Listen: Heidi Hartmann ’67, H’95 and Jane Lang ’67

Jane Lang '67 and Heidi Hartmann '67, H'95

 

During Alumni Weekend, Heidi Hartmann '67, H '95 and Jane Lang '67 led a discussion on Changing Perspectives on Change. Following a group sing along of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a Changin'," Lang and Hartmann discuss what change has meant in their own lifetimes and the urgency they feel to continue to act as agents of change as they age.


Audio Transcript

Jane:  Good morning, class of '67. I see a lot of class of '67 spirit here because you're all here at 10:00 in the morning. Can you hear okay? Okay. So we have a guest artist today. Our classmate, Roger [cross-talk 00:00:16], and Roger is going to sing a song that's a favorite of many of ours.

We're going to let him sing it through, and you have the words, if you want to sing along on the second go through. Roger asked us, "Will we do the whole song on the second go-through?" Yes or no, what do you think? It's up to you. You're the singers.

Speaker 2:  [inaudible 00:00:37].

Jane:  Sure, okay. Roger, take it away.

Speaker 3:  Thank you, Roger.

Male:   [inaudible 00:00:43]. (singing)

Jane:  Am I on? The people want to do a singalong version?

Male:  Sure.

Male: Yes.

Jane:  Yeah, okay, we just ... (singing). Thank you, Roger, and good morning, everybody. We're so glad that you're here, that we're here, and it was fun to start out by lifting our voices together. Actually, the words of this song remind me of the words that my father spoke to me two weeks before he died. "The future lies wholly in the past." And I thought about all the meanings that may possibly have, but it was evoked again by this song.

So, let's go on. We'd asked Roger to open this session, both to bring us back to ourselves in the '60s and to set the mood for discussing our theme, Changing Perspectives on Change.

When Heidi and I first talked about this theme, the next change we anticipated was our first woman president. Things did not turn out that way. We found ourselves in the midst of change of a very different, profoundly disturbing kind. We hope, however, to avoid that sinkhole of angst and anger for the moment this morning.

We have the benefits and the burdens of having lived 50 years since our graduation. The changes in our social norms and structures in communications, in recognition if not full realization of human rights, in our sense of freedom and security in the reach of knowledge, in our stratified and sharing economy, in medical advances, in artistic expression, in environmental concern and responsibility. I can only begin to catalogue all the change around us.

Some is as superficial as style, and some goes to the heart of what we think is important in our lives. We'd like to look across the years and talk about the changes that have affected us most deeply and how our perspectives on the prospect and experience of change have, well, changed over the years. Heidi and I will begin to jump start what we hope will be a participatory session, so please be thinking about your take on the subject.

I'm going to speak very personally. My 70th birthday this year had a seismic impact on my perspective on life and the prospects for personal change. Just as I began to adjust to, even to embrace life without my husband and my parents, I suddenly saw for the first time the horizon, my horizon. If I live as long as my mother did and enjoy her good health, I have 20 years remaining in my life, 20 years to make the most of, 20 years to keep up with and counsel with five adult children, themselves aging and 14 grandchildren graduating, perhaps marrying, bringing their own kids into the world.

I've 20 years to celebrate, to administer my dad's foundation, to take care of my beloved dog, to keep up with iPhone technology, to vote in five presidential elections, to read hundreds of books, see scores of plays, listen to Joan Baez, Hamilton and Leonard Cohen, anticipate Avatar two, three, four and five and advocate for the things I care most about. Cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, arts funding, human rights, while time moves inexorably on towards my horizon.

This is a profoundly different outlook from any other moment in my life. Everything feels changed. It isn't depressing. It is urgent, and it is the first time in my life that I have felt the urgency of time. It is changing my perspective on everything. If the pace of change has quickened in the last 20 years, it is now rocketing forward, and I feel the need to set priorities, to learn every day whatever and as much as I can, to appreciate all my good fortunate, to let my family and friends know how very much I love them, to find excitement in new experiences, not to fear change and not to take it for granted.

To be sure, there are physical limits on my potential, but the possibilities to change not just my life but life around me seem greater than ever before. This was totally unexpected. There are two things that Gandhi said that I return to regularly. First, "We must be the change we wish to see." This is what keeps me in the game. I will choose my marks more thoughtfully than 50 years ago.

I won't dabble, but I have been, and I know I still can be, an agent of change. That there may be no more than 20 years in which to do that makes it more, not less, urgent to be a player. The second insight, I never thought about deeply before, but now I think about it every day. "My life is my message." How I live these 20 years is important. I'm still a work in progress, subject to change. Thank you.

Heidi:  Good morning. I'm usually more comfortable standing up when I speak, so I'm going to be over here if that's okay. Oh, sorry. I was about to begin my talk here. Because Jane was such a good example and wrote out her remarks so that they wouldn't stretch into rambling, I thought I'd better do the same thing.

And just to reiterate, when Jane and I first started talking about [inaudible 00:15:16], as Jane said, it was before the election, and we were mainly thinking of recent and upcoming transitions in our own lives in terms of work and family. And really, how were we going to handle them?

