‘Don’t Ever Let Anyone Tell You You Can’t’

Ali Wentworth Letters From Mom 2016
Courtesy Ali Wentworth

To Elliott and Harper

First let me just say, I’m sorry about your names. But Stephanopoulos is such a grand, Greek last name. You wouldn’t want to be Athena Feta Mount Olympus Stephanopoulos, would you? Elliott is my grandmother (your great-grandmother’s family name) and Harper was a gorgeous word I dreamt. I woke up one morning and shouted, “Harper!” and that’s what we named you.

Let me tell you, you are from a long line of very formidable, strong women and I see that dominant gene in both of you. Your great-grandmother trekked across Mongolia for four years on camelback and constructed a raft out of six yak skins to sail down the Yellow River in China. Your grandmother moved to Washington, D.C. in the 1960s and joined the fight for civil rights. She was with Bobby Kennedy when he was shot. And she became the social secretary of the Reagan White House.

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And I, your mommy, have never stopped going after my dreams, beliefs and passions. I have relentlessly pursued a career I was told I could never succeed in. I wrote books when people expressed their skepticism about it and married a man who some naysayers thought I wasn’t worthy of. I have jumped out of a plane, appeared on late night talk shows, sometimes only in pasties (I know it was embarrassing, but I was making a feminist point), and can make a mean cupcake. I am never swayed by the words, “no, can’t, never.”

You were born with determination, fierceness and the kind of inner-strength that moves mountains. Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t. People say “Carpe Diem,” but I say, don’t only seize the day, seize the life — “Carpe Vitam!”

And as you chart the very confusing waters of what you want your life to be, remember that you can do and be whatever you wish. I’m not pushing you to be President or asking you to conquer the world. But inventing an anti-wrinkle cream that actually works would really make me really proud!

I love you more than anything…


Wentworth, who is married to ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, is an actress, comedian and author of Happily Ali After: And Other Fairly True Tales

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