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In 2010 I had the privilege of accompanying my grandfather to the viewing of a film I had never heard of. As the lights in the theatre dimmed, my fast moving, popcorn grabbing hands began to slow to the gut-wrenching stories of women across the world that were no different than I, yet were living in conditions I never thought to exist. That night, Woineshet Zebene Negash’s name was imprinted into my heart forever. After hearing her story and falling in love with not only her, but all the women in the film’s tendency to resist playing the victim, I became enthused with the spirit of standing up for what is right. I wrote an article in my school paper to make my high school aware of this gender crisis erupting in countries much less fortunate than ours. But nobody seemed to listen. My efforts to aid Nicholas Kristof and his infectious desire to change the world fell silent.
Then, in 2011, my life met Kristof’s once more. Browsing upon the Teen Ink website that would in a few short months bring me to the most life-changing experience of all time in the heart of New York City, I found a video of guess who?! Nicholas Kristof! My heart lit up and I began to watch the video, incredibly enthused at his presence once more in my life. Not only did this put me back into the spirit of writing, but also in the mood to change someone’s life. My sweet 16 party was celebrated that November without presents, but that was more than okay with me. In fact, I had asked my guests to bring donations for Children’s Memorial Hospital in lieu of gifts. Donating here, volunteering there, the remainder of my year was spent trying, helplessly aching to do something good. That summer, on my Teen Ink trip to NYC, on a tour of the grand New York Times building, I saw a framed article on the wall talking all about my favorite New York Times columnist—Nicholas Kristof.
It’s funny to me how I know that my life has come to change so many times because of a man that has devoted his life to my favorite thing—words; And not only that, but to use them to shape the world around him into something much better than it was when he came into it. Bad things happen in our world every day. In undeveloped countries where the role of women is taken for granted, in poor villages where children are scared for their lives every day, and in inner city schools where every problem is amplified because of the words and actions of others that kids face. Words are a neutral thing. But it’s up to each individual to decide whether their words will create hope and change like Nicholas Kristof’s, or manifest hatred and pain like that of the bullies that we all face in every stage of growth, every neighborhood, every school, and every level of professional career in this world. Maybe the answer to bullying is to have a hero. Or maybe the answer, is to be one.



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