Cait Oppermann for TIME

Arms spread wide, confidence radiating from her face, Megan Rapinoe celebrating at the World Cup was one of the defining images of 2019. Rapinoe and her teammates joyfully dominated on their way to a record fourth title, showing the world the best of American ideals: hard work, strength and heart.

Rapinoe’s impact goes far beyond the pitch. In an era where many demand that athletes “stick to sports,” Rapinoe—a proud feminist and an out gay advocate—refuses to be silenced. In the past year, her activism for gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQ rights has become as iconic as her fabulous pink hair. Some critics are threatened by her boldness and power. Millions of her fans around the world—and I count myself one—are inspired.

Megan Rapinoe fearlessly uses her voice to make the world a more equal place. No matter your politics, ethnicity or gender, that’s something we should all celebrate.

Gillibrand is a Democratic Senator from New York

More Must-Reads from TIME