Lately lots of folks have been sharing this video of this amazing young woman Emma Gonzalez confronting NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch.
As an experienced organizer, I want to draw your attention to two little details:
- Watch her hands. Look at that piece of paper she’s holding.
- Listen closely to the phrasing of her first question.
That paper? She’s got her question scribbled down on a tiny scrap of paper. It’s all crumpled from being squashed in her hand from nervousness. She’s rolled it up and unrolled it hundreds of times.
Her first question? She flubbed it. She stammered. She didn’t read the words right. She had to rephrase it. It wasn’t elegant.
Now, I’m sure that some of you out there are saying–C’mon… stop picking on the kid. How heartless can you be to point out the little flaws?
I’m not being heartless. Just the opposite. I think this amazing young woman has just shown us one more reason for inspiration. And it’s all there in the little details, if you know what to watch.
It doesn’t matter that she wasn’t elegant. It doesn’t matter that her question wasn’t written on an impeccable cue card, or memorized to perfection. Do you know how many views this clip has at the time that I’m posting this? More than 1.2 million. She didn’t have to be perfect to be heard. She just had to be brave.
I can’t count the number of adults I’ve talked to who say that they don’t do public speaking. They don’t dare ask a politician a question–what if they get it all wrong? What if they fumble what they’re going to say? No, they couldn’t possibly do that, they all say. Ask them to do something, anything else, just not that.
And yet here is this girl. Watch her hands crumple that paper. She’s nervous. She’s fighting back the butterflies churning in her stomach. They’re flying up her throat and jumbling her words. And yet, she keep going. She gains her footing–literally–watch her sway into a stronger stance. She listens, she coaxes the crowd. They are hers. And then she forces the NRA rep to answer her true question.
That’s what it’s about. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about knowing exactly what you’re going to say. Sometimes you’ll jot your question down on a scrap of paper five seconds before you speak. Sometimes you’ll forget what you wrote and your heart will take you. And that’s Ok.
What’s important is that you stand your ground.
What’s important is that you speak your truth.
What’s important is that you hold those in power’s feet to the fire until you get your answers.
In the timeless words of Maggie Kuhn,
“Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.”
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