For those reading this, if I had to guess, you'll be split into two groups...
One knowing exactly what I am referencing in the title of this post.
The other having absolutely no idea.
Honestly, if I came across this post before 2020, I'd sit comfortably with my fellow no idea-ers.
So, who the hell is this Gertie? Well, I am talking about Gertie the Duck...cue the excitement and clueless stares.
For those who haven’t a clue what this quack (pun intended) is talking about, let me explain. Gertie the Duck is, quite objectively, an icon in Milwaukee's rich history.
During World War II, Gertie and her unhatched ducklings became an inspiration for many, particularly for those with loved ones serving overseas—a distraction from life's burdensome circumstances and a reminder of life's precious nature.
The Milwaukee Journal and national newspapers quickly got swept up in Gertie mania. Her and her six ducklings were overnight royalty in the city, and country for that matter. In fact, an official “Gertie Patrol” was formed by the Boy Scouts to protect the mother's nest along the Milwaukee River until her eggs hatched.
And, it didn't stop there...the mania was real! It is estimated that over 2 million people visited the city of Milwaukee that year to see Gertie. Even a newspaper in London featured Gertie's inspiring story—on the front page no less.
Today, Gertie may be gone, but this local celebrity is certainly not forgotten. She is memorialized in statue on the Wisconsin Avenue bridge, between Water Street and Plankinton Avenue. During a tumultuous time in our nation’s history, Gertie provided us a reason to hope—a symbol this city longs to cherish forever.
Fast forward 75 years and we again find ourselves in rather unprecedented times, constantly searching for and holding on to an all-too-elusive hope—on to Gertie. To me, the coolest part of this entire story is not how a duck captivated the interests of millions globally, but how people chose to be captivated by a duck. This is what makes humanity wonderful. No matter the difficulty in life, we always have the opportunity to choose, and oftentimes we choose hope, even when despair stares us squarely in the face.
If millions of people could rally behind Gertie and welcome her journey as an escape from life's struggles, why can’t we do the same as we put 2020 in the books and begin a new chapter in 2021? Why can't we create our own Gertie—Gertie 2.0?
The beauty of Gertie 2.0 lies in that it can be entirely unique to you. You can choose what brings you hope, what motivates you to strive for a better future. For me, my hope lies in the possibility of continuing to learn and grow, in keeping the momentum gained in 2020 rolling along into 2021 and beyond. And, not to sound cliché as the co-founder of a book company, but much of this learning and growth occurred while reading. It's true!
So, therein lies my hope, my motivation in these difficult times. Knowing that there is always more to learn, room to grow, and a positive impact to make keeps me going when life gets tough. This knowledge inspires me and has me focused on a creating a bright future beyond 2020—it is my Gertie 2.0.
I first heard about Gertie earlier this year when my historically-savvy mother let me in on this fascinating story and what this one duck meant for the city of Milwaukee and the world. And, it was so simple. Driven by her maternal instincts, Gertie was focused on one thing: the survival of her and her ducklings.
Society, longing for easier times, noticed the power in the simplicity and grew captivated. And, we should let this story carry us through another rough patch, as it did 75 years ago.
Gertie’s life, and now her statue standing sturdily in the heart of downtown, should serve as a reminder that hope can get us through anything. So, identify your Gertie 2.0. While it may not be memorialized in statue, it can be as impactful and inspiring to you as Gertie was to Milwaukee and the rest of the world.