Article Interfaith

TEDxAmanaAcademy: 8 Year Old Maryam Elassar on Diversity and Inclusion

TEDxAmanaAcademy: 8 Year Old Maryam Elassar on Diversity and Inclusion

Author Maria Singman by

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My name is Maria Singman. Over the past four years, I have helped organize a TEDxYouthday event at our school called TEDxAmanaAcademy where 1st through 8th grade students write their own TED talks. I work with them to present it.

On Nov. 14, 2015, our brave students stood on stage to share their “Big Ideas” with the audience. Our fourth annual TEDxYouthday event happened a day after the Paris terrorist attacks. Although the adults in the room had plenty on their minds, all I wanted to do was focus all the positive energy towards the speakers, including 3rd grader Maryam Elassar. Her talk hit a chord with every adult in the room. She spoke with eloquence and poise about what she is doing right now to make the world a better place, sharing a beautiful story of friendship that started out of ignorance and ended with compassion. She also said this after her speech:

“When I was little, I didn’t understand what people meant when they talked about war, and words like discrimination and racism were big and hard to understand. Then I began wearing the scarf, following the example of my sisters. But people treated me different, and I understood racism. Then I saw on the news Syrians kids who were my age and dying, and I understood war. So I decided to give a speech on something I understand. The day of my speech came right after the big terrorist attack in Paris. I didn’t really understand what happened, but people seemed to believe the timing was perfect. My gym teacher told me my speech made him cry; I didn’t think I could do that by just saying what I believe. My speech was for children like me, who felt different, but I seemed to affect the adults the most. My English teacher said to me that she believed it didn’t make sense for the world to judge everybody and everything, when even a child like me knew it was wrong. People from different states watched my speech and reached out to me, saying that Islam was amazing. I am still young, but realizing I finally sent the message I wanted to send in my community made me proud. I hope that one day the same message will go out to the world and to a government who wants to prohibit the American children of immigrants just like myself.”

As educators, it is our job to set the stage for our students to succeed. I want you to listen to her words. I want you to feel her passion for helping others and building bridges instead of walls. The world needs more compassion and all it takes is a single step to create a catalyst for what you want to see. A third grade student has set the stage for you and we patiently wait your response.

You can watch Maryam’s full Tedx speech here.

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