Anna E., a Grade 10 student with an ambition nearly as big as her heart, had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet President Bill Clinton last week. Anna is among five Mulgrave students who were selected to be a part of Spark, an organisation aimed to develop higher education and entrepreneurship to empower young, ambitious people to lead their conflict affected societies into prosperity.
Her experience was moving and inspiring, and she has agreed to share with us some of the wisdom she learned.
Q: What was it like meeting President Bill Clinton?
Anna: It was an a very exciting and motivating experience! The presentation was one of the most breathtaking and impacting experiences I have had in the course of my life. The focus of the talk was on philanthropy and empowerment through education. When you talk to President Clinton, he's so connected and personal. He has a way of engaging with his audience that makes you feel like he's speaking with you directly, and when I had the opportunity to meet him, he was so engaged that he made me feel like I was the only person in the room. After I spoke with him he said, "I can see that you will be a successful leader in the future." I want to focus on Social Entrepreneurship after Mulgrave, so this was a really inspiring experience.
Q. What surprised you the most about the experience?
Anna: Going into this talk, I had a lot of preconceived ideas about President Clinton through things I've heard in the media and other people's opinions. I was shocked at how wrong I was about him. He is an incredibly kind and warm-hearted person, and he has done so much social good. One of the things he said that really stuck with me was, "You can't judge someone before you know them - you need to know their story. Stories are everything and we should always hear other people's stories before making assumptions about them." I think that's a really important lesson in life - that you should never judge anybody until you know them personally and have heard their story or justifications for their actions.
Q. What inspired you the most about this talk?
Anna: President Clinton told a story about a trip to China he took many years ago. He went into a small village to visit with the people, but what he didn't know was that there was a young girl with a severe physical disability hidden in the upstairs of the house that he was visiting. She was hidden away during his visit because the community was ashamed of her and her disability. Many years later, that girl became an advocate for people with disabilities and worked to mobilise awareness about her issue later on in her life, and she had a chance to meet President Clinton and share her story. President Clinton said to us that we are the ones who are disabled by our insensitivities and for not being able to see her beauty, and that we should be there to support people with disabilities rather than prejudice them.
I was also impressed that he still wears a bracelet that was given to him by a girl in Cambodia, who had a really profound impact on him. He still wears the bracelet as a reminder to be thankful for what he has, and to always give back in any way he can.
Q. Anything else you took away from this talk?
Anna: President Clinton educated us on ways to give back in the world, and said that a book he lives by is The Four Agreements. I have already gone out to buy the book!
Q. What are your personal philanthropic goals?
Anna: My first goal is to help local communities in Canada and Mexico. I have started a non-registered charity called the 360 Campaign, which is a Syrian Refugee initiative aimed to help those who have experienced the devastating Syrian war. I have a local and a global goal: My local goal is to sponsor two families to immigrate to Vancouver. My global goal is to help children safely make the trip from Syria to Greece. Once they are in Greece, there is a programme set up with a network to help them with critical needs such as food, water, shelter, medical provision, but it will also help to support them through education, legal support and creating jobs for refugees in the community. You can learn more about the 360 campaign by visiting: 360campaign.org