Monday, July 23

To Whom Much is Given...

Hello! I hope everyone is having a great summer. I know I am! For the past two months, I have been working at a summer program for gifted children as the stage manager for the musical they are putting on, The Pajama Game. I attended the summer program myself from ages eleven to fourteen and absolutely loved it! So I knew I had to find a way to come back somehow.

Before I even got the job, the director of the program, who saw my video when I first posted it online, asked if I would speak to the students about how and why I made the video and what has come of it. The motto of this program is “Ab illo cui multum datur multum requiritur,” which is Latin for “To whom much is given, much is required.” The idea is that if you are gifted—if you have been given certain abilities and qualities that are special or unique—you are expected to use these abilities to help others and improve the world around you. It is roughly equivalent to the quote by the character Uncle Ben in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The director of the program wanted to expose the kids to the content of my video (child marriages, gender inequality, et cetera), but more than that, he wanted to show them an example of a gifted student using her intelligence and her gifts to create something unique and put good into the world. So when he asked me if I would give a small presentation about my video, I enthusiastically agreed.

Me posing in front of my Keynote presentation, wearing the t-shirt
the folks at GlobalGiving sent me after they first saw my video
In my presentation, which I gave to about 70 students, I talked about what it means to be a feminist, why I made my video, and the different kinds of attention my video received. I ended my speech by highlighting four basic “morals” to the story. I would like to share with you this portion of my speech, as I believe these morals are relevant to everyone, not just gifted children.

Number Four: The Internet is a Powerful Thing 

We are the Internet Generation. More than ever before in the history of mankind, people across the globe are interconnected and interdependent, and this is due in large part to the power of the internet. Information can spread through the internet to more people more quickly than ever before. I encourage you to take advantage of this technology to raise awareness, research charities, or just read about topics that interest you. You never know what article might catch your eye.

Number Three: Don't Let the Haters Bring You Down

Wherever you go and whatever you do, there will always be someone there behind you to tell you that you can't, that you're not good enough, that you'll never amount to anything. This person might be obnoxious YouTube users, your cranky old grandfather, or even the voice inside your own head. You have to learn when to listen to criticism and doubt, and when to trust yourself despite it.

Number Two: Find Your Passion

It is important to be passionate about something. Do not go through life passively; approach it with conviction, with purpose. My passion is for the health and education of girls around the world, but maybe you are passionate about something else. Maybe you care about saving the dolphins or reducing the consumption of plastic water bottles. Maybe your cause is preserving the rainforest or rebuilding Katrina-damaged homes in New Orleans. Whatever it is, you can do something about it. Don't think that you are too young, too small, too insignificant to make a difference. No one person can do everything, but every person can do something.

Number One: “Ab illo cui multum datur multum requiritur”

which means “To whom much is given, much is required.

I feel incredibly lucky that I was born here in the United States where opportunities are not denied me based on my gender. I wish every girl—every person—in the world had this luxury. And because I have been given every opportunity in my life, I am determined to use what I have to do my part to make this world a better place for everyone. Appreciate what gifts you have been given, and try to give back whatever you can to those less fortunate than yourself.

You really can make a difference, no matter how old you are or what you care about. One of my favorite quotes is by the famous British abolitionist William Wilberforce: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

Wednesday, July 18

Bloggers for GOOD

Do you want to raise money for The Girl Effect but don't have any extra cash to give? Well, now you can! GOOD Maker, a website that “gives individuals and organizations the ability to tap into the public's creativity and energy to address an issue that's important to them,” is hosting a contest called Bloggers for GOOD in which bloggers submit entries describing their blogs and how they are using their blogs to promote a social cause. According to the contest's website, no matter what your blog is about, they think “it has the potential to catalyze social impact...Whatever your area of interest may be, we have $1,000 for a cause that your work supports.” I submitted my blog to the contest, and I named The Girl Effect as the recipient of the thousand-dollar reward. Voting opens today and stays open until August 1, 2012. If you like my blog, The Girl Effect, or social impact, please take a moment to vote for my entry here, and make sure to tell all your friends! The only way we can win this money for the Girl Effect is with a lot of votes—competition is pretty tough. So vote today, and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, or by email! With just a click of the mouse, you can make a difference in the lives
of girls around the world.

UPDATE: It seems as though you CAN in fact vote more than once. I encourage you to check back a couple of times every day for the next week to see how often you can place a vote. Also, the contest guidelines recommend that you use either Firefox or Chrome browsers, but I know several people who have used Safari with no recognizable troubles. Tell your friends—every vote counts and we need your help!

UPDATE: I received an email saying voters can only vote once within the voting period (July 18-August 1).