When I left the house on the morning of Friday, February 22, I had no idea that was the day I’d go viral. Instead of going to Chemistry class, I walked downtown and joined a small rally outside Dianne Feinstein’s office. Three young students had written a letter to Senator Feinstein urging her to support the Green New Deal. They invited me and other students to join them to present the letter to her in person.
I expected Senator Feinstein to smile, nod, take notes, and thank us for coming. A part of me fantasized that we could actually convince her to vote yes on the Green New Deal. But what I didn’t anticipate was that she wouldn’t even pretend to listen to us. Senator Feinstein said she knows what she’s doing, that she’s been doing this for thirty years. However, those were exactly the years when our environmental crisis should have been addressed.
When I slipped into World History later that day, my teacher called me up to his desk and asked where I was. Still energized and somewhat stunned, I told him, “I was meeting with Senator Feinstein to urge her to support the Green New Deal.”
He was unfazed. “You’ll have to make up your work.”
The encounter with Senator Feinstein swiftly went from being my own exciting secret to being seen by over ten million people. The next few days were a flurry of film crews, news interviews, and magazine articles as we rode the rapid current of media attention. We then used this momentum to organize the Bay Area climate strike. I had video meetings with other student planners late into the night, and only afterward did I begin my homework. Climate activism became by wholehearted focus. I was busy and sleep-deprived while organizing the climate strike, but I was focusing on something that truly matters. The effort I put into this endeavor counteracted the tedium of sophomore year. I learned an immense amount about climate change, communication, collaboration, and working toward a goal. I became close friends with the other amazing young people on the planning team. The thought of growing up to hear more and more devastating reports of flooding, forest fires, and drought terrifies me, but my environmental work gives me hope.
On the morning of the March 15th climate strike, I got off Bart shortly after ten. I turned onto 7th street and saw the huge crowd forming outside the Federal Building. I ran down the block smiling wide, reveling in the product of my team’s hard work. As I helped lead the march, I felt the sense of power that surged through Market Street. I stepped in rhythm with the chants rising from the crowd, united with the two thousand students on strike in San Francisco and a million more around the world. The group pooled into Union Square where a sequence of speakers shared their perspective on the climate crisis and offered words of inspiration. When I began delivering my speech, the microphone malfunctioned, and I waited on stage as someone replaced it. Two friends of mine began chanting my name. Soon, the entire crowd joined in. It was a surreal moment: the sun on my face, my name echoing off tall, windowed buildings.
My speech included a call-and-response. I will never forget the sound of two thousand people saying, “We will not stop.”
I will not stop speaking to politicians who should represent me. I will not stop organizing large scale actions. And young people will not stop fighting for a bright future.
Nadja Goldberg, class of 2021