President’s Day Weekend was one of the most exhilarating weekends of my life. I spent Saturday night without sleep, up all night at a 24-hour hackathon in San Francisco. My friends and I wrote code all night, working our hardest to finish our project before morning. With nothing but caffeine and Vitamin B-12 keeping me conscious, I stepped out, bleary-eyed, into the post-hackathon morning sun and headed for downtown San Francisco, my heart pounding in anticipation at the thought of marching and speaking at my very first environmental rally.
I was astounded at the sheer size and diversity of the crowd assembled at One Market Plaza. Marching with Wen, Chris, and Olivia was a blast. We saw activists from every walk of life, from politically conscious twenty-somethings to aggressive, bearded flyer-wavers. As I moved with the crowd, I truly felt our strength in numbers, the power that we possessed as a group to effect change. I finally understood that the instruments of democracy did not lie within legislative chambers or behind Neoclassical columns, but in the atomic unit of our government: the people.
Eventually, the procession moved into Justin Hermann Plaza, and I found myself offstage, breathlessly waiting to deliver my speech. My heart was audibly thumping as I heard myself and Olivia being introduced, and I prepared to dash onstage. Olivia and I delivered our speeches without a hitch, and the crowd was incredibly responsive, even cheering when we introduced ourselves as high schoolers.
As we walked back to BART to go our separate ways, Olivia and I were stopped and offered gracious compliments by people that had watched us speak. I’m so grateful that ACE gave me the opportunity to speak and be recognized at such an exciting rally—the experience validated the work I had done at my school for the environment and inspired me to do more.
Shadi & Olivia deliver their speeches at the San Francisco Forward On Climate rally.