Our first inspirations came in the morning, with the election of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates. Overall, 38 extremely qualified young women ran for these positions, presenting speeches and answering difficult questions. Their speeches and responses collectively testified to the diversity of talent and passion we have here at Girls Nation. While many of us have common interests–government, politics, and public speaking among them–we are at the same time extremely unique, with our own gifts and talents, ideas and opinions. It was simply amazing to see so many girls have the courage to try out for such high offices, and even more amazing to hear what they had to say. Thank you to all who ran, and congratulations to our four final candidates–you are all truly inspiring.
Later in the afternoon, we had the opportunity to visit the United States National Holocaust Museum. While “inspiration” is certainly a word that comes to mind, we also walked away with newfound compassion, understanding, and hope. Having previously known about the tragic events of the Holocaust, going in we thought we had a general idea of what to expect. The reality of the experience surpassed all expectations. History textbooks could never have the same impact as a room full of victims’ shoes; school lectures could never convey the feeling of walking through a train car that dropped off individuals at concentration camps; writing essays could never compare to actual artifacts and to picture after haunting picture. “The change begins with you” was a phrase found throughout the museum, reminding visitors that we must work to fight against hatred, prejudice, and ignorance, to ensure that a horrible tragedy like the Holocaust will never happen again. We honor the victims, the survivors, and those who risked their own lives to help other people. May we always have the courage to stand up against injustice, and to stand with the oppressed.
Finally, after returning to campus, Girls Nation was honored with a visit from holocaust survivor, Nesse Godin. You could hear a pin drop in the large auditorium, as Nesse described her experiences in Nazi controlled Lithuania and work camps. As she concluded her remarks, Nesse reminded the senators: “We cannot change what was, but we can change what is and what will be.” Nesse inspired every senator and staff member in attendance to never forget the horrors of the holocaust, and to vigilantly stand guard against discrimination, persecution, and hatred.
Senator Margaux Fontaine, RI