Return to Video

Being young and making an impact

  • 0:01 - 0:04
    My mom is a strong black woman
  • 0:04 - 0:08
    who raised her kids to have
    the same sense of strength and pride.
  • 0:08 - 0:11
    This spirit was epitomized
    by a single wall
  • 0:11 - 0:14
    in our small, two-bedroom apartment
    on the South Side of Chicago.
  • 0:14 - 0:15
    Two pictures hung proudly:
  • 0:15 - 0:19
    one larger-than-life photo
    of my siblings and I
  • 0:19 - 0:20
    and the other a picture of my mom
  • 0:20 - 0:22
    at 12 years old
  • 0:22 - 0:24
    staring into the eyes
    of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • 0:26 - 0:29
    When I was younger,
    I used to stand on my tippy-toes,
  • 0:29 - 0:30
    stare at that picture,
  • 0:30 - 0:33
    close my eyes tightly,
    and just pretend that it was me
  • 0:33 - 0:37
    gazing up at the man who revolutionized
    the Civil Rights Movement,
  • 0:37 - 0:39
    who marched on Washington
    and who transformed a generation
  • 0:39 - 0:41
    by his words, "I have a dream."
  • 0:42 - 0:43
    But I did get to meet him.
  • 0:43 - 0:45
    Now, obviously, I didn't meet Dr. King,
  • 0:45 - 0:47
    but I met a man named Dr. Vincent Harding.
  • 0:48 - 0:50
    He worked with Dr. King from day one
  • 0:50 - 0:53
    and even wrote some of his
    most iconic speeches.
  • 0:54 - 0:56
    You see, this was a really
    important moment for me as a kid,
  • 0:56 - 0:59
    because it was the first time
    that I realized
  • 0:59 - 1:01
    that it wasn't just Dr. King
    who led this revolution,
  • 1:01 - 1:06
    but he was surrounded by a movement
    made up of anonymous extraordinaries.
  • 1:07 - 1:11
    Anonymous extraordinaries are people
    who work selflessly and vigorously
  • 1:11 - 1:12
    for what they believe in,
  • 1:13 - 1:16
    people who are motivated by conviction
    and not recognition.
  • 1:16 - 1:19
    It took me a long time to realize
    the significance of this moment,
  • 1:19 - 1:20
    until I was much older.
  • 1:20 - 1:22
    And like I said, I grew up in Chicago.
  • 1:22 - 1:24
    I grew up in a rough, poor neighborhood,
  • 1:24 - 1:26
    but it didn't really matter to me as kid
  • 1:26 - 1:29
    because I literally have
    the most incredible family in the world.
  • 1:29 - 1:31
    Two things that I did
    struggle with a lot
  • 1:31 - 1:33
    growing up was one --
  • 1:33 - 1:35
    that my dad has been sick my whole life.
  • 1:35 - 1:37
    He suffers from Parkinson's
    and pancreatitis,
  • 1:37 - 1:41
    and as a kid, it was so hard
    for me to watch my hero
  • 1:41 - 1:42
    in so much pain.
  • 1:43 - 1:45
    And my other issue was with me.
  • 1:45 - 1:47
    I guess you could say
    I had an identity crisis.
  • 1:48 - 1:50
    I had to move four times
    during high school,
  • 1:50 - 1:53
    and my freshman year I went
    to an extremely racist high school.
  • 1:53 - 1:54
    Kids were so cruel.
  • 1:54 - 1:56
    They gave us hate letters,
  • 1:56 - 1:58
    wrote terrible things on our lockers
  • 1:58 - 2:00
    and because I'm biracial,
    they would tell me,
  • 2:00 - 2:03
    "You can't be both.
    You have to choose, black or white."
  • 2:03 - 2:05
    And in the end
    I just resented being either.
  • 2:05 - 2:08
    And then all of a sudden,
    my senior year rolls around, 2008,
  • 2:08 - 2:11
    and being mixed, being racially
    ambiguous is this new cool fad,
  • 2:11 - 2:14
    like, "Natalie, now it's OK
    for you to like you. You're pretty now."
  • 2:14 - 2:17
    I was over it. I was tired of caring
    about what other people thought
  • 2:17 - 2:19
    and I just wanted to hurry up,
  • 2:19 - 2:22
    go through my classes,
    whatever school I was going to be at next,
  • 2:22 - 2:23
    and graduate.
  • 2:23 - 2:26
    It wasn't until I was 17
  • 2:26 - 2:28
    and I saw a film
    called "Invisible Children"
  • 2:28 - 2:30
    that something happened.
