I just finished a three-day summit at the Vatican in Rome.
It was a miracle.
Fifty amazing leaders came together to act for the world’s poorest people.
It gave me a lot of hope for a world that seems scary right now. The best way I know how to feel better is to do something. So I did!
I wanted to share my talk with you. I hope you like it.
Your Holiness Pope Francis, Cardinal Turkson, Mr. Van Dongen, distinguished guests, my family,
I am honored to be here with you today. Thank you for having me.
My name is Vivienne. I am 12 years old. I am going to be the first U.S. Secretary of Peace. As Secretary of Peace, I will ask people to put their compassion into action — and to create peace and justice for those who need it most.
His Holiness Pope Francis has asked us to take action for the world’s poorest people. Your Holiness, you and I share a common vision for humanity — and I will do what you have asked.
I am here as a voice for the 1.9 billion children in our world. I invite you all to join me in taking action for the world’s poorest people. Your Holiness, I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping others so much.
Your Holiness, I am reading your book “The Name of God is Mercy.” You talk so beautifully about mercy, inclusion and action, in a way I could understand and apply in my life. I have become one of your biggest fans. I even follow you on Twitter!
I love your song “Para que todos sean uno,” or “So We Can All Be One.” In it, you write: “So that all may be one. Gone are the walls, only the value of the encounter remains. That is the bridge to peace.”
Your Holiness, you have said: “A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”
My story is about making the world less cold and more just. It is about the power of compassion in action.
When I was 8, I saw a photo of two brothers in a rock quarry in Nepal bracing themselves against the terrible burden of modern-day slavery. I thought slavery ended long ago. But, it did not. I learned that there are 18 million children in slavery. That is 18 million too many.
When I looked at the photo, I said to my mom and dad: “Compassion is not compassion without action. We must do something.”
I did not think of all the reasons why I could not help (too young, too little). I thought of all the reasons why I must help (do good, save the world!). I set up my lemonade stand every day, rain or shine. After 173 days in a row, I raised $101,320 to eradicate child slavery, and I started a for-benefit business called “Make a Stand Lemon-aid,” with profits going to a purpose: fighting child slavery.
You might wonder where my sense of social justice comes from! Like all good things, it starts with my family. I am proud to be from a family of immigrants. (In fact, my grandmother Judith is here today.)
My grandparents made great sacrifices for my parents, who made great sacrifices for me. If they had not, I might have had to sell lemons to help our family. Instead, I was able to sell lemonade to help our world.
But, this is not about my story. It is about helping to write the stories of the many people who want to change the world. It is about empowering them to bring their courage, compassion and commitment to serve the poor, fight youth unemployment and battle the consequences of climate change.
We are the millions of young people who want to help the bottom billion. My parents believed in me, and look what happened.
Picture, in your mind, the future change-makers. They’re out there right now. Imagine if we believe in them enough and support them enough — and love them enough — so they believe in themselves enough to start their own business to serve the world’s poorest people. Imagine the impact on humanity now…and forever.
I am grateful to be alive at a time in history, when anyone anywhere can serve the world’s poorest people in big and beautiful ways.
I am grateful to be alive at a time in history when we have a Pope like His Holiness Pope Francis, who is saving the world through mercy, inclusion and action.
I would like to finish with a quote by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who said:
Be generous to those in need.
The man to whom our Lord has been liberal
ought not to be stingy.
We shall one day find in Heaven
as much rest and joy
as we ourselves have dispensed in this life.