Age is just a number. When Naomi Wadler gave her impassioned speech in front of thousands at March For Our Lives in Washington D.C., with the White House in the distance, you would not know by her words that she is only 11 years old. Her eloquence shows that she is wise beyond her years. Perhaps she is one of the next great changemakers. Perhaps it is because she and many kids like her have been forced to grow up too fast.
Not yet out of elementary school, Wadler is already an active member of her community in Alexandria, VA. She, along with a classmate at George Mason Elementary School, lead their walkout on March 14 as one of many schools who participated in the nationwide walkout to protest gun violence. “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper,” said Wadler. Her declaration was met with wild cheering and applause. “I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.”
According to a study conducted in 2014, black Americans are twice as likely to be killed by a gun. Another study found that black women are twice as likely to be victims of homicide than white women. “I am here to acknowledge their stories, to say they matter, to say their names, because I can and I was asked to be,” Wadler continued.
People have questioned the many young people a part of the March For Our Lives movement, believing that their age inhibits them from fully understanding the situation at hand. “People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own. People have said that I am some tool of some nameless adult. It’s not true,” Wadler said to anyone questioning her age. “My friends and I may still be 11. We may still be in elementary school, but we know. We know life isn’t equal for everyone and we know what is right and wrong. We know we have seven short years until we, too, have the right to vote.”
She concluded her speech to her fellow protesters with a Toni Morrison quote, calling her audience to be the change they want to see in the world. “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” From the sound of it, we just met a future world leader and undoubtedly will be hearing a lot more from her.
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