First Woman Voter

Or "How I spent my summer vacation."

A few of you have reached out to check on me since it has been a little while since I posted here. Thank you for that. I’ve been entirely swamped on this project I’m about to tell you about — and it has been wonderful and exhausting and inspiring and, mostly, all-consuming. But I also have been writing some baseball over at The Athletic, so please check that out.

You might know that a couple of years ago, I partnered with my friend Dan McGinn on a project we call, Passions in America. What is Passions in America? That’s a very good question … and one we have spent a long, long time trying to answer.

The inspiration behind Passions is a simple idea: Our passions — which is to say the activities and pursuits and collections and pastimes that bring us joy and well-being and a sense of purpose — are more important now than ever. We deeply believe in that idea, deeply believe that our passions connect us, they energize us, they give our lives balance, they bring out our best selves, they help us see each other in entirely new ways.

But where does that idea lead? How do we use Passions in America to bring a little more joy, a little more unity, a little more creativity into the world? How do we encourage people to embrace their passions? How do we tell more stories about people through the prism of passion?

I can tell you: These are all pretty sticky questions. Over the last couple of years, we’ve gone down numerous paths, some with more success than others. But none of them seemed exactly the right path.

Then, this summer, we came upon something. We asked people if they would send in a photo of something bringing them joy during this pandemic. It was just this simple idea, but it led to something wonderful: Most than a thousand people sent in photographs … and they were all so stirring and marvelous and, especially, happy. We got photos of dogs and sunsets, magic tricks and board games, puzzles and delicious foods, books and lawnmowers, coffee mugs and picnic tables, bicycles and guitars. We all felt like just looking at those photos was, somehow, like having some of the passion and happiness that people felt transferred to us.

Not long after that, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick approached us with the idea of creating a virtual celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Negro Leagues. And in a whirlwind few weeks, thousands of people across America — including the four living former Presidents, 20 Baseball Hall of Famers, sports legends like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and Billie Jean King, celebrities like Paul Rudd and Rob Lowe, more than 40 U.S. mayors, politicians and musicians and countless kids on baseball teams — tipped their caps.

It is one of the most inspiring and wonderful things I’ve ever been lucky enough to be a part of.

And then came First Woman Voter. Talk about a whirlwind. Over the last month, in celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage and in conjuction with numerous women’s groups and too many amazing people to name, Dan and I have played a small part of this incredible celebration of women honoring the First Woman Voter in their families. I can’t really describe it well enough, I mean, just watch this video from CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux:

And this one from Bernice King celebrating her mother Coretta Scott King:

And this one from Lynda Bird Johnson Robb about her mother, Lady Bird Johnson.

And this one from my friend, ESPN’s Mina Kimes:

There are more than 120 of these videos on the site — including the four former First Ladies and every woman who has been Secretary of State — each of them so personal, so moving, so unifying. In a time when everything feels so hopelessly divided, these videos from Democrats and Republicans, hard-line liberals and conservatives — from those who trace their voting rights back to 1920 to those who go back to the 1965 Voting Rights Act to those first-generation Americans like myself and Mina — have lifted my spirit continuously.

They remind me every single day that there is a bond that ties us together as Americans, and even if that bond seems frayed it is not torn.

The Washington Post so loved this project that they asked us to share our videos for them to display in a wonderful package they put together called “Why She Votes.” Others have asked us to share these videos for projects we will unveil as time goes on.

It has all been amazing. I’m not sure how financially viable it is since right now the running money total on the two projects is $640 — that’s how much we SPENT on the websites and for video converting software — but the feeling of being a part of these projects and bringing some good into the world is indescribable.

The First Woman Voter campaign is still building online, particularly as we go into Women’s Equality Day on Wednesday. It’s really simple: Record a video celebrating the First Woman Voter in your family (or the woman in your family who first inspired you to vote), use a photo and a memento if you can, and post it to your social media with the hashtag #FirstWomanVoter. Would love for you to join in.

As for Albert Pujols officially moving into second place in RBIs even though Babe Ruth actually had more RBIs … I’ll save that for another day.