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The Lincoln Mystique: Remarks from Alumnae Board President Mih-Ho Cha Neenan '81

The following is an excerpt from a speech by Alumnae Board President Mih-Ho Cha Neenan '81 at the 2018 Alumnae Board Luncheon, a traditional part of the 2018 Alumnae & Reunion Weekend. 

"For 134 years, Lincoln has moved forward, not out of step but ahead of it, in our own lane, and to the beat of our own green and white drum. And for each of those years, alumnae have been—through our support, engagement, and example—the wind beneath Lincoln’s wings.

We are deeply embedded in the warp and weft of the school. Today, we’re trustees, faculty, administrators, preservationists, coaches, benefactors, fundraisers, mentors, parents, guardians of tradition and champions of change.

We’re everywhere and we’re doing everything. We’re doctors, journalists, lawyers and professors. We’re launching startups, and we’re transforming generations-old family businesses to evolve with a changing marketplace. We’re designing buildings and engineering aviation.  In corporate finance, we’re raising the glass ceiling. We’re creating art, making policy and shaping public opinion. We help immigrants gain citizenship and we incubate ideas for positive change in the world.

We sell houses and we feed the homeless. We run museums and fight the tide of addiction. We are CEOs and media executives, journalists and social workers. We volunteer in our communities, are good neighbors, and, not least, perhaps most importantly, we care for our loved ones.

There are 3,500 of us in more than 20 countries. Gathered here are Lincoln women spanning seven decades—from the age of mimeographs to the here and now of google docs—with family backgrounds from the Daughters of the American Revolution to first generation Cape Verdean immigrants, or from as far away as China.

Each of us experienced Lincoln in a particular era, and our memories are tied to those specific times. Our experiences are so different and unique. Can we really all be connected? Yes, we can. What could we possibly all have in common? It’s that thing, that uniquely Lincoln thing. 

If we could break it down, there would be no mystique, but here’s a piece of it: it’s the capacity to make our way in the world, oftentimes in and around opposing forces or incompatible elements, with confidence, an open heart and a moral compass.

Disrupt, but don’t disparage. Speak truth to power, but welcome dialogue. Go big and go for the win, but compete with good sportsmanship. And if you lose, do it with good sportswomanship. And be proud, but not without humility. And though lowliness may be one of the most powerful tools in our kit.

To integrate things that to others seem resolutely incompatible—that is the advantage of a Lincoln education. We can connect words to action and intention in a way that means something. In a way that matters. In ways that result in personal success—whatever that looks like—and moves the needle in favor of humanity.

Each of us experienced Lincoln in a different way and in a specific era. Some of us are making TV and some of us are making sandwiches, but here’s the thing that I keep hearing from alumnae far and wide, and it’s true for me too: Lincoln made me who I am.

So, wherever we’ve been, wherever we’re headed; wherever we ultimately land—whatever shape our lives take—it comes down to this: we’re all cut from the same plaid cloth.

This is how it’s always been.

And when our particular times, circumstances, or life-demands constrain us, we simply do our personal best with an open heart and when we do, we receive the greatest and most simple gift.  We come to where we ought to be, and we find ourselves in the place just right.

You and me. Every day, in our own way, we are living proof of our founding proposition: that all-girls education matters. We do what we do and we are who we are because of Lincoln.

There will never be a crystal ball. The future will always be uncertain. So what’s the strategy for thriving? Same as it ever was. Now more than ever, even more than last year, even more than last week, we need to share our strength. We are rooted locally, but we must connect globally.  Individually, you’re each remarkable in your own unique way. And that has always been the design. But if we connect, collectively we are an exceptional network and, I believe, a force for good.

So, on behalf of the Alumnae Board, I urge you to stay connected. In honor of those who preceded us, for the benefit of and as models for those who follow us, and in deep gratitude to the teachers and the school that made us who we are. Stay connected for the sake of our precious sisterhood so what has always been will always be.

Imagine how strong our collective pull on that long moral arc can be. Together, with all of our singular voices, we can stretch it forwards and upwards, not only towards justice, but towards peace and love, and we can do it in sweet, undeniable harmony."

Watch all of Mih-Ho's speech below! 

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