The grandest generation: shaping the past, present and future
BY ROBIN GANZERT, PH.D.
Much has been written about the Greatest Generation and how they shaped the world, and as we prepare this September to celebrate National Grandparents Day, I’d like to share with you the stories of a few personal heroes from what I call the Grandest Generation. They are inspirational women who, regardless of age, happen to be grandparents and have not only taught their children and grandchildren to create a more humane world but also worked to share the timeless values of caring, compassion and hope with all of us.
These women have changed my life and are making a difference around the world that will have a lasting impact.
First of all, I want to recognize my first teacher – my mother, Linda Roy. Mom taught us early about the value of kindness and compassion and set me on the path to work in the international humane field. She taught us that love of animals makes humanity better. Mom brought animals into my life at an early age and continued that tradition with my children. From horses to puppies to kittens, my kids learned the value of the human-animal bond in large part due to my mom. Today, if anyone needs to hug a horse (happiness is a horse after all!), my kids just head over to Nana’s for a dose of unconditional love! If it weren’t for her, I might not have devoted my life to helping our animal friends in our homes, on our farms and ranches, in service to our country, in zoos and aquariums, and wherever their lives interact with ours. Thank you, Mom.
Another woman who inspires me is the international philanthropist Lois Pope. Lois is a tour de force, single-handedly tackling years of government obstacles and bureaucracy to create the only national monument to living disabled veterans! She is a passionate animal advocate, too – one of the most instrumental movers in the animal protection world – and she works hard to combine the best of both passions through our Lois Pope LIFE Center for Military Affairs, which helps active-duty military, military families, veterans, and military animals such as the heroic dogs who protect our warriors on and off the battlefield. On a more personal level, I know her grandchildren love visiting her home, which is full of furry, loving creatures. Lois sets an example on how to build a better world for the voiceless, and she isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves to get it done! She is a powerhouse!
When you think of prominent animal lovers, you have to think of Candy Spelling, a lifelong animal advocate, First Lady of Television, author, and Broadway producer. This National Humanitarian Award winner has volunteered with animal rescue and shelter groups, is a tireless board member and judge for the American Humane Hero Dog Awards®, and even enlisted the help of her own dog, Madison Spelling, who chaired a fund-raising event, “Bark for the Cure,” to benefit research into canine cancer. She’s a strong Renaissance woman with a tender heart for animals.
I am more than blessed to count among my friends Amanda Bowman, a longtime supporter of animal causes, who is helping make major strides in the humane field by spearheading a capital campaign to advance protections for the world’s animals, and who selflessly serves and shares her remarkable leadership and experience in policy and public affairs as a board member of American Humane. In addition to protecting animals, Ms. Bowman works on protecting us, developing security policy and helping raise substantial funding to focus on policing terrorism and the home-grown threats. She also helped secure the support of a four-star general in supporting proposed American Humane Association research to explore and create the first national standards for PTSD and TBI service dogs. Between supporting a dozen different causes, Amanda taught me how to organize a congressional caucus. That’s the kind of woman she is and her impact has been global.
Finally, I want to give a big shout-out to superstar country singer Naomi Judd. In addition to supporting our international efforts to rescue thousands of animals in disasters, this beloved star, philanthropist, and dog lover made time in her busy schedule to protect the military animals who protect our troops. She worked with American Humane and Congress, traveling to Capitol Hill to meet with members of the House and Senate to advocate that retired military working dogs be returned to U.S. soil and be reunited with their former handlers. With her help, the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act passed, guaranteeing this provision. Hers truly is a powerful – and beautiful – voice for the voiceless.
Every generation has something to contribute. On National Grandparents Day, be sure to remember to honor, celebrate – and thank – a member of the Grandest Generation for all they have done to make us, and this world of ours a little bit better.
Robin Ganzert is President and CEO of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization. More information: www.AmericanHumane.org