And then, the election brought more uncertainty and more immediacy to our discussion. Most likely, most of us did not expect back in 1967 that our country would be where it is now, where much of what we have worked for can be lost and where the words to Bob Dylan's song are so incredibly timely. I'm not going to mention the whole Congress and all of that and all of that or [inaudible 00:15:52].

Jane has spoke very eloquently about the urgency she feels at age 70 to try to use those remaining 20 years she hopes she will have well, and I feel the same urgency. My mom is going strong at 99, so I may have a few more years than 20, but I'm not really counting on it. And now actually, one of my main goals is actually to outlive my mom, especially after her doctor told me she could live to 112.

But I want to start at the other end of life with my time at Swarthmore and how it changed my life. I'm just the kind of kid for whom, research shows, going to a college like Swarthmore makes a huge difference. A bright but poor kid with no connections, first generation to attend or graduate from college. For me, Swarthmore opened a whole new world, the life of a [inaudible 00:16:44] really.

It wasn't that I hadn't studied and learned a lot in my small town high school on the Jersey Shore. I had, but I hadn't realized that you could build a life around the life of the mind, that you could earn a living with your mind, a living where you could keep on learning, where people got fellowships to go to something called graduate school full-time.

And, you know, you wind up teaching at college, where they can keep learning and help others to learn. There were some examples of people in my hometown who had education beyond college, doctors, lawyers, or a minister, some of my high school teachers. But I've only realized while I was at Swarthmore that most of my teachers must have gone on to school at night, traveling at least an hour each way to get those added degrees.

But a lot of my teachers also had part-time jobs and summer jobs of quite an ordinary sort, like working in the supermarket or in construction to make ends meet. Swarthmore changed my aspirations and my reality as well. Swarthmore also educated me in social and political change. Thanks to my roommate, Adria Steinberg, who came from Washington, D.C. and who was in the know on these matters, I was soon introduced to SPAC, Swarthmore Political Action Club, where most of us members become card-carrying SCS members.

We worked on civil rights issues in Chester, trying to organize voters to approve a new school bond so the public schools could be improved. Adria reminded me last night that a lot of our class went by chartered bus to Washington, D.C. to [cross-talk 00:18:16] in 1965. Pretty early, and she was in charge of getting the buses.

There was much discussion in SPAC and in SCS and in our class of class, and so class and race became my keys to understanding and unlocking the world. But gender was also creeping into our consciousness as another basis of inequality. I seem to recall a long-prominent SPAC leader saying he wouldn't want his girlfriend to be smarter than him. I can remember this.

[cross-talk 00:18:55] to his girlfriend and anyway, obviously, not true. It was noticed that women didn't generally have leadership roles in SPAC. We noted there were very few women on the faculty here, and I remember noting our senior year that very few of the Woodrow Wilson fellowships for graduate school had gone to women. And I always knew that women earned less than men because of my mom, who supported two kids on hardly more than the minimum wage.

But it wasn't actually until after I moved to New Haven and I started graduate school at Yale in 1969 that women's liberation burst upon the scene for me. This was a movement I found my home in, and I am still [cross-talk 00:19:32]. I have been able to combine my two big discoveries at Swarthmore, the life of the mind and the life of political action by starting in my own think tank in Washington, D.C. that focuses on using research to achieve change for women.

At The Institute for Women's Policy and Research, we provide research data and analysis to activists who are pressing for laws around the country, for example, on requiring paid sick days and paid family leave. Also, I'm developing new laws with new approaches to finally getting equal pay for women more than 50 years after the 1963 Equal Pay Act passed the year we started college.

Remember too that this was the movement that gave us the phrase, "The personal is political." If everyone is [inaudible 00:20:14] the same thing and having the same problem, then that problem requires a political solution. I have been very lucky. Swarthmore, Yale, my profession, my husband, whose civil service salary provided a steady family income while I was starting YWPR.

All gave me so much opportunity to do work that I love and that I hope contributes to changing our society for the better. Not all of us can be so lucky in our careers, but I think we, and not everyone would want to do this type of social change as their career. There are many other very fulfilling careers, but I think we all learned at Swarthmore a lot about civic responsibility, about the moral obligation to contribute to bettering society and human opportunity about what it means to live a good life, and I imagine most of us have been working to achieve these goals.

Like Jane, upcoming work and personal changes loom large at this stage for me as well, and all of those are swirling around with the question, how to be useful and enjoy the years I have left in the times in which we live. This is my story. Roger, Jane and I invite you to share your stories, your questions, your comments on this general theme of change, how we've changed, the changes we'd like to see.

To this end, we have [inaudible 00:21:28] [cross-talk 00:21:28] on which we can write down. I'll take notes. Some of the ideas and movements we worked on those many years and where we'd still like to go, what we'd still like to do, what transitions you've had and still expect. We also have comment cards that I think Renee Atkinson, our assistant for our section leader, a member of the [cross-talk 00:21:49] team in the office of advancement.

So you could use those to gather your thoughts, or we can save our thoughts if you don't all get a chance to talk. So we truly are turning this over to you now, and thank you for being here.