Age Doesn’t Limit Your Ability to Contribute

Jessica Caldwell, WIP Class 2012, is inspired by the young leaders she encounters in Week 3

Even the prospect of meeting Jake Sullivan had me ecstatic. A real life Josh Lyman willing to take our questions was just another one of the unbelievable experiences we’ve managed to cram into the last three weeks. I resigned myself to the reality, however, that nothing would top actually seeing the White House for the first time within the first few days of arriving, that when it came to meeting someone that often goes inside, I couldn’t contain my inner geeky love for politics and this encounter would surely  make the impressive building a close second on my list. Adding also to my excitement was the fact Mr Sullivan worked for Hillary Rodham Clinton, a woman who inspires me greatly for her ability to connect with people on so many issues and show immense humility whilst doing so.

Waiting in the Embassy of Ireland’s foyer for the event to begin, the buzz was electric as we all discussed what topics we want to ask and what inside scoop we wanted on Clinton!  Having spent the day discussing the importance of activism and justice at my internship at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum I was feeling reflective and in awe of the hard work and courage so many people around me carry out daily that hearing of just how awesome Secretary Clinton actually is nearly tipped me over the edge. What was I really doing for the many issues we still face in Northern Ireland? How was I actively dealing with difference? Was I taking my responsibility as a young leader seriously and pushing myself through the program?

Having walked through the exhibit in the museum  the following day, the section on those who rebelled against the Nazi regime really stood out in my mind. The photographs depicted groups of young people, no older than me, engaged in protests, being arrested, and taking familys into hiding for a cause they believed in. The courage and ferocity of these young people was remarkable to see and also shocking as many of them were executed for their bravery. This is an extreme example of young leadership but the sentiment remains the same. Age doesn’t limit your ability to contribute, (Jake Sullivan being testament to this) as long as you are willing to step up and believe that your views are worth being heard. Perhaps before this I didn’t really believe that my views and opinions on Northern Ireland and so many other things were that important or valuable. But I have realised now that my input won’t count if it isn’t heard!  Now that I have the opportunity, platform and courage to speak I had better get up and do it! Especially for those who were brave enough to lead the way.