Life care planning should include determining what your legacy will be and implementing strategies to create that legacy. Some choose to assert their legacy through charitable giving during life and/or at death. Everyone leaves a legacy defined by how they have lived their lives. At the forefront today is what legacy that parents and grandparents are going to leave regarding the treatment of women.

A Legacy that Uplifts Women

I recently attended a memorial service which focused on the legacy left by Karen Perkins, the founder of The Women’s Center in Fort Worth, who died June 1st from Alzheimer’s. While serving as a college English professor, this one woman perceived the need to provide services to battered or sexually abused women. She established a program that began modestly by coordinating with police, emergency medical facilities and prosecutors to counsel rape victims. In its initial year in 1979, the Women’s Center served 1,000 women – quite impressive at the time. Last year the center served 100,000 women, men and children through multiple services, including employment training, counseling and educational programs.

Karen reminded anyone who expressed the desire to make a difference that they were “constantly surrounded by insurmountable opportunity.” And she’d ask, “You know how you change the world?” When they answered “No, how?” she’d reply: “One person at a time.”     For her own legacy, Karen Perkins chose as uplifting women and their role in our society.

 A Legacy that Denigrates Women

During a news program last week, former five-term Congressman, and currently a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Policy, Harold Ford, Jr., alluded to the importance of legacy. Ford and a panel of speakers were discussing the numerous messages demeaning women that President Trump has sent on television, on tape and in person. The discussion was prompted in responose to the most recent tweets attacking cable news host, Mika Brezenzsi.  Professor Ford expressed the opinion that the way the American people respond to the President’s behavior will determine who we really are as a country. According to Ford, our legacy depends upon what message mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers send to their children and grandchildren. The message: misogynistic, chauvinistic and discriminatory attitudes toward women will or will not be tolerated.

Creating Legacy is a Choice

Each person has to decide whether to join those who condemn behavior like Trump’s. Each person must determine if this behavior is beneath our country’s dignity, lessening its stature and damaging its image around the globe. Each person will or will not join those who excuse such behavior as simply “fighting fire with fire” or engaging in “locker room talk.” Once the legacy is chosen, each person will have to decide what action to take to reinforce that legacy.

Over my career, I have had to decide what my reaction would be to crude, chauvinistic remarks aimed at me. In law school: “You women in this law school class are just bored doctors’ and lawyers’ wives, tired of playing bridge.” At the office: “The women’s bathroom’ is down the hall. The ones in the office are for the guys.” From opposing lawyers in litigation: “You’re not bigger than a minute. We’ll just chew you up and spit you out.” At professional social gatherings: “Bill and I are just wondering what’s right below those pearls.” 

These types of comments, consciously or unconsciously, used to diminish credibility and power, are often used to good effect. I decided to create a legacy of fighting back by supporting organizations that empowered women. That worked for me, but it wouldn’t work for all. Each individual has to make the choice for him or herself.  This choice may be the most important life care planning you will ever do.

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives and practices in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.