Try telling a human teenaged female how to live her life, you’re likely to get an eye roll. Or worse, “the hand.”
But when the same sound advice comes from a face she’s seen on TV, that young woman might just listen.
Dawn Baker has relayed Savannah’s news of the day for 20 years, working her way up from lowly reporter to co–anchor of WTOC’s evening broadcasts. She learned some about success on that upward climb, and a few things about failure, too. She’s chronicled those lessons in a book, “Dawn’s Daughter: Everything a Woman Needs to Know.”
Aimed at young women who have yet to plan their future, “Dawn’s Daughter” is part autobiography, part gentle admonition. Baker calls it “the love letter to the little girl I never had” and hopes her familiar role in the community will inspire girls to take heart its teachings.
Service figures prominently into Baker’s life philosophy. A board member of countless non–profits, she has been recognized as a “Woman of Distinction” by both the Girl Scouts and the NAACP. She created her own charity in conjunction with the release of “Dawn’s Daughter” called The Dawning of a Miracle, a scholarship fund for young women living with chronic illnesses.
We caught up with the unfailingly positive Baker in between a workshop at a local high school and her evening shift at the station to discuss the dangers of exposing ourselves online (and on the street), her namesake charity and her rockin’ marathon goal.
Why did you feel the need to write “Dawn’s Daughter”?
Dawn Baker: Young people have always gravitated towards me for advice, for questions they needed answered. Sometimes I’d have to say, “Ooh, you ought to talk to your mom about that,” and girls would say, “Oh, my mother won’t tell me anything.” That scared me.
It’s a wonderful time to be a woman, but we’ve also gotten away from certain rules and basic expectations on what it takes to be a decent, productive human being. Society has changed. As my grandparents used to say, no one talked about grown people’s business out in the open. Now pop culture is so out there, kids see adult things so much earlier.
This book counteracts that. I’m not saying I’ve reinvented the wheel at all, but sometimes, the same message coming from a different person might make a connection.
What are the greatest challenges for young women today?
Dawn Baker: There’s just so much to do, and you have to pay attention. Every day you have to keep your goals in front of you. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a good time, but girls need to be more mindful of their actions than ever.
Even something simple, like how you dress, matters. We are all free and we can do what we want to do, but if you choose to walk around Forsyth Park at 1 o’clock in the morning wearing a sportsbra and teeny tiny shorts, something bad may happen. I’m not saying it’s right, but you’ve put yourself in that situation.
Always be aware of what you’re doing in public. It’s always been so important to me not to embarrass my mama.
Speaking of your mother, how did she influence you?
Dawn Baker: My mom is an amazing woman. She was an English teacher, and back then teachers used to do more than teach you what was in the book. She taught me that you don’t live above your means, you make your life work.
You become happy and fulfilled by helping other people. That was the best lesson I learned from my mom and my grandparents. Even though they didn’t have a whole lot, it was nothing unusual for them to give extra to someone who needed it.
How important is for young women to be financially savvy?
Dawn Baker: It’s everything. I remind women that we need to save money. My grandparents were very poor farmers in Liberty County. But they taught me that if you make $100, you save $25.
Through the years I’ve worked with Safe Shelter and met these beautiful women who have no skills, no money, no education to get a job. I don’t want any woman to be in that situation. If you’re self–sufficient, even if Prince Charming turns out not to be a prince, you still have the means to leave a situation that’s unhealthy for you.
What do you mean when you write about taking responsibility for our successes and failures?
Dawn Baker: As human beings, we’re going to have successes and failures in life. The most important thing to do when you make a mistake, is to own it. Don’t beat yourself about it, but you have to acknowledge that you had something to do with that failure and then you move on. One thing I hope everyone will learn early in life is that we have to do our best while being ourselves. My best is different than your best. Comparing ourselves to each other just makes us miserable.
Tell us more about The Dawning of a Miracle.
Dawn Baker: I’m thrilled about it. When I came to WTOC, I was really lucky that Doug Weathers picked me to co–host the Children’s Miracle Network with Mike Manhatton. It’s a cause that’ll really capture your heart if you have a heart at all.
I often wondered how regular working people, after putting all their life’s savings into sustaining a child’s life, how do they even begin to start thinking about college for them? I wanted to do something to help.
We’re starting out with a $1000 scholarship to be awarded to a high school senior this May. I’m partnering with the Savannah Community Foundation to help with the applications, which will be available in all Savannah–Chatham high schools counselors’ offices. It can’t send them to Harvard, but it’ll get that first year paid for of a state or technical college. Then the family can start planning for year two.
Goal–setting figures importantly in the book. What goal have you reached recently?
Dawn Baker: I believe in order to have a full and wonderful life, you should always be trying to reach some goal. At the age of 45, I decided I wanted to be a runner. I finished the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. I didn’t break any records, but to me I won that day. Yes, I took a long time, but I crossed the same finish line as the lady who qualified for the Olympics that day. We wear the same medal.
“Dawn’s Daughter” is available at E. Shaver’s, The Book Lady, the Diaspora Marketplace, the Girl Scout Headquarters and the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace and at dawnbakeronline.com.