20 June 2012

The Senator Who Changed My Life (In More Ways Than One)

Senator Birch Bayh, author of Title IX, with female athletes at Purdue University.
Today at work I watched a live feed from the White House of a speech by Senator Birch Bayh.  And it struck me that so few people know who he is.  And I'm here to tell you that you should.  Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX -- and Birch Bayh is the former U.S. Senator (D-IN) who wrote it.  So if you're a female who is playing or ever played  a sport...say thanks to Mr. Bayh.  He wrote these words that we take for granted: 

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity"

I can't imagine what my life would be like without sports.  Through playing basketball I learned about: 
Hard Work -- our high school team practices were seriously intense.  The words "Dirty Thirty," "Two Inches," and running suicides come to mind instantly.  There was some serious blood, sweat, and tears left on that court at 5 pm each day.

Discipline  -- If you're on time, you're late.  Keep your shirt tail tucked in.  Look your coach in the eye.  Don't dribble the ball when he's talking.  Spending all day in the summer out in the driveway.  I could go on and on.

Determination -- It's the fourth quarter.  Your legs are dead.  But you can't let your man get past you.  You still have to take it up strong.  No matter how tired you are, you still need to put in those free throws.  Go all out, all the time.  Never give up.

Team Work -- I learned to be a part of something bigger than myself.  I learned how to get along with others, how to work together to accomplish a common goal, how to be there to encourage people when things didn't go their way, how to pick people up and place their burdens on my shoulders when they needed me to, and I learned to trust others to do the same for me.  But most of all, I found a family.

Respect -- First of all, for myself and for my own body.  Being an athlete demands that. Second, respect for authority -- coaches and officials.  I still remember being told to tell the referee "Thank you, sir" when he handed me the ball.  I've been told I have a problem with authority, but on the court I didn't.  I learned to  do what my coach said to the best of my ability.  Hopefully that translates to other areas of my life as well.  And lastly, respect for my teammates.  This one can be hard at times.  We were all vying for starting spots.  We were all chasing our own dreams and trying to meet our own goals.  And sometimes things got rough.  But I know that we all still respect each other...to this day.

These are life lessons that girls learn through playing sports.  These are the lessons that changed my life.  These are the lessons that gave me the confidence to succeed in school, to go to college, to graduate, to decide to attend graduate school.  To attend graduate school and work in the University Archives where I process Birch Bayh's Senatorial Papers.  So you could say that the Senator has changed my life in more ways than one.  Through working with his papers, I have fallen even more in love with politics and Congressional history.  I know with certainty that I am on the right path.  

So thanks, Senator Bayh!  I salute you and celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX!

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