This weekend, an 11-year-old girl stood before a crowd of 200,000 people in her nation’s capital. And, with barely even the hint of a flinch, she delivered a three-minute speech that hit the world right in the heart.
That girl was Naomi Wadler, a fifth grade student from Virginia. She was one of the many speakers at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington DC, an anti-guns protest organised in the wake of the Parkland school shooting on February 14.
There were many young voices – including that of Martin Luther King Jr’s nine-year-old granddaughter – but it was Naomi’s who drew awe-struck declarations: This girl was the country’s future president.
It started sweetly. Climbing onto the stage, she stared into the crowd. “Hi,” she began, giggling. “My name is Naomi and I’m 11 years old.”
Watch part of Naomi’s powerful speech in the video below.
But from there, she spoke with the strength and poise rarely seen in such a young child. The giggles didn’t make a comeback. Her job was far too important: she was speaking to honour all the African-American women and girls who lost their lives to gun violence, the women and girls whose stories are too frequently washed over by the media.
She explained that she and her school friend recently led a walk-out at their primary school.
“We walked out for 18 minutes, adding a minute for Courtlin Arrington, an African-American girl who was the victim of gun violence at her school, after the Parkland shooting,” she said.
“I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news.
“I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant beautiful girls full of potential.”
LISTEN: Amelia Lester explains why the aftermath of the Florida school shooting might lead to change. Post continues after audio.
And she had stern words for anybody who doubted her because of her age.
“People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own. People have said that I am a tool of some nameless adult. It’s not true,” she said.
“My friends and I might be still be 11 and we might still be in elementary school, but we know life isn’t equal for everyone and we know what is right and wrong.”
She also had a clever threat for politicians who refused to listen to her and her young peers: “We have seven short years until we, too, have the right to vote.”
After taking the nation’s collective breath away, the reaction online was full of nothing but praise.
Naomi Wadler is my President.
— Tessa Thompson (@TessaThompson_x) March 24, 2018