Journalist and author Joan Lunden has advocated for women throughout her illustrious career. On Thursday, that advocacy found Lunden, 63, in Oklahoma City, as the featured speaker at the Oklahoma City Juliette Low Leadership Society's annual luncheon.
Lunden made history as one of the first female TV news anchors; her career took her from a short stint as a “weather girl” on to a fast track to success, landing her a dream job as co-host on “Good Morning America,” where she stayed for 17 years.
The annual luncheon is a fundraiser for JLLS, a non-profit organization that supports local Girl Scout troops. The event is tied in to Girl Scouts' World Thinking Day, on Feb. 22 each year. The theme for 2014 World Thinking Day is “education opens doors for all girls and boys.”
JLLS members hope to bring more focus on the immediate needs and problems of Oklahoma's girls and young women — teen pregnancy, dropping out of high school, and drug-related incarcerations top the list, said Jaimie Siegal,a spokesperson for Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma.
“We want to raise awareness for what the situations really are for women and girls in the state of Oklahoma,” Siegal said. “Where are we, where have we been, where are we going and how we will financially support that.”
Make a difference
Lunden said that joining Girl Scouts and having reliable and caring people as leaders really can make a difference the lives of Oklahoma girls. More Girl Scout leaders are always needed, especially in areas such as urban Oklahoma City where community troops led by volunteers are more common than traditional troops led by parents of scouts.
“We need to help these young girls see positive role models and believe that they can make more out of their lives,” Lunden said in an interview before the luncheon. “Then, if the leaders bond with these young girls, (the girls) then don't want to disappoint their leaders. Maybe they'll come to you and talk to you when they're at a pivotal point of making a decision that could ruin their lives.”
Before she spoke at the luncheon, Lunden talked to a group of Girl Scouts from Arthur Elementary School. She explained how in her life, she found that by saying “Yes” to opportunities she might not ordinarily consider, doors opened to other opportunities.
A perfect example, she said, was when she was offered a position as a weather girl at a news station.
“I looked at this guy and thought, ‘The weather? Really? That doesn't really sound that interesting to me.' I don't know anything about the weather but somehow, I knew an opportunity when I heard it,” she said.
“By saying ‘Yes' to that man, what did that let me do?” Lunden asked the girls. “It let me get my foot in the door, right? Even if it wasn't something I was going to be crazy about doing.”
That foot in the door ended up making its way across the planet covering nearly every major story from the late '70s, through the'90s.
“My life is interesting because I kept saying ‘Yes,' ” Lunden said.
Finding life's purpose
Although, saying ‘No' also helped her find her true passion in life.
“Our life adventure is discovering what we want to do. Part of that is figuring out what you don't want to do,” Lunden said.
All through high school, she thought she'd grow up to be a doctor, like her father. But a part time job at a hospital quickly convinced Lunden that being a doctor wasn't likely in her cards.
She told the Girl Scouts that when considering what they want to be when they grow up, they should first think about what makes them happy.
“First of all, find what you really are interested in and what you really love. And then try to pick something that's going to make the world a better place.”
The money, she said, will come.
Taking the good with the good
She also stressed to the girls the importance of developing a strong educational background and to be fully committed to all they do.
For example, she related the story of day she was offered a job on “Good Morning America.” Thirty minutes after that exciting phone call came another exciting call — from her doctor. She was pregnant!
How could she be a mother and a TV personality at the same time?
“You know what? I couldn't say ‘No,' ” she said. “So I just said ‘Yes' and started figuring out how in the world I was going to pull that off.”
Another message she conveyed to the girls: the importance of having a solid career that will allow them to fully support themselves and their children if need be.
“You just have to figure it out how you're going to be a mommy and work at the same time,” she said.
Lunden is an expert at that. After having her first round of children with then husband Michael Krauss, who are now 25, 30 and 33, Lunden and her husband businessman Jeff Konigsberg, decided to expand their family. They used the services of a surrogate mother to have two sets of twins — fifth graders Kate and Max born in 2003, and third-graders Kim and Jack, born in 2005.