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The Gordon School

Talking youth power and social change on Earth Day

A conversation with Karenna Gore

Karenna Gore and Ted Widmer '76 met with Middle School students for ninety minutes this morning as part of Gordon's celebration of Earth Day. If the video embedded above does not play, use this link

Gore is the founder of the Center for Earth Ethics, and her message today echoed the lessons these student have heard in Gordon classrooms year after year: that their voices matter, that they have an obligation to use their power and privilege to advocate for justice, and that real change is possible.

Gore learned about Gordon through mutual connections with Ted Widmer '76, a former speechwriter in the Clinton/Gore White House, and Catherine Flowers of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, who met with Gordon students at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2016.

The meeting began with Gore's quick overview of the modern environmental movement from which, with some prodding from students, expanded over the course of the discussion to reach back as far as Christopher Columbus and extend to the current day.

Then came the student questions, well-informed and direct, which included:

As the world will eventually, slowly, come out of self quarantine, what lessons do you hope we will have learned about reversing climate damage?

Does being a white woman impact how people look at you when you give a speech?

You have spoken about how some cultures have respect for their elders in a way that American society doesn't. What do you think would happen if we treated our earth as an elder?

Throughout her answers Gore drew on her own experience as the daughter of a national politician to assure the Gordon students that the voices of young people have the power to affect change, and spoke about the "moral authority of youth voices."

At the end, Ms. Gore asked eighth graders for their own reflections on what they've learned from the COVID-19 crisis. 

Their responses represented the mix of frustration and optimism that has run through many conversations about environmentalism in Gordon's Middle School. As one student summarized:

"People have said that we can't just shut the whole world down to stop climate change. But COVID-19 has shown me that, actually, we can. We can shut the whole world down if we see a danger and take it seriously enough. Now we need to take climate change seriously."

More on how Gore's visit fits into the Gordon experience in yesterday's post

Gore's presentation was the first major guest speaker to come to Gordon as part of the Online Learning Community. 

Next week, eighth grade will welcome Harvard professor Elizabeth Hinton. She's an expert on mass incarceration and discrimination in the criminal justice system, topics the eighth grade wrestles with every year as part of the Civil Rights Trip to Georgia and Alabama. link to recent talk of hers

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