US: 5 Things podcast: Reflections on USA Today's Women of the Year 2022

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On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast:

USA TODAY’s Women of the Year honorees. Top: Janet Murguía, Melinda French Gates, Rosalind Brewer. Middle: Kizzmekia Corbett, Simone Biles, Kamala Harris, Nina Garcia. Bottom: Roopali Desai, Rachel Levine, Cheryl Horn, Linda Zhang, Heather Cox Richardson. © USA TODAY USA TODAY’s Women of the Year honorees. Top: Janet Murguía, Melinda French Gates, Rosalind Brewer. Middle: Kizzmekia Corbett, Simone Biles, Kamala Harris, Nina Garcia. Bottom: Roopali Desai, Rachel Levine, Cheryl Horn, Linda Zhang, Heather Cox Richardson.

We all know them. A mentor, a philanthropist, a doctor, an athlete; a woman in our lives who makes things better. Women like Simone Biles, the most accomplished female gymnast of all time or philanthropist Melinda French Gates.

USA Today interviewed five remarkable women for a limited run podcast series called Women of the Year 2022. 5 Things Sunday host James Brown worked intimately on the project to produce five episodes; two premiered Thursday, three more will premiere by the end of April.

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After putting so much time into the Women of the Year podcast the team at 5 Things decided to talk about what they learned from the podcast and these remarkable women and what they hope you will gain from the series.

For more on USA Today's Women of the Year 2022 click here.

To follow James Brown on Twitter click here.

Podcasts: True crime, in-depth interviews and more USA TODAY podcasts right here.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

James Brown:                  Hello, and welcome to Five Things. I'm James Brown. It's Sunday, April 10th, 2022. On Sundays, we do things a bit differently, focusing on one topic instead of five. This week I'm talking about USA Today's Women of the Year. Behind the scenes, I work on a number of projects, including the Women of the Year podcast. Is part of a larger project on outstanding women across the nation. You can find out more about it at womenoftheyear.usatoday.com. I huddled with post surprise winner, Connie Schultz, and my boss Shannon Green to adapt interviews with five remarkable women into a limited run show. The first two episodes premiered on Thursday with three more coming this month. You can find them wherever you listen to this show and we'll link to it in a description.

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I've spent so many hours bathed into thoughts of these women. So I've decided to share a few of my perspectives about them. One of my favorites in this series hasn't been released yet. Her name is Janet McGee. Much like myself, she was the first person in her family to come away with a college degree. Her path was a little bit different. She spent much of her career advocating for Hispanics. She said something that connected with me so much that I insisted it go in a trailer. She mentioned that in tough times, we must continue to think big.

Janet McGee:                   Dreaming big dreams I know it's daunting right now. And we face some very dark times. And there's real challenges, but I believe it's so important to encourage young people to try to move through this darkness and keep their sights set on a bigger dream, a bigger vision for themselves, for their community, and for the country.

James Brown:                  Her words reminded me of something that philosopher, activist, actor, professor, and so many other things, Cornell West once said. I remember watching him on Tavis Smiley's old PBS show late at night, maybe in college or right after. He told Tavis, "You have to have a habitual vision of greatness. That you have to believe that in fact you will not settle for mediocrity." That sentiment that you have to connect yourself with your goals, with a bigger dream of what life could be in order to elevate yourself in your community is something I think about daily.

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Another thing that came to mind when I was working on Janet's episode was an interesting book called The Tao of Wu. It was written by the rapper RZA. It's about philosophy and RZA's group, the Wu-Tang Clan. RZA wrote, "Forces in the world will tell you you're a victim of your family, your race, your past, your history. Don't believe them, they don't know you. Look inside and find your true self. It's there. Give it a name." In my notes to myself and on whiteboards here in my home office, I think about that all the time. I think Janet would agree with some of those thoughts too.

Janet McGee:                   What also sustains me is the belief in people and in the fact that if given a chance, everyone can have an opportunity to succeed. And I saw that in my family. I know it's not true for every family, but I do believe that if we're at least given a level playing field, if we're given a chance at having some success, that we can deliver on that. I just fundamentally believe in the human spirit. I'm a champion of the human spirit and believe that we have to let everybody achieve their potential. And if we do, we'll do wonders.

WOMEN OF THE YEAR

  WOMEN OF THE YEAR Some of the women may be familiar names. Others may be new to you. Each has an inspiring and powerful story. Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. USA TODAY’s Women of the Year program follows the successful Women of the Century project, which highlighted achievements of trailblazing women in the 100 years since they won the right to vote.

James Brown:                  So many of the women in this series are focused on mentorship and passing the torch to the next generation. I'm lucky enough to have had some mentors in my life, especially as a young person and in my twenties. I've had caring adults who took the time to listen to me babble and dream and talk way above my station as I crawled my way from generations of poverty, to my dream, which is doing what I'm doing right now, writing and talking to thousands of people like you. With any luck, millions of people will hear me eventually. Those people gave me advice. Those mentors helped me stand up straight with my shoulders back. They invested in me. They allowed me to borrow their confidence. And many of them still play roles in my life today. As my mother once said in her slight Southern accent, she's from Georgia, "Child please, family isn't just about blood." Billionaire philanthropists, Melinda French Gates has similar relationships.

Melinda French ...:         I surround myself with people who have good values and are like-minded in the sense of caring about others. And so, a group of people that I can be authentic with and I can pick up the phone in tears and talk to them or say, "Can we go for a walk?" And that they're there on my saddest days and my most joyful days and vice versa. I'm there for them. They pick up the phone and call me. Without that group of people around me, friends and a few colleagues, I don't know how I would've gotten through some of my toughest days, particularly in the last couple of years.

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James Brown:                  I think every person needs that kind of infrastructure in their life. People, places, things to shake them out of that daily thicket that we're all easily swallowed by. I've struggled with that. I still struggle with that. My hope that as family and as a mentor to younger people, maybe even some people my age, I can provide some infrastructure for others. Kizzmekia Corbett has come very far. Her background says a lot like mine. My mother required me to get a high school diploma. And she told me I could go get a job or get a college degree. Kizzmekia says that no one expected her to get a degree, but she did. And not just one degree, several. In recent years, she's become prominent because of her role in creating COVID-19 vaccines. One of the things I felt kinship with her on is her passion for her profession and kicking down the door for whoever comes next.

Kizzmekia Corbe...:         It is important to just be visible and to make STEM fields feel like they are so exciting that anyone, not just women, but that anyone would want to go into them. And so, remaining visible and remaining very clear that if I'm going to rise to the top, then I must bring some with me.

James Brown:                  Like Connie Schultz, Kizzmekia, and so many other people on this list are caring as they climb. These are just a few of my thoughts on this project and these outstanding women. I'm sure you'll have your own. Let me know on twitter at jamesbrowntv or at [email protected] If you like this episode, write us a review on Apple Podcast or wherever you're listening. And do me a favor, share it with a friend. Thanks to Alexis Gustin and Shannon Green for their contributions to the show. Taylor Wilson will be back tomorrow morning with Five Things You Need to Know from Monday. For all of us at USA Today, thanks for listening. I'm James Brown and as always be well.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 5 Things podcast: Reflections on USA Today's Women of the Year 2022

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