After greeting Richmond resident Betty Reid Soskin for an interview at the 2018 MAKERS conference, author Luvvie Ajayi remarked she felt “like I’m sitting on stage next to a unicorn.”
Listen to the rest of the segment with the national icon, and you’ll see what Ajayi means.
In a relatively brief but enormously profound interview that Richmond Mayor Tom Butt described as “sharp, witty and philosophical,” the 96-year-old Soskin — who serves as a National Park Services ranger at Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park — wowed a live crowd and online viewers alike with an ability to effortlessly communicate wisdom from her life experiences.
Soskin’s interview followed the publication on Feb. 6 of her new memoir, Sign My Name to Freedom: A Memoir of a Pioneering Life. We recommend our readers watch the full interview (again link here). For a sample, here’s Soskin’s response to a question about what it’s like being active at age 96:
“I have outlived all of my peers, so that I’m living in uncharted territory right now. I’ve lost my sense of future, and in compensation my sense of past has been amplified. Though I don’t have any idea what tomorrow is going to be like, because there are no models left for me, I have to make it up as I go along. But in exchange, I’m finding myself looking out on a world today in chaos, and realizing that ever since 1776, we have been a Democracy in chaos, cyclically, that we’re on an upward spiral. We keep touching the same places at higher and higher levels. That I’m not enslaved like my great grandmother was. There’s still much much work to do. But every generation I know now has to recreate Democracy in its time, because Democracy will never be fixed. It was not intended to. It’s a participatory form of governance that we all have the responsibility to form that more perfect union. And that has been what has kept me going now over this past decade. The sense of responsibility to do that. That I really do have the role as an extraordinarly ordinary person to do that. And that’s been amazing.”