The night before our 2018 Convention, I found myself thinking about how far we’ve come since first discussing the “probably ridiculous” idea that would become Platform. I, in my nostalgia, reread the welcome letter I drafted for the launch of our first website. At the start of the letter, I wrote:
“I believe that the great task of our generation, as it was for each who came before us, is to learn from our past so that we may unlock the doors of progress for now and for the future. The lesson that transcends history is that when passionate and dedicated individuals come together, we move closer to justice and equality. So we must ask ourselves: when our stories are transcribed in books and tales will they tell of how we came together to fight for what was right?”
When I first wrote that letter, answering the question—will our stories tell of our fight for justice?—was my priority. It was a year before the 2016 election and I knew we were heading into a time that would be remembered in history books, if only because presidential elections always end up in history books. What none of us could have expected was the weight of that time, of the weight of it now. And I often find myself thinking about how this time will be remembered. What will the world look like when we’ve come out on the other side of it and how will we speak of this time? Because I know that our generation of leaders is not content with just making the world better than we found it. No, we are going to flip it on its head and rewrite the rules.
But when I thought about that question the other night, I was caught up less in answering it, and more focused on this fascination with history. Why does it matter so much who controls the narratives that are told? Why is it so important that we teach history and learn from history?
It’s because history is stories and stories change the world.
It’s because on the frontlines of every movement for change, it was stories that changed hearts and minds. Which is why even in Platform, a space for lobbying, political action, and electoral change, we say you do not have to be an expert in politics change policy. You do not have to be in expert in lobbying to change minds. Because you are an expert in you. Your own story, your own truth.
You are an expert in the opportunities you’ve had. You are an expert in the struggles you’ve overcome. You are an expert in the barriers you still face. You are an expert in the way you navigate your life under this political climate. For that very reason, you have a right to be heard in the rooms where decisions about your bodies, lives, and futures, are made. And while you do not owe anyone your story, you do not owe anyone what is in your heart, with your story and with who you are right now, you are enough. You are more than enough. To compel change, to be change.
Because one of the constant parts of change is that real stories of real people has always inspired it.
When we think of our greatest storytellers we think of Ida B. Wells. Ida B. Wells began writing about the lynchings in 1892. She wasn’t an expert in politics, but the stories of lynchings were her reality and the truth she knew—and so she created change.
When the factory workers marched the picket lines in 1911, they weren’t experts in politics, but the stories of factory fires were their reality and the truth they knew— and so they created change.
Because one of the other constant parts of change is that the people who inspired it dared to speak when others worked to silence them.
While many of you come to Platform with political savvy I could only dream of—and I celebrate you and look forward to learning from you—I know others of you are just beginning to own your power and take hold of your own capabilities.
So you might be asking, “How much does my story matter?”
Well, would they try to suppress your story if it didn’t?
In our fascination with history, in our demand for herstory to be told, we have to grapple with why some stories aren’t told.
There is a reason we learn about Helen Keller only as a child learning to communicate, and not the waves she made with her words.
There is a reason we learn about Rosa Parks as a meek old woman who was tired, and not the mastermind behind a movement.
There is a reason why stories have been suppressed and written out of history and it’s because those in power are terrified of the power of our stories. They know the power of each of us, of young women who push forward—not just far enough to resist, but far enough to create anew.
There is a reason why we hear the sentiment, “young women today just don’t understand,” and it’s because they are terrified of what we do understand—that we don’t have to accept the world as it has always been because are committed to fighting for what it could be.
So when we ask you to join us and lobby, we aren’t asking you to be experts in legislation, to memorize all 535 members of Congress, as well as the titles and positions held by each member. We are asking you to own your stories so they have no opportunity to look away.
Own your stories because you are powerful and you deserve to feel powerful every single day. You deserve to feel and be in control of your bodies, lives, and futures. You deserve to feel and be in control of your own narrative.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this:
In a day, when there is such uncertainty, one thing that is certain is that we, young women, aren’t hiding our heads in the sand—we are holding them a little higher as the women around us fuel our strength and make space our truths. We aren’t sticking our fingers in our ears and screaming to drown out the noise—we are creating the noise.
In a day, when there is little to celebrate, Platform is joined in celebration of you.
In a day when there are few promises, know that we promise to stand by your side, until every young woman knows the power of her voice and every elected official upholds the responsibility of their office.