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A Brief But Spectacular take on finding yourself through song
Geoff Bennett: Betty Reid Soskin recently retired at 100 years old as the oldest National Park Service Ranger. But that achievement is just one of many during her multifaceted career.
Here, Ms. Soskin shares her Brief But Spectacular take on finding herself through song.
Betty Reid Soskin, Former National Park Service Ranger: I have been so many women so many different times. I have been a daughter, a mother, a businesswoman, a federal worker.
I was 85 before I became a Park Ranger. I retired at 100. I have actually been so many things, it's hard to remember.
I'm 101 years old. When I was in my 40s, I believe, I suffered a mental break. During my breakdown, I would be singing. I remembered several songs, only to find that I'd written them.
Betty Reid Soskin: They're fascinating songs. They tend to be about life as I was living it.
I think that music has the power to change anything, because I could sing things that I couldn't say. But when I sang them, they were acceptable. I was discovered any number of times, but I couldn't do that. I had four children. I wanted to be a Betty who sang. I didn't want to be a singer. I set the box of songs in the closet, and they stayed in that box for 40 years, only to be found a few years ago by a filmmaker who was doing a film about me.
And they have provided a soundtrack for a film that tells my life story. When my two husbands and my father all died within three months, I was no longer defined by someone else's name. I didn't consider myself a feminist, because the men in my life were suffering the same kinds of oppression that I was.
It wasn't until the '90s that I began to take on feminism as a role for me. That's when I began to really feel like Betty. The advice I would give to myself as I was a young woman would be to never marry. I could have done all the things that I have done without a man.
What's more important in life? The questions are the important things. Each time they get asked, there's a different meaning, because you have grown so much from the last time you asked it. The answers are only temporary.
Being 101 is really something, because you feel as if you're starting all over again. I don't know what comes next, but I do know that I'm ready for it. I never really dreamed that there were so many parts to me. I don't think I will be remembered as a Park Ranger. I want to be remembered as Betty.
My name is Betty, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on signing my name to freedom.
Geoff Bennett: She is exceptional.
You can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.