Introductions: Billie Jean King
September 23, 2021
By Rebecca Hoogs, Interim Executive Director
It is an honor to introduce Billie Jean King tonight! I was an avid tennis player in high school in the ’90s, and yet I had no idea that it was due in large part to the activism of Billie Jean King. Reading All In: An Autobiography was an education—a riveting ride through the history of tennis over the last seventy years.
What I loved about this book was that it was also an education about the history of gay rights over that time, the struggle of and for trans athletes, racism in tennis, and the story of the fight for fair pay for female athletes—stories which are still very much ongoing. This is also an immensely personal book in which Billie Jean King talks about abortion, eating disorders, and her own struggle to come to terms with her sexuality. I was moved to tears more than once reading this book. And of course it’s a cracking good read—full of tense match points, both for tennis and for civil rights.
A rave review in the New York Times described the book this way: “It’s easy work to be a former champion, easier still to be a legend—after all, the job requirements are nothing beyond showing up. But it’s not easy to be an activist, and it’s certainly not easy to commit your life to pushing the world closer to how you want it to be. All In reads as a manifesto, like Letters to a Young Poet with a heavy dash of bell hooks.”
Towards the end of the book Billie Jean King shares her three principles for inner and outer success:
- Be a problem solver and an innovator.
- Never stop learning, and never stop learning how to learn.
- Relationships are everything.
I started taking tennis lessons again after a twenty-year pause. I’m learning again, and learning how to learn. This morning our coach showed us how much power we get when we stay in motion. This book shows us the many changes that Billie Jean King set into motion. It’s up to us to keep the ball—all the balls—in motion.
Please join me in welcoming the legendary athlete-activist Billie Jean King and her friend, Harlan Coben.
Rebecca Hoogs gave this introduction to open our 2021/22 SAL Presents Series with Billie Jean King on September 23, 2021. Tickets to this online event are available through September 30, 2021—get them here!