHING CAREER
EARLIER.
SO HOW ARE YOU THEN SELECTING
THE YOUNG WOMEN FOR THE
INSTITUTE?
WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING TO FIND
THEM?
>> OKAY, WE TRAIN GIRLS FROM NEW
YORK CITY -- WHEN I FORMED
B.A.L.I. IT WAS TO TARGET
BRILLIANT OR UNDERSERVED,
DISADVANTAGED GIRLS,
FIRST-GENERATION IMMIGRANTS,
YOUNG WOMEN OF COLOR, ALL
COLORS, OF COURSE.
NOW WE TRAIN IN ALL THE FIVE
BOROUGHS PLUS NEW JERSEY, LONG
ISLAND, WESTCHESTER, KIDS FROM
THE COUNTRY.
THEY APPLY, WE INTERVIEW EVERY
APPLICANT, WE PRIDE OURSELVES ON
THE AMAZING DIVERSITY NOT ONLY
OF OUR KIDS BUT OF THE TRAINERS
THAT I HAVE WORKING THERE.
>> THAT'S IMPORTANT.
>> IT'S VERY IMPORTANT.
AND FURTHERMORE, WE DO SOMETHING
VERY UNIQUE.
BECAUSE I'M A PROFESSOR, I
DECIDED TO TRY THIS.
TRAIN MIDDLE SCHOOL, HIGH
SCHOOL, COLLEGE TOGETHER IN THE
SAME TRAINING CLASS.
>> WHY TOGETHER?
MOST PEOPLE WOULD THINK, THEY'RE
DIFFERENT AGES, DIFFERENT
INTERESTS, KEEP THEM APART.
>> NO, WE TRAIN TO THE HIGHEST
LEVEL.
I TELL MY TRAINERS, I TELL MY
STAFF.
WHY THAT IS, THE COLLEGE GIRLS
MENTOR THE HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS.
HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS MENTOR THE
GIRLS WHO ARE GOING TO HIGH
SCHOOL.
>> GREAT APPROACH.
>> THEREFORE IT'S PEER
MENTORING.
SO THAT THE ENVIRONMENT IS SAFE
AND CHALLENGING AND SELF-ESTEEM
BUILDING.
AND SAFE FOR YOUNG WOMEN TO
SHARE THEIR CONCERNS, THEIR
AGONIES, THEIR ECSTASIES,
VIOLENCE MANY EXPERIENCE IN
THEIR HOMES, AND WE HELP THEM
GET BEYOND IT.
>> IT SOUNDS LIKE A FABULOUS
INSTITUTE, FABULOUS WORK.
I CAN'T IMAGINE A BETTER LEGACY
FOR YOUR MOM THAN THE INSTITUTE.
>> I THANK YOU.
>> GOOD LUCK AND
CONGRATULATIONS.
>> THANK YOU VERY MUCH, THANK
YOU FOR HAVING ME.
>> TAKE CARE.

Funders

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