Hi, My name is Emily Ocasio and the last time I was speaking here it was the 2nd annual women’s summit and I was just 14. You may remember, I shared a poem titled “I can’t vote, Here’s why you should.” Now I am here again, 18 years old and I just recently voted in this year’s democratic primary and I can't wait to vote in my first election.
I’m also looking forward to heading to college in the fall, but as a student one of the things I’m most afraid of is the current attack on education. They aren’t just banning books, they are censoring teachers, editing curriculums, and defunding public schools. They are making higher education harder to obtain by being against relief for student loans, by removing affirmative action, and by keeping college unaffordable for most.
They don’t really believe that college or education is unimportant, they KNOW how important it is, that's precisely why they want to keep US from going. But at the same time they are preparing the next generation of Kavanagh's, Ted Cruzs, Josh Hawley, all of whom went to schools they would claim are "breeding grounds for woke elitism" (Yale, Princeton, Stanford).
Remember that a republican senator called Obama a “snob” for wanting to make higher education more accessible? The colleges that they want to convince you are bad for your kids, are their training grounds for their next lawyers, lobbyists, politicians, and supreme court judges. The ones who are going to be on the front lines of the battle against our rights.
So at a time when education is under attack, seeking truth is revolutionary.
Since I spoke last, I’ve been working on a lot. Until recently, I served as the CEO of a 501c3 nonprofit which helped empower marginalized students to pursue STEM careers.
I also learned how science and technology helps us understand the world we live in. I used artificial intelligence to analyze millions of newspaper articles and look at the language used to describe homicide victims. I found that, in fact, the use of humanizing language to refer to the victims was related to the race, gender, and age of the victims. For example, black boys were 30 percentage points less likely to receive coverage that was humanizing than white children.
I care about STEM and research and the scientific method, because it's one way I’ve learned to find truth in the world around me. But there are many ways to find the truth, and they are systematically hijacking all of them:
We find truth in science, being pro life seems may seem more logical if you think someone can only be impregnated if they are consenting to the sex.
We find truth by learning how to think and question from teachers who aren’t criminalized by teaching the curriculums they believe in.
We find truth in history, which is why they are so afraid of AP African American history, and critical race theory.
We find truth when we are able to go to school without living in fear of being harassed for our genders or sexualities, of being infected with a virus that could kill us, or of being slaughtered with an assault weapon.
We find truth in stories, we are pushed the most by the ones that leave us uncomfortable, which is why banned books matter.
I am proud to stand here, as a person who seeks truth, in a room of my fellow revolutionaries, because:
We are the party of science when others are trying to spread misinformation.
We are the party of openness when others are the party of banning books.
We are the party of the truth when others are the party of fake news.
Truth is the most powerful weapon we have. And only with the truth, will we win.
Emily Ocasio gave this speech during the Change Makers Brunch at the 2023 Women's Summit. Emily is an accomplished 18-year old who will be heading off to college this fall. She leads the program operations of the Girls Computing League when she is not working to change the world.