Friday, March 06, 2009

Severn Suzuki (age 12) vs. The U.N. Earth Summit

You might recall that one of the guests at President Obama's address to Congress last month was Ty'sheoma Bethea, an eighth grader from Dillon, South Carolina, a small town near Augusta, Georgia. Bethea wrote Obama and asked that money from the stimulus go to her dilapidated school. She had reportedly never been on a plane before, but Obama's people flew her and her mother to Washington D.C. for the speech.

The president referenced Bethea's story in his remarks, and quoted her letter:
I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina - a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."
This is not the first time the heartfelt and honest words of a little girl affected world leaders. Witness the speech above, delivered at the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Brazil by 12-year-old Severn Suzuki. Born and raised in Vancouver, Suzuki and some friends started the Environmental Children's Organization, a small group of children committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. Suzuki's powerful speech deeply affected and silenced some of the most prominent world leaders and had such an impact that she has become a frequent invitee to many UN conferences.

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