This I Believe

Mark - Seattle, Washington
Entered on May 15, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

I believe that all people who see or know hurt, no matter how small or how big the hurt is, no matter whether they show or acknowledge it or not, those people – all people – want to change the world for the better.

I remember being little and being blissfully ignorant of the history that was just finishing up. The nineties were, shall we say, a rather uneventful time in the world. Or, at least they were in my hometown of Ketchikan, Alaska. Growing up with a lack of communication and of diversity – except for the large Native Alaskan population – was unusual in that age. I later moved to Geneva, Switzerland, and again to Seattle, Washington, both exponentially more diverse than my hometown. In Seattle, diversity was still ordinary, and it was in my fourth year here that my eyes were opened to real people – not the people you see on the street, but the people inside those people.

I was selected to go to two student diversity conferences, with the goal of promoting diversity, respect, and leadership. The conferences were so extraordinarily moving. People worked together to create a “safe place,” where the people inside the students could come out and work together and – to quote Gandhi, “Be the change we wished to see in the world.”

Most of the people I met had been through some sort of hardship, confronting racism, homophobia, slurs, sexism, and even personal trauma. I had experienced only a small slice of the adversity of what many of these students had been going through their whole lives. In front of total strangers, they bared their souls, as if to say “like it or not, this is me.” I too opened out of my multilayered shell which had developed over years of homophobic slurs and two physical attacks. Seeing so many people, who wanted to help but couldn’t, caused me emotional pain and inspired me. I began to see the world through a new lens. I saw how people were judged based merely on what they looked like instead of who they are. I have even heard of people not wanting to vote for John Kerry in the ’04 election because he caught a football like a girl.

It was then that I began my struggle to open the eyes that needed opening, to lead people who want to help but can’t because of unspoken social norms, and to show them how to make the difference they want to make.

Now we – me and some of my fellow students – are working in executing the action plan to make sure all students leaving our school and others around the country leave high school with the same opened eyes as we, ready and willing to use their true inner self to change the world and break down the barriers to unity and peace.