  • 2:31 - 2:33
    Child soldiers,
  • 2:33 - 2:35
    children as young as my nephews
  • 2:35 - 2:39
    being abducted,
    given AK-47s and forced to kill,
  • 2:39 - 2:42
    not just anyone, but oftentimes
    forced to kill their own parents,
  • 2:42 - 2:44
    their own siblings --
  • 2:44 - 2:49
    a rebel army committing mass murder
    for no political or religious reason,
  • 2:49 - 2:50
    just because.
  • 2:51 - 2:52
    25 years.
  • 2:53 - 2:56
    25 years this conflict has been going on.
  • 2:56 - 2:57
    I'm 20 years old,
  • 2:57 - 3:00
    so that makes this conflict
    five years older than me.
  • 3:00 - 3:02
    One man,
  • 3:02 - 3:05
    one man with one charismatic voice,
  • 3:05 - 3:07
    started this whole thing.
  • 3:07 - 3:08
    His name is Joseph Kony.
  • 3:10 - 3:12
    When I saw this film, something happened.
  • 3:12 - 3:14
    Something started
    kind of stirring inside of me,
  • 3:14 - 3:16
    and I couldn't identify what it was.
  • 3:16 - 3:18
    I didn't know if it was rage,
    if it was pity,
  • 3:18 - 3:20
    if I felt guilty
    because this was the first time
  • 3:20 - 3:22
    I'd heard about a 25-year-long war.
  • 3:23 - 3:24
    I couldn't even give it a name.
  • 3:24 - 3:27
    All I knew is that it kicked me off my ass
    and I started asking questions.
  • 3:27 - 3:31
    What do I do? What can one 17-year-old do?
  • 3:31 - 3:32
    You've got to give me something.
  • 3:33 - 3:34
    And they gave me something.
  • 3:35 - 3:37
    The founders and filmmakers
    at Invisible Children told me
  • 3:38 - 3:39
    that there was this bill,
  • 3:39 - 3:41
    that if we could
    just get this bill passed,
  • 3:41 - 3:44
    it would do two things:
    one, it would apprehend Joseph Kony
  • 3:44 - 3:46
    and the top commanders in his rebel army,
  • 3:46 - 3:49
    and two, it would provide funding
    for the recovery of these regions
  • 3:49 - 3:51
    that had been devastated
    by 25 years of war.
  • 3:51 - 3:53
    And I was like, done. Let me at it.
  • 3:53 - 3:55
    I swear I will do whatever I can
    to make this happen.
  • 3:56 - 4:00
    So myself and 99 other
    idealistic 18- to 20-year-olds
  • 4:00 - 4:03
    hopped on a plane to intern
    in San Diego with Invisible Children.
  • 4:04 - 4:07
    I was postponing college.
    We weren't getting paid for this
  • 4:07 - 4:10
    and you could call it irresponsible
    or crazy -- my parents did.
  • 4:10 - 4:13
    But for us, it would have been
    insane not to go.
  • 4:14 - 4:17
    We all felt this urgency,
    and we would do whatever it took
  • 4:17 - 4:19
    to pass this bill.
  • 4:20 - 4:22
    So we were given our first task.
  • 4:22 - 4:25
    We were going to plan an event called
    the Rescue of Joseph Kony's Child Soldiers
  • 4:26 - 4:29
    where participants would come
    in a hundred cities worldwide
  • 4:29 - 4:30
    and rally in their city center
  • 4:30 - 4:32
    until a celebrity or a political figure
  • 4:32 - 4:35
    came and used their voice
    on behalf of these child soldiers,
  • 4:35 - 4:37
    and at that point each city was "rescued."
  • 4:38 - 4:41
    But the catch was, we weren't
    leaving the cities until we were rescued.
  • 4:42 - 4:44
    I was given Chicago and nine other cities
  • 4:44 - 4:46
    and I told my bosses, I was like,
  • 4:46 - 4:49
    "If we're going for big-name people,
    why not go for the queen bee? Right?
  • 4:49 - 4:51
    Why not go for Oprah Winfrey?"
  • 4:51 - 4:55
    They thought I was a little idealistic,
    but I mean, we were trying to think big.
  • 4:55 - 4:56
    We were doing an impossible thing,
  • 4:56 - 4:58
    so why not try to reach
    more impossible things?
  • 4:59 - 5:01
    And so we had from January
    to April to get this done.
  • 5:02 - 5:05
    This is the number of hours
    that I spent on logistics,
  • 5:06 - 5:08
    from getting permits
    to rallying participants
  • 5:08 - 5:09
    and finding venues.
  • 5:11 - 5:13
    This is the number of times
    that I was rejected
  • 5:13 - 5:16
    by celebrities' agents
    or politicians' secretaries.
