Ready to Make Some Trouble: Lessons from an Evening with Cecile Richards
Planned Parenthood is an organization that works for the reproductive health rights of all by providing services in their health clinics and through advocacy work. As an aspiring Obstetrics and Gynecology physician, the opportunity to learn from Cecile Richards, the former President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America was quite exciting. Following the release of her book, Make Trouble, Richards went on a book tour to promote the release and meet supporters across the nation.
“It wouldn’t be an event relating Planned Parenthood without the protesters guiding me about where to go,” remarked Richards upon her entrance. Not only did this evening teach me a lot from her illustrious career, but it also inspired me to adopt her spirit in my own life.
Richard’s spoke about her initial decision to make a huge leap and accept the position at as the President of Planned Parenthood. She described the inspiration she found in traveling across the country and meeting the advocates who fought tirelessly for the rights of others. Towards the end of her speech, she encouraged us, the next generation, to keep working and to make our voices heard.
One of the most impactful moments for me came after Richard’s talk, when we chatted as she signed my copy of her book. During our discussion of the work I had done with the Gender Center at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, where I worked on creating an educational video about fertility preservation for transgender patients and piloted videos on hormonal affirmation treatment with patients, she genuinely expressed gratitude for my passion and perseverance in this pursuit for social justice and change. In the larger landscape of advocacy work, your impact may seem small but it does matter. Seeing the smiles on transgender patients’ faces when you use the correct pronoun and the gratitude of parents who feel more informed about treatment options after watching the videos you created may seem less impactful than policy and legislative work, but can still have a tremendous impact on the life of another person.
The title of Richards’ new book, Make Trouble, highlights a crucial theme in social justice work and advocacy today. In order to be effective advocates, we must not be passive or compliant in any way. We must use our voices in every opportunity, no matter how small the stage appears to be.
Now, I challenge all of you to adopt this spirit of troublemaking in your life. Get involved in activism efforts, join clubs on your campus, call your senators - whatever you can contribute. The next generation of troublemakers are the ones who will change the world.