I am so happy to be featuring Susan Retik on Talking GOOD this week. To me, Susan is the embodiment of the values which I try to promote on this site: persistence, finding the good, paying it forward, overcoming adversity, and so forth. And apparently I am not the only one that feels this way about Susan. On August 4, 2010, President Obama said I agree with Rich Polt (that's what he implied at least!) by honoring Susan with the Presidential Citizens Medal.
So who is Susan Retik and why did she receive the medal? Perhaps the simplest way to describe her is like this: Susan is a normal person like you or me, who found herself living in extraordinary circumstances that were thrust upon her by the decisions of people half a world away. The event that changed Susan and her family's life in such a fundamental way was 9/11. But it's not what happened on that day which has come to define her. It is what she undertook and has accomplished in the wake of this tragedy that sets her apart.
Susan is the co-founder and the president of Beyond the 11th, which provides support to Afghan widows who have been afflicted by war, terrorism, and oppression. As they say on their website, their mission is to reach beyond differences of culture and geography to embrace the most essential of connections: humanity.
So much has been written about Susan that instead of retelling her story again, I would prefer to let her interview answers shine in this spot. But if you would like to learn more about her background and accomplishments, I would encourage you to read this or this, or to watch this or this or this. I also have attached below the trailer from her movie, Beyond Belief.
Thanks for answering these questions Susan!
1. IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE? To enjoy all that life has to offer while working to help others achieve the same.
2. WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?” I’d like to complete a half Ironman triathlon. If I’m being totally honest, I’d like to do a full Ironman but I can’t imagine my body holding up for something so grueling. I’d also like to learn to play the piano, learn Spanish and travel the world.
3. IF YOU COULD MEET WITH ANYONE (ALIVE), WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM? If I could meet anyone in the world, it would be President Karzai of Afghanistan. I would ask him what role he sees women having in the shaping of their country and to ask if he is willing to compromise women’s human rights for political gain. I would be listening not only for his answer but looking at his body language as he responds.
4. WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE? Moving Beyond the 11th
5. WHO WOULD PLAY YOU, IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE? Angelina Jolie – she’s got the big lips (mine are not quite that large but hey a girl can dream). She is also interested in international rights so I think she’d be a good fit.
6. WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING? Regardless of race, religion, and geography people everywhere are simply trying to move through this life with dignity and in peace.
7. WHO ARE YOUR HEROES? Razia Jan was born and raised in Afghanistan. She became a US citizen in the 1990s and then after 9/11 moved back to Afghanistan to open a girls’ school. In addition, she is developing and managing aid projects for Afghan rug weavers and their families as the Country Program Director for Arzu. Razia left a comfortable life here in the US and has dedicated herself to helping Afghanistan one girl at a time.
8. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING? If I weren’t running Beyond the 11th, I would maybe work in a bookstore. I love the idea of being surrounded by books.
9. TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF. When I lived in New York City, I used to “race” random people. I would pick a person walking in front of me and then see if I could get to a store, sign, fire hydrant etc. before the unknowing participant in my game. Being a pretty competitive person I usually won.
10. WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED? None. Answering these questions was hard enough.