The sun beats down, heating up the sand. Barbados in January. Men walk the beach offering their trinkets to tourists. I wonder about their lives and think about what it takes to truly accomplish something with one’s life.

The waves crash in, their endless repetition reminds me of how fleeting life is and how difficult it is to make a difference. They wash away my footsteps.

Time erodes so much of what we build. What truly lasts? Even knowledge can disappear, as it did in the Dark Ages.

When my father died, I remember thinking how he had spent his life trying to make the world a more beautiful place, not only for his family, but on a larger scale, by designing buildings to shape the lives of those who used them.

I inherited his need to do something significant, but I wonder sometimes if I am truly achieving anything. A letter comes in from a reader thanking us for inspiring her and I’m reassured. I know that this newspaper is causing change, but I constantly question myself. Am I truly working to my fullest? Could I do more?

I find reassurance in the words, the letters, people write to us. Perhaps it is my belief that thoughts traded between individuals is what civil society is all about.

My father instilled in me the belief that civilization, and the civility that it rests on, is one of the most important foundations for human achievement. Without civil society war and plunder can limit or destroy all that a culture might achieve, as well as the ability for knowledge to flourish. And without knowledge human simply become animals scratching out their existence time and time again.

Do all civilizations collapse? I wonder if something can be done to stop this seemingly natural evolution of society. Need and excess seem to drive so much of the evolutionary process. Need pushes communities to maintain strong ethical principles, while excess diminishes that need.

I want to do something significant with my life, and the older I get the more I realize how many people there are who truly care about the world around them, who want to make a difference with their lives and who want to give as much as they can to making the world a better place.

Many of them recognize the importance of civil society; they seem driven to build and care for it. They strive to do something significant with their lives. I think it is those people, the leaders, thinkers, inventors and entrepreneurs, who truly lead civilization.

In this issue we focus on 25 women who have indeed contributed to the world around them – from founding charitable organizations to building successful businesses. They are women who have excelled in their field. They are women who deserve recognition.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


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