Tori Murden McClure is an incredibly accomplished woman: she was one of the two women (out of a total group of six) who skied 750 miles to the South Pole; she was also the first woman to summit Lewis Nunatak, which is part of the Queen Alexandra Range in Antarctica. She has several advanced degrees (including law and divinity) and has had a variety of interesting and challenging jobs (including working with the boxer to set up his Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky). But after reading her memoir, A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean, I have to believe that of all her achievements, the one that she’s proudest of is that she was the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. How and why she chose to attempt the crossing (twice, actually, since her first trip was halted by a hurricane) is uplifting without being at all sappy. You can see why she must be a terrifically inspiring speaker, especially for teen audiences. I was fortunate enough to meet Tori at a rather large dinner in Chicago a year or so ago, and felt that there were many questions I wished I could have asked her in order to learn more about the incredibly diverse experiences that she’s had.
As always, the first line of a book is incredibly important to me, and Tori’s is pretty great: “In the end, I know I rowed across the Atlantic to find my heart, but in the beginning, I wasn’t aware that it was missing.” And I was taken by the fact that it was Muhammad Ali who, knowing her well, encouraged her to try a second time, by saying to her that she didn’t want to be the first woman who “almost rowed across the Atlantic.”