By Sarah Babb
Known by many as the “Purple Lady,” Barbara Meislin is a force for light and a harbinger of hope. A proud octogenarian, she has learned to respond to the hardships of life with purpose and determination, seizing opportunities to explore language, art, music, community connections and the healing of the world at every turn.
A former high school French and Spanish teacher, she has also written an award-winning book, No One Can Ever Steal Your Rainbow, which has been translated into both Hebrew and Arabic. As a singer-songwriter, she has recorded an album of healing music, “Carvings in the Canyon.” She has also helped established a playground for Jewish and Palestinian children in the Israeli village Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace). Through all of this, she has made herself a source of joy for all who know her in ways big and small.
For the Purple Lady, philanthropy is a way to reach out to and empower others, and she has long partnered with Americans United to do just that.
“With every major gift I have always asked myself, ‘Will this donation make a real difference to the survival of our democracy?’ The answer to that question is a definite ‘yes’ when it comes to AU,” she said. “Without AU underscoring and protecting the core protections at the heart of our democracy, we would be in very dangerous territory.”
As one of AU’s most consistent supporters, the Purple Lady has deep concerns about the ways in which growing currents of fear and violence threaten to turn back protections integral to our well-being. But even as she laments the challenges we face now – with growing religious and racial hatred and other forms of discrimination, dishonest and divisive political voices, and global health issues, climate, and nuclear crises – she refuses to become discouraged or hopeless.
She chooses to act – not just on behalf of her own beliefs, but on behalf of our children and grandchildren – helping AU kick-start fundraising for its Next Generation Fund with a $250,000 matching gift.
Focused specifically on equipping young people to defend American democracy and carry it forward, her hope is that the Next Generation Fund and the initiatives it supports will encourage and empower a new generation of leaders to rise up and shine.
“My hope is with the younger generation,” she said. “It’s through them that we will sustain and strengthen the experiment we call democracy.”
The Purple Lady finds hope in our ability to unify, organize with one another and participate in the leadership of a new generation of more open-minded and connected young people.
With this transformative gift, the Purple Lady honors her remarkable mother, Vivienn Fosmam, who taught her that even when you have very little, there are always those you can assist in a moment of need.
“This is a time of critical need!” she said. “Now more than ever, we must have a strong and robust Americans United. May I be confident and hopeful that you will come aboard on this heartfelt and regenerative journey.”
To learn more about the Next Generation Fund, visit www.au.org/ngf.
Sarah Babb is a nonprofit communications consultant and writer. She holds an M.A. in religious ethics and philosophy from the University of Chicago.