  • 5:18 - 5:21
    That is amount of money
    that I spent personally
  • 5:21 - 5:24
    on Red Bull and Diet Coke
    to stay awake during this movement.
  • 5:24 - 5:25
    (Laughter)
  • 5:25 - 5:27
    You can judge me if you want to.
  • 5:28 - 5:30
    That is my hospital bill
    from the kidney infection I got
  • 5:30 - 5:34
    from an overconsumption of caffeine
    due to this event.
  • 5:34 - 5:35
    (Laughter)
  • 5:35 - 5:38
    These were just some
    of the ridiculous things that we did
  • 5:38 - 5:39
    to try and pull this event off.
  • 5:39 - 5:42
    And so April 21 rolls around
    and the event begins.
  • 5:42 - 5:44
    A hundred cities around the world.
    They were beautiful.
  • 5:45 - 5:48
    Six days later, all the cities
    were rescued but one:
  • 5:48 - 5:49
    Chicago.
  • 5:49 - 5:52
    So we were waiting in the city.
  • 5:52 - 5:54
    People started coming
    from all over the world,
  • 5:54 - 5:56
    all over the country to be reinforcements
  • 5:56 - 5:58
    and join their voice with ours.
  • 5:58 - 5:59
    And finally, on May 1,
  • 5:59 - 6:01
    we wrapped ourselves around Oprah's studio
  • 6:01 - 6:03
    and we got her attention.
  • 6:03 - 6:05
    This is a clip from a film
    called "Together We Are Free"
  • 6:05 - 6:08
    documenting the rescue event
    and my attempt to get Oprah.
  • 6:11 - 6:13
    (Video) Oprah Winfrey:
    When I drove into the office,
  • 6:13 - 6:16
    there was a giant -- when you came in,
    was there a group outside?
  • 6:16 - 6:17
    Crowd: Yes.
  • 6:17 - 6:20
    OW: Holding up signs
    asking if I would talk to them
  • 6:20 - 6:21
    for just five minutes,
  • 6:21 - 6:23
    so I was happy to do so.
  • 6:23 - 6:26
    And they are with a group
    called "Invisible Children,"
  • 6:26 - 6:28
    and I told this group outside
  • 6:28 - 6:32
    that I'd give them a minute
    to state their case.
  • 6:32 - 6:34
    Man: Oprah, thank you
    so much for having us.
  • 6:34 - 6:40
    Basically, these folks out here
    have seen the story of 30,000 children
  • 6:40 - 6:44
    abducted by a rebel leader
    named Joseph Kony.
  • 6:44 - 6:45
    And they're out here in solidarity,
  • 6:46 - 6:49
    and they have been out here for six days.
  • 6:49 - 6:52
    This started 100,000 people worldwide.
  • 6:52 - 6:54
    Now it's down to 500 standing strong
  • 6:54 - 6:57
    so that you can raise
    the profile of this issue
  • 6:57 - 7:01
    and we can end the longest-running
    war in Africa and rescue those kids
  • 7:01 - 7:04
    that are child soldiers
    still in East Africa.
  • 7:04 - 7:06
    Oprah, I have to say
    this girl Natalie here,
  • 7:06 - 7:07
    she's 18 years old.
  • 7:07 - 7:09
    She was an intern for us this year,
  • 7:09 - 7:12
    and she said, "My one goal
    is to get Oprah."
  • 7:12 - 7:14
    She had 2,000 people come out on Saturday,
  • 7:14 - 7:16
    but it rained.
  • 7:16 - 7:18
    She stood here in the rain with 50 people.
  • 7:18 - 7:21
    When they heard she was here,
    hundreds started coming.
  • 7:21 - 7:23
    People are here from Mexico, Australia.
  • 7:23 - 7:25
    Natalie's 18.
  • 7:25 - 7:26
    Don't think you're too young.
  • 7:26 - 7:28
    You can change the world any day.
  • 7:28 - 7:29
    Start now.
  • 7:29 - 7:30
    Start today.
  • 7:30 - 7:33
    (Cheers)
  • 7:36 - 7:37
    Man: Was it worth it?
  • 7:37 - 7:40
    Crowd: Yeah!
  • 7:41 - 7:46
    Natalie! Natalie! Natalie!
  • 7:46 - 7:49
    (Music)
  • 7:52 - 7:55
    Together we are free!
    Together we are free!
  • 8:00 - 8:05
    (Applause)
  • 8:05 - 8:08
    So you would think
    that this is the moment in my life,
  • 8:08 - 8:10
    the pinnacle that
    made me an extraordinary.
  • 8:11 - 8:12
    And it was an awesome moment.
  • 8:12 - 8:14
    I mean, I was on top of the world.
  • 8:14 - 8:16
    Ten million people
    watched the "Oprah Winfrey Show."
  • 8:17 - 8:18
    But looking back, that wasn't it.
  • 8:18 - 8:19
    Don't get me wrong.
  • 8:20 - 8:21
    Like I said, it was great moment.
  • 8:21 - 8:24
    It made for a heck of a profile picture
    on Facebook for a week.
  • 8:24 - 8:25
    (Laughter)
  • 8:26 - 8:28
    But I had been extraordinary all along,
  • 8:28 - 8:29
    and I wasn't alone.
  • 8:29 - 8:32
    You see, even though
    my story was featured in this film,
  • 8:32 - 8:34
    I was just one of a hundred interns
  • 8:34 - 8:37
    who worked their tails off
    to make this happen.
  • 8:38 - 8:39
    I'm up in the air,
  • 8:39 - 8:41
    but the guy that I'm sitting
    on his shoulders,
  • 8:41 - 8:42
    he's my best friend.
  • 8:42 - 8:44
    His name is Johannes Oberman
  • 8:44 - 8:46
    and Johannes worked with me
    from day one in Chicago,
  • 8:46 - 8:49
    just as long hours,
    just as many sleepless nights as I did.
  • 8:50 - 8:53
    The girl on the right,
    her name's Bethany Bylsma.
  • 8:53 - 8:55
    Bethany planned New York City and Boston,
  • 8:55 - 8:58
    and they were seriously
    the most beautiful events that we held.
  • 8:59 - 9:01
    The girl on the left, her name's Colleen.
  • 9:01 - 9:03
    Colleen moved to Mexico,
  • 9:03 - 9:04
    moved, for three months,
  • 9:04 - 9:06
    to plan five events there,
  • 9:06 - 9:08
    only to be kicked out
    the day before the events
  • 9:08 - 9:10
    because of the swine flu.
  • 9:11 - 9:13
    And then there was this family.
  • 9:13 - 9:16
    This family, they didn't
    get to come to the rescue.
  • 9:16 - 9:17
    They couldn't make it out,
  • 9:17 - 9:19
    but they ordered
    a hundred boxes of pizza for us,
  • 9:19 - 9:22
    delivered them to the corner
    of Michigan and Randolph
  • 9:22 - 9:24
    where we were all silently protesting.
  • 9:24 - 9:27
    You see, it was people like this
    doing whatever they could,
  • 9:27 - 9:29
    simultaneously, single-mindedly,
  • 9:29 - 9:31
    without a care to who was watching,
  • 9:31 - 9:33
    that made this happen.
  • 9:33 - 9:35
    It wasn't about us getting on Oprah,
  • 9:35 - 9:37
    because when I got down
    from their shoulders,
  • 9:37 - 9:38
    the war hadn't ended.
  • 9:38 - 9:40
    It was about that bill.
  • 9:40 - 9:42
    Oprah was just a checkpoint
    on the way to that bill.
  • 9:42 - 9:43
    That bill was the point.
  • 9:44 - 9:46
    That bill is what we had
    our eyes set on from day one.
  • 9:46 - 9:49
    That was going to help us
    end Africa's longest-running war.
  • 9:49 - 9:52
    And that is what brought
    a hundred thousand people
  • 9:52 - 9:54
    out to the rescue event
    from around the world.
  • 9:55 - 9:56
    And it paid off:
  • 9:58 - 10:00
    10 days after we were on Oprah,
  • 10:00 - 10:02
    the bill was introduced into Congress.
  • 10:03 - 10:06
    A year after that, it got unanimously
  • 10:06 - 10:10
    267 cosponsors in Congress.
  • 10:10 - 10:11
    And then one week after that,
  • 10:13 - 10:15
    President Obama signed our bill into law.
  • 10:15 - 10:18
    (Applause)
  • 10:23 - 10:25
    And none of us interns got to be there.
  • 10:25 - 10:27
    We didn't get to be there in this moment.
  • 10:27 - 10:28
    Our founders were there.
  • 10:28 - 10:30
    They're the guys
    cheesing in the background.
  • 10:30 - 10:35
    But that moment right there
    is what made all of it worth it.
  • 10:35 - 10:38
    It's what a hundred thousand
    anonymous extraordinaries
  • 10:38 - 10:41
    worked for so hard to make that happen.
  • 10:42 - 10:44
    You know, the Oprah moments,
  • 10:44 - 10:47
    they prove that the supposedly
    impossible can be done.
  • 10:47 - 10:49
    They inspire us.
    They boost our confidence.
  • 10:49 - 10:51
    But the moment isn't a movement.
  • 10:51 - 10:55
    Even a lot of those moments
    strung together don't fuel a movement.
  • 10:55