The Flames of Passion and Trailblazing Women

On Thursday, Mar. 8, the world celebrated International Women’s Day and two trailblazing women inspired high school students across the Coachella Valley at Youth Town Hall.

Former U.S Ambassador to Japan from 2013 to 2017 and the only surviving child of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, shared her life story. She showed her Kennedy charm and raised the spirits of each student with her support. Afterward, American poet and author, Jill Essbaum moved students with her words, advising students to hold onto their passions.

Essbaum started off the night by interacting with the high school students and exciting the crowd with her vibrant attitude. She asked students about their passions. “Big or small, shout something you are passionate about!” she exclaimed.

All the students shouted one-word answers that described their passions and some were able to elaborate on their specific answers. These passions could be translated from emotions to words, extending the meaning of people’s interests to others, and sharing personal stories. Various students from the valley agreed over certain passions, such as writing, reading, music, art, and activism.

“Words have meaning, words hurt, and words echo,” Essbaum proclaimed. Her statement followed her recitation of a section from “Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem” by Marilyn Nelson. She chose this passage to portray how words have meaning and how words can easily affect us. Focusing on the youth, she emphasized how the power of speech is within each person and words portray each person’s strength.

Kennedy personified the optimistic emotions of the room once she entered, her presence empowering those around her. Her main advice for students was to “go for it,” noting that nothing should hold a person back from their interests and passions. Kennedy opened up about her love for poetry and the steps it took for her, as a woman, to become an ambassador. While she looked up to her father’s legacy, she felt more guided by her grandmother and mother, as they were the most impactful figures in her life.

After exiting the Youth Town Hall event, Kennedy gave a speech in front of the Desert Town Hall. During this time, she emphasized the importance in recognizing history, accepting young voices, and the fight for justice.

Kennedy commented, “Our past can be a source of inspiration for our future.” She claimed that historical narrative is important and that everyone should fight for justice, opportunity, and peace. Everyone felt inspired to show their own strengths. The flames of inspiration, passion, and empowerment blazed through the evening.

Our past can be a source of inspiration for our future.”

— Caroline Kennedy

The event ended with the Youth Town Hall’s wrap-up questions. These questions were intended to spark dialogue between young minds, which Kennedy encouraged. The first question presented to the attendee of the Youth Town Hall was, “Why is it important to remember history and not ignore the reality of it?” LQHS student Renaissance Alexandre ‘19 shared, “I live in a country that had slaves. I don’t want to get rid of that fact, but we need to look that fact in the eye and face [what has happened in this] country.”

Due to the event landing on International Women’s Day, the second question presented was, “Why do you think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day?” A student from a continuation school in the valley explained how he was raised by his single mom and aunt and how he wouldn’t be where he is now without the women in his life being there for him.

This question brought several young voices to the mic, to the point where the emcee’s of the event had to move onto the next question. “I didn’t think kids would be so engaging, but they were really out there. It was really nice to hear them speak,” said Michelle Vu ‘17. 

The youth bounced their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs back and forth, discussing their sentiments on discrimination, prejudice, and the power of women. The emotions within the room were a force to be reckoned with, as the young men and women remained united in their beliefs, expressing the importance of equality and working together to achieve their dreams.