amanda gorman
Amanda Gorman made history as the youngest poet in history to read a poem at a presidential inauguration. (Photo credit: Peter Stevens, Creative Commons.)

For feminists, environmentalists and proponents of common decency, reality is now giddy. 

As if a Madam Vice President wasn’t enough, we have a 22-year-old poet laureate who many of us would vote for president, if the election were tomorrow. The incredibly diverse Biden Cabinet really does look like the country. Grown-ups are in charge. Order, finally, is starting to feel restored, even if the vaccine rollout will still take a few months.

Right now, as we drink our morning coffee or make our kids’ lunches, golden days seem ahead. What a contrast to four years earlier, when we wrote an editorial with words like “gut-wrenching” and predicted (accurately) serious cuts in social welfare programs, health care and environmental safety. Somehow, it ended up even worse than we thought it would be. 

But no, we don’t care to dwell on those dark hours when right at this very moment, the sun is shining, birds are singing and somewhere, perhaps in a gilt-adorned room in Florida that smells like hot dogs and fake tan spray, a despondent man child is angrily kicking the wall with his bare feet. 

Happily, we were right about one more prediction that we made back in 2016 — that “people of compassion will respond and try to address growing and urgent needs.” Against the backdrop of the Trump presidency, we covered countless stories of women entrepreneurs creating products and services to change the world and leave it a better place. We wrote about Black Lives Matters and the #AmplifyBlackVoices movement. We wrote about female scientists — no exaggeration — saving the world by developing powerful virus-fighting drugs. And we wrote about resilience…a lot. 

Back to today. We’re reminded that the work hasn’t stopped, just because the executive branch seems dotted with munificent superheroes (we haven’t had enough time to become cynical about any yet). 

History, which we referenced frequently this past year in our suffrage-centennial 100 Years of Power project, reminds us that massive change doesn’t happen in 24 hours. While it certainly feels like someone just flipped a switch, there is still much work to be done — in our local communities, in our established institutions, even in our own families. 

When Obama became our first Black president, it felt to some — perhaps for just a brief, idyllic moment — that maybe we had just stamped out racism. Unfortunately, as the events of 2020 reminded us, the wounds from our ugly past are still open and raw. And while we celebrated the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote, our choice at the polls in November came down (as it usually does) to one old white guy versus another old white guy.

So yes, it’s a giddy new day. The path to true equality is coming into focus, but the picture is still blurry. No time to rest on one’s laurels. Time to set the coffee down and roll up our sleeves. At The Story Exchange, we’ll continue covering the innovative, influential, inspiring women that are doing important work and championing the rights of the underserved and underrepresented. 

Because there is still much work that needs to be done.