Last words: They can be poignant, they can be electrifying, they can be galvanizing. This week’s news cycle was full of farewells and ripostes. Let’s take a look back:
More than 70 years after Vilma Grunwalk and her older son were taken to die in a gas chamber at Auschwitz, a goodbye letter she penned to her husband and her “little golden boy” delivers a powerful punch. The 10-line missive — remarkably passed on to Kurt Grunwald by a guard and treasured for decades by Vilma’s anguished family — is now in the safekeeping of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. A full transcript of her tender valediction can be read here, and offers a unique insight into the doomed wife and mother’s final thoughts, and satisfying her now 85-year-old son’s concern: “Once I’m gone, who will remember my mother?”
On her way out the door from her 12-year tenure at the helm of Planned Parenthood, lifetime activist Cecile Richards shared some parting observations about seizing empowerment. “Every time we’re in the crosshairs of Congress or some politician, that’s when people begin to focus, and support grows,” Richards said of the organization. But the only way to truly protect women’s health, she added, was for women to turn out to vote and to run for office — leaving the question of whether she would do that herself tantalizingly open. Above all, “don’t wait for instructions,” she advised. “Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Most of all, don’t wait for somebody to ASK you to do something.” Preach, Cecile.
A decade after the tabloids shamed Miley Cyrus for appearing semi-nude in a photo for Vanity Fair, she finally came out with the response she really wanted to make. At the time, the then-15-year-old star of Disney’s Hannah Montana was forced to apologize for posing shirtless (revealing nothing but her back) for famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. It may have taken some time to get the last word, but when it came it was loud and clear. And that, folks, is how you do one of these.
National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning visited the White House to collect her crystal apple trophy from President Donald Trump, and be honored for her work with refugee students from war-torn regions including Sudan, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Manning did not speak during the presentation, but still managed a pointed statement — wearing a range of buttons promoting trans equality, LGBTQ rights, the Peace Corps, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Women’s March. But the last word went to her students, whose letters — candid accounts of their experiences and their fears — she delivered personally to the president during a brief, quiet moment. Sometimes, silence is truly golden.