Isabel Rose: A Mother, Artist, and Activist For Her Daughter

When one of her children needed her, Isabel Rose responded with the kind of love that can transform a life, a family, and a nation. Isabel wrote a beautiful piece in Harpers Bazaar that shared her and her husband’s path to understanding, acceptance, and their commitment to the holistic wellbeing of their 8-year-old transgender daughter Sadie. Her unconditional love for Sadie and her dedication to social change are the catalyst for her activism to push back against efforts to rescind federal protections for transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. Today, Isabel is pursuing an initiative to include diversity education in all schools, beginning in kindergarten.

What does a “life of commitment” mean to you?

Commitment means that you will adhere to your principles no matter what. That phrase has become a little bit like Once upon a time and They lived happily ever after. However, if you are truly on a path in which you believe wholeheartedly, conviction becomes as simple and unconscious as breathing.


How do you define moral courage and how does this connect with work and social responsibility?

Moral courage means fighting for those things in which you believe even if your position offends or disagrees with positions held by others. Having a sense of social responsibility always stems from your willingness -your courage -to step up to the plate and act in accordance with your principles with a self-administered mandate. It means stepping up to the microphone at a rally and asking to speak for a minute even though you aren’t accredited with any particular group. It means deciding to actually fix the world by self-motivated action. We are conditioned to wait for permission or to cede action to those who we perceive have the authority to do so.


Are there religious or spiritual disciplines that make a crucial difference in your life?

I’m Jewish the way the sky is blue and grass is green. It’s what—and who—I am, meaning I’m steeped in it’s humor, noise, culture and gatherings. There is, however, another spiritual discipline that has fed me just as much if not more, and that is my chosen affiliation with the tenants of Buddhism. From Judaism I strive, daily, towards the goal of Tikkun Olam, or Healing the World; and from Buddhism I add the helpful guidance of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

Singing is as close to prayer as I think I can get. I also count expressing my love through words or gestures, and laughing, to be a part of my spiritual practice. Both give me sustenance whenever I, or someone else, is in need.


What does resilience mean to you?

I used to think that resilience meant not giving up; or re-strategizing when your first attempts failed. I’ve broadened my definition to include having the courage and discipline to lay something aside, even for a long time if necessary. You can be as steadfast as the day is long, but if you’re too exhausted to think creatively and/or too depleted spiritually to face the world with joy, all the resilience in the world is meaningless. Resilience can also means knowing when it’s time to find a new path forward, even if it appears like you are quitting something else.


Who and what are the inspirations behind your life’s work?

Who: my two daughters.
Why? Who doesn’t want the world to be a better place for their children?


How do you understand the relationship between spirituality and work for a more just and compassionate world?

Spirituality is really a synonym for the idea of larger connectedness with the world. It is through spirituality that many people are called to help create a more compassionate world and spirituality which sustains those who have that call through the arduous journey of fulfilling such a mandate.


What does it mean to be a leader?

You need to walk your walk if you’re going to talk your talk. You can’t be a leader and be a hypocrite. Great leaders also know how to admit error with grace and amend course. Finally, though a strong ego may get you in front of a crowd, it is humility that will ultimate keep you there.


Why are you are proud to receive a Life of Commitment award?
It’s extra wonderful to be recognized for something others have labeled a liability. Not everyone thinks you should be applauded for speaking your truth or for standing up for your principles. So I’m flattered that Auburn has decided to amplify the good in my actions and see them as I meant them.


Meet Isabel Rose and join Auburn in its 200th at Lives of Commitment in NYC on April 26th, 2018 as we honor these women of moral courage, who are dedicating their lives to advance justice in our time.

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