Diversity is a long string of differences that connects the human race; it joins together the individuals of the global community to defy all odds. Our generation has the challenge and the privilege of joining this community together to change history as we know it. As I continue to learn about the vast world we live in I discover the beauty, the strength, and the compassion that prevails over hardship, and injustice. The power of these virtues comes from embracing diversity. We are not solitary creatures. My experience as a leader has shown me the power of diversity and as a member of the SMLI I hope to grow as a leader and an individual by listening to more stories, being humbled by the human experiences of others, and asking questions to figure out who I am and what my role is in effectively changing history as we know it.
In 2008 I began the Invisible Children Chapter at Palm Springs High School with the goal of bring together students under one common goal. Our school had been through so much loss, and I wanted to show my peers that there was life beyond the hard cold walls of high school. That there is life to be lived and people to help, and a world that is yet to be discovered. My small group of five grew to a group of 20. We all came from different backgrounds. We were all labeled with different stereotypes. Statistics show that we were never meant to be friends, and yet we became part of a movement, and the only way we could do so was by making our differences our strengths. Together we raised $18,000 and sent 1,000 books to support students in Gulu, Uganda. Our greatest accomplishment however, was one none of us could have foreseen.
On April 25, 2009, I abducted myself from society and tied myself to 2,000 strangers. United we marched for three miles with nothing but the clothes on our backs and a few writing utensils at hand. We marched to symbolize the thousands of children in Northern Uganda who had been abducted from their homes by a man named Joseph Kony to become child soldiers. We marched in hopes to feel a connection with them — to get a glimpse of their lives, no matter how small. We marched to tell the world their story — to tell the world we would not back down until they were rescued.
During the Rescue Event we became closer as a group to the thousands of strangers around us. We knew little about each other, but out of our diversity we found a connection to the people that shared with us one common bound. The compassion we felt for the people living through a 23 year long civil war in Uganda, and the passion we had to see it all come to an end. Even more incredible to me was the uprising of hope that was felt that evening. Thousands of us joined together to help people we don't know and may never meet. But they are our equals. They are citizens of the world and as such they deserve the support of the global community. No matter what culture, age, sex, race, sexual orientation, background, etc, I believe everyone is a part of this community. It became real to me in that moment. The movement we are a part of is a catalyst for change. "The impossible is just a dare." -Orion Pahl, IC Representative. Diversity holds us together and will continues to do so as we fight for human rights, and as we better the world.
I am reminded daily about the people living in Uganda. Humbled by their strength and endurance. I am reminded that I am small in an enormous world, but in that minuteness I find the courage and motivation to join together the power of diversity to do great things. During SMLI I will learn from the experiences of other leaders and hope to gain new perspectives on how to detach myself emotionally from conflict while still being productive enough to work through them. I will continuously work to reach past cultural divides to support my community as they have supported me.
"Sigues luchando." Keep fighting. These were the last words of my grandfather. He taught me that life is the most marvoulous fight one will encounter. He taught me that the beauty of life comes fromt he people you keep in it. A full life is one full of diversity, respect, compassion, passion, and endless curiosty. All these things I can bring to SMLI. As a leader in my school and community I have encountered many faces with many stories. I have learned more from them then they could ever learn from me, but it is my hope that I have touched their lives as they have touched mine. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your program.