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The day after Americans were glued to their TVs watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify at Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, 10,000 high school girls from Los Angeles gathered to hear Shonda Rhimes give the keynote address at the LA Promise Fund’s second annual GirlsBuild Leadership Summit.
The event, thrown in partnership with Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote at USC’s Galen Center, focused on civic engagement and voter registration for its teenage attendees — and Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter before her speech that it’s important to ensure young women make their voices heard.
“I think now more than ever it’s really important to make sure that young people and young women and everybody knows that the biggest way that we can make a change is to vote,” she said. Voting ensures that “when you’re looking at something like the Judiciary Committee, it is representative of who we are as people and women, and that their rights are represented. Really it’s about making sure that the face of our government is representative of the face of these girls out here.”
And while women of all ages can feel like their voices aren’t heard, it’s simply a matter of showing up at the polls — both during the presidential elections and during midterms and local elections.
“If you look at, for instance, the last election, statistically not a lot of people voted,” Rhimes told THR. “So for me it’s about making sure we are all engaged and to get the next generation growing up thinking about voting as something that’s a necessary act, versus something they maybe will or won’t do.”
During her speech, which she gave at the behest of the former first lady, Rhimes stressed the importance of creating communities — which is what she does with her TV shows — and using the power of your community to make your voice heard.
“I build tribes. In modern times, that’s what a good television show does,” she said. “A tribe is a powerful thing. It’s a sense of belonging.” Together, the 10,000 girls in the room were a tribe, she said, and as a tribe they could be louder than any individual.
“You do not want anyone else determining the course of your future,” Rhimes said as the L.A.-area high schoolers cheered and recorded videos of the moment to share on social media.
The event also included a panel featuring California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas grad Delaney Tarr, and Stoneman Douglas senior Kyrah Simon; a performance by the singer Daya; and a voter registration drive that signed up 500 students (who can pre-register starting at 16 years old) in its first hour.
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