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the speech that changed her life
Amy Smith’s hand was hurting. She had been writing psychology notes for the last hour, and her hand was killing her. She glanced down at the two pages before her that were covered in her slanted, graceful writing, and snuck a peek at the clock. Ten minutes to go until the lunch bell. Amy picked up her pen again and resumed writing her notes as Mr. Clinger, the psychology professor, droned on in his boring, monotonous voice.
At 11:15 the lunch bell rang. Amy jumped out of her seat quickly, and grabbing her bag, raced to her locker, where she dumped it down and ran down the stairs to the lunchroom.
“Amy! Over here!” Her best friend Taylor was waving from their favorite table, the one near the window with the lilac bush outside.
Amy dropped into her seat happily. “Hey guys, how’s it going?” Her other friends, Jason and Maya, were also there.
“We’re good,” said Maya. “How was psych class?”
“Ugh. You know Mr. Clinger.”
Her friends laughed. Amy took a bite of her salad.
“You know,” said Jason, “if you decided to be a doctor, you wouldn’t have to sit through those boring classes.”
“Cut it out, Jason,” Amy groaned. Jason was always telling her to become a doctor, insisting that she was brilliant and being a psychologist would be a waste of her intelligence.
“Amy, seriously. You should totally be a doctor! Psychologists have to listen to suicidal people all day! That’s what you want to do with your life?”
“I like helping people,” Amy countered.
“Yeah, but you could help so many more people if you become a doctor,” Jason grinned at her. “You really should, you know.”
“Anyhoo…,” said Maya, tired of this conversation in which she had no part and that she’d heard many times already, “what are you doing tonight, Taylor?”
“I’m going shopping with Jess.” Jess was Taylor’s twin sister. They went to different colleges, because Jess was in Law school to become a lawyer, and Taylor was studying to be an accountant.
“Well, that’s fun!!” said Maya cheerfully.
“Heh, heh, heh, uh… no.” Despite the fact that they were sisters, Taylor and Jess had never gotten along. Their outings together always ended up with both of them tired and grumpy.
“Hey Amy,” said Jason, “I heard there’s this pharmacist speaking today about why he chose to develop medicine. It’s at 2:00. You wanna go with me?”
Amy thought about it. “Yeah, I guess. I don’t have anything to do this afternoon.”
“Cool. So, meet you at Room 3 on the 2nd floor at 2:00, Kay? Oh, Professor O’Brian is giving it. I heard he’s really good.”
“OK, see you!” Amy got up and threw her wrapper into the garbage can. “Guys, I have to go prepare for my next class, ok? I’ll ttyl.” She picked up her bag and went out of the lunchroom to retrieve her books from her locker.
The bell rang, and everyone lurched off towards their respective classrooms.
Amy sat through the next two hours of classes barely taking anything in. Now that she thought of it, being a psychologist didn’t seem so exciting after all. The teacher was handing back their psychology tests. Amy glanced at hers. Another 100.
Maybe I am too smart to be a psychologist, she thought. Well, she was going to that speech soon. She’d think about it after.
At 2:00, Amy went down the stairs to the room where the speech was taking place. Jason was standing at the door waiting for her.
“Hey, Jason, what’s up?”
“Ehh, nothing. What took you so long?”
“I was cornered by Mr. Clinger,” Amy laughed. “He congratulated me on my test grade.”
Jason grinned. “Another perfect score?”
“What do you think?” Amy gave him a playful shove.
Jason grinned and shoved her back. Just then the room went silent as the speaker got up to speak. Jason and Amy took their seats and waited for him to begin.
“A long time ago,” the speaker began, “when I was a young man,” he paused and waited for everyone to laugh. There were a few titters. He went on.
“When I was a young man, I went to Africa to get medical training while I was in medical school. I was very excited. I imagined all the sick children without proper medical care, the people with AIDs, the malnourished children with their stomachs bloated from hunger. I saw myself in my mind’s eye, giving vaccines, comforting kids, providing food and clean water. “
The speaker straightened his glasses, cleared his throat, and continued.
“Well, what I saw when I got off that plane was nothing that I had imagined. I had envisioned people living in houses, small ones, but houses nonetheless. I thought there would be only a small number of children with bloated stomachs, a few rich people in every village that donated food and help to the poor.
“When I stepped off the plane ramp, the first thing that hit me was the smell. It smelled like rotten food, unwashed bodies, poverty. Then the heat hit me. It was like a massive wall that carried the wails of all the people that had suddenly crowded around, begging me for food or money. Every child in sight was malnourished. I went to the luggage dropper-offer and waited for my suitcases to come, trying to close my heart to the beggars. My luggage came, but the poor people pounced on it and ran away with it before I could stop them.
“Traveling through the villages, I saw no rich people, or any houses. The people lived in huts made of soggy, moldy cardboard, clearly taken from the garbage. And those were the lucky ones. The unlucky ones lived behind the shelter of a rock.
“I went immediately to the college in the main city of Africa, and began studying to be a pharmacist – to develop drugs and medicines that would help those people. It took a long time to study, because I had to start all over again when I was already 28. But here I am, developing medicines to help poor countries. It’s extremely rewarding, knowing that I’m helping people live better and healthier lives. Thank You.”
The audience stood up and clapped as he left the room. The room began to buzz as people discussed what they had just heard.
Amy just sat there. The speech had made a big impact on her.
“Amy?”Jason asked, she didn’t move. Jason shook her.
“Whoa, sorry Jason! I was just spaced out.” She grinned up at him.
“OK, so what did you think of his speech?”
“I liked it! I think I might wanna check into becoming a pharmacist or some other kind of doctor.”
“That’s great! I think it would be the best use of your brains.”
Amy walked home slowly, contemplating all that she had heard that day, weighing it in her mind.
All my life I wanted to be a psychologist. Even when I was young, I’ve always connected well with people. I wanted to be a psychologist so I could professionally relate to them and help them straighten out their lives.
But the little voice niggled in her head. Jason is right. You know he is. If you’d be a doctor, you’d help people actually live, and someone else would help them emotionally. Living with problems is better than not living at all.
Amy decided to sign up for a pharmacist course and see how she liked it.
Now that she had decided what to do, she went home to her apartment happily.
She knocked on the door, and her roommate, Yerin, opened it.
“Hey Amy, how was your day?”
“It was good. I’m going to try a pharmacist course to see how I like it.”
“That’s great, Amy!” Yerin was delighted. She agreed with Jason that being a psychologist wasn’t the best idea for Amy.
Amy rethought her life that night.
Over the next few years, Amy tried the course, loved it, and began studying to be a pharmacist. In 2020, she graduated from her class with highest honors, at age 28, and got a job at the New Port hospital. She developed many medicines, and in 2025, she developed the cure to AIDs.
She won the Nobel Prize in 2027, and married Sam Jackson, the man who presented it to her. She had two children, Sarah and Anna.
Thanks to Amy Smith, (and her friend Jason Whitling), the cure to AIDs was discovered, and the world was a better place.