A letter to my daughter as we await you

About a year and a half ago, I was sitting in Maine Medical Center writing a letter to your brother, Owen, waiting for him to be born. Now, with your impending arrival this week, it is your turn.

Before I get to the sentimental thoughts and advice, I just have to tell you how difficult naming you has been. It has been so difficult that as I sit here writing this column, with less than 24 hours before you are set to arrive, your mother and I are still arguing about it, and you remain nameless.

We started with a list of probably 75 names, and your mother and I ranked them. We asked friends. We asked family.

I even conducted a poll on Facebook, ranking our top name choices. More than 500 people participated in it, and the winning name was Gabrielle. Now that I think of it, I’ll be curious to find out whether Facebook still exists when you read this someday.

In the end, your mother demanded we name you Lily, and I relented. A month later, she tearfully admitted to me that she didn’t like that name anymore, and we started over at square one.

After the subsequent discussions, I do think I know the name we will settle on, but I don’t dare print it until it is written on your birth certificate.

In any event, you should know that despite the level of testosterone in our house (my condolences on having two older brothers, by the way), I have always wanted a daughter, and you are being born into a happy, loving home that is joyfully awaiting you.

Try to remember that not everyone in the world is blessed with that gift. Make sure you give it to your kids, someday.

You are also being born into an uncertain, tumultuous world. We are living through a difficult period in our history. One with seemingly endless advancements and new wonders created every day by the ingenuity and creative spirit of man.

But also one that has become increasingly divisive and — somewhat ironically given technological advancements intended to connect us to one another — disconnected us from our neighbors.

The political and social fabric of our nation is breaking down. People have lost trust in core institutions in American life, such as government and police. Our society is rotting from the inside out, there is racial strife raging through our country, terrorism is sweeping across the nations of the west, and the increasingly detached vapidity of our leaders and our people seem unequal to the task of addressing these problems.

Yet, your father happens to be an optimist, and despite these challenges, he sees a bright, prosperous and happy future for you.

Great challenges beget, eventually, those who rise to the challenges and subdue them. You can, and must, be one of the people who rise. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t, or that you shouldn’t.

Wednesday of this week, a woman — Theresa May — assumed the office of prime minister of the United Kingdom. As I write this, another woman — Hillary Clinton — is running to become president of the United States. (For the record, your father likes, for the most part, Theresa May, a solid conservative, and stands opposed to virtually everything Hillary Clinton, a devoted liberal, believes in.)

There will be many people in your life who tell you that, because you are a woman, the world is stacked against you. They will say the rules are different. They will say there are glass ceilings. They will say you won’t get paid as much or that you won’t have opportunities in science, math, or public service.

They are lying to you. They are trying to sell you on the notion of victimhood, that if you don’t meet the success you immediately want, that it is because of some nefarious oppressor, or a sexist society’s inherent bias against you.

Define yourself by who you are, not the useless labels people hoist upon you.

Success comes from struggle, and perseverance. Be smarter than your peers. Be more resilient. Be more tenacious. Be more ambitious. Have an unequaled work ethic. Learn more. Pay attention to your failures more than your triumphs. Pick yourself off the ground when you fall. Stretch yourself. Never let anyone tell you “no you can’t.”

Above all, my dear, understand that your inherent value as a person is a matter of what you do to earn that value.

And if you believe that and work to prove just how special you are, there is nothing in this world that can stand in your way. Cliche, I admit, but also very true.

I can’t wait to meet you, and see what your amazing future holds.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.