U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice charged teens at BBYO’s International Convention to “get impatient with the way things are so you can dream of the ways things can be.”
Rice, the U.S. envoy to the world body, addressed some 1,700 Jewish teens, staff and community leaders on Feb. 15. The teens dispersed to 34 service sites across Washington to perform a collective 6,000 hours of community service and advocacy.
She told the convention participants that “the Jewish people, like my own,” have a shared history of charging each generation with social justice.” Rice, who is black, said it was enough to talk, they must act.
“Don’t just make a promise. Make it happen,” she said. “Don’t just dream. Get it done.”
At the convention, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) was presented with BBYO’s Stand Up Award.
“Like many of you, I was raised to believe that I could achieve anything I set my mind to,” Wasserman Schultz told the Jewish teen leaders representing 18 countries.
Explaining that she became involved in student government during college and ran for political office in Florida at age 25 because she believed younger people needed a voice, Schultz spoke about the “natural harmony between Jewish faith and action.”
“I know the depth of my commitment stems from my family dinner table, where my parents taught my brother and me the importance of our Jewish heritage and obligation to give back to the community in return for our blessings in life.”
Connecting Jewish heritage with social justice reforms in immigration, environment, labor, gun control, food justice and economic fairness, Schultz charged the teens to continue to work “in that solemn tradition.”
BBYO first partnered with Schultz on the EARLY Act legislation; the postcard the organization made supporting the legislation to educate young women about the risks for breast cancer still hangs in her office.