A hero is perfect. A hero must do the right things at all times. A hero is infallible.
Modern humanitarians I’ve admired like Somaly Mam or Greg Mortensen were elevated to superhuman hero status one day, then branded as “fallen heroes” the next, after proving capable of human fallibility (even gross misjudgment); while the work they did to empower vulnerable girls - which is what was truly heroic - was tragically forgotten.
So, I pause before using the word “heroes” when describing Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and my brief yet inspiring interaction with them in Berkeley last night. But I’m jumping ahead. Let me back up.
It was around 2010. I bought Half the Sky at an airport bookshop. “Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” the blue cover said. Back in those days, I was still working in finance. My head was full of forecast figures and corporate ambition. I opted for some lighter David Sedaris humor. The book sat on my shelf and collected dust.
Fast forward to early 2012. I had just quit my corporate job the year before, on the back of reconnecting with my biological Korean family, discovering I had been kidnapped at birth to an orphanage, and that my Korean mom was orphaned by the North Korean army who killed her parents when she was six. I mentioned my story to a friend, how I was planting the seeds of the Global Gratitude Alliance with my co-founders, and how our mission was to empower women and children. “You have to read Half the Sky,” she insisted.