Members of the George Mason University community learned about leadership and activism from world soccer champion, double Olympic gold medalist and author Abby Wambach at Mason Reads on Monday afternoon.
More than 400 attendees watched the virtual event held in partnership with Fall for the Book. The discussion and Q&A moderated by Mason President Gregory Washington focused on Wambach’s book “Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game.” It also touched on leadership, activism, women’s rights and pay equity, and making the most of life’s opportunities.
“True activism is about figuring out what breaks your heart the most,” Wambach said.
For Wambach, being an advocate for women’s equality was “sheer necessity,” she said. When Wambach received the 2016 ESPYS Icon Award with athletes Peyton Manning and the late Kobe Bryant, she realized they were walking into very different retirements.
“Their biggest concern was where they were going to invest their hundreds of millions of dollars, and my concern was how I was going to pay my mortgage,” Wambach said. “Knowing that this was happening to me, I had to know and accept…that this was happening to every woman on the planet…in every job, in every industry.”
This realization helped Wambach not only work to solve inequalities, she said, but also to inspire women to be their authentic selves and grow stronger together.
Wambach’s book is based on her 2018 commencement speech at Barnard College and outlines eight rules women can use to change their lives and the world. One of those includes making failure one’s fuel.
In the current pandemic and struggling economy, President Washington asked Wambach how students can create such fuel from the challenges they face.
“You can focus all of your energy about what the whole adult world [and] governments have done to make this hard for you,” Wambach said, “or you can start thinking about this as one of the most unique opportunities [to learn and focus on what is important to you].”
Wambach also encouraged students to embrace challenges to “level up.”
“If you want to be the president of a college…if you want to be a soccer player, if you want to be an investment banker, you’re going to have to go through some discomfort to get there,” Wambach said. “[To] have the life you want to have, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices, and you’re going to have to level up along the way.”
For students, the opportunity to hear from Wambach was motivational.
“[Wambach] is a role model to me,” said freshman Jacqueline Mack. “Her book inspired me, brought me to tears, and encouraged me to work harder and fight for what I believe in everyday. I thought this was an awesome opportunity to engage with her.”
“What I loved most about listening to Abby is that she is solution-oriented,” Mack said. “Abby’s message is that there is so much you can do to solve [problems] even in your own community. I learned so much from her in that regard.”