Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee Photo: Getty/Perry Hagopian

Five Questions with Jackie Joyner-Kersee: ‘Be Intentional’

One of the most decorated female athletes of all time, the former Olympian headlined the Soaring Together Women’s Summit in April. Here, she takes the Bulletin’s questions.

As a six-time Olympic winner, you’ve always been driven to be your best. How does a person find that drive, especially if life’s circumstances get in the way?

I never lost my focus on working towards the goals I believed I could achieve, regardless of the circumstances. Always a positive attitude even when life’s challenges got in the way. It was very important that I believed in myself and kept positive individuals around me.

At age 14, you were motivated to aim for the Olympics after watching the games on TV. Why was that inspiring?

I remember watching the Olympics and for the very first time seeing women on television competing in the sport of track and field who looked like me. It was inspiring to see women highlighted on television and admired for their ability.

At the Soaring Together Women’s Summit, you addressed the need for courage, integrity and accountability in leadership. What are the challenges to that? How do you overcome them?

As women, we are always faced with challenges that will challenge us daily. Together we will soar … only when we don’t compromise ourselves to fit in. Be honest with one another and make sure that we hold each other accountable.

You have a passion for helping young people through the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation. Was there a particular experience that led you to establish the foundation?

My foundation work is the driving force behind everything that I do. So many people supported me and others when I was growing up in my hometown town of East St. Louis, Illinois. I wanted to do the same for every child and family by building a community center in my hometown. I started my foundation work in 1988. We provide after-school assistance, transportation from school to dropping them off at home. Our students also receive a warm meal and hydration. Our goal is to make sure all of our students are reading on grade level. I am so blessed to be in this position to give back, not only to the community I grew up in, but to share my time, treasure and talents with many other communities.

How can the next generation best prepare for the challenges ahead?

My advice for the next generation is to always believe in themselves and never give up. Be intentional in their actions, be active listeners and never compromise themselves to be accepted. Finally, learn to use social media as an asset, not a liability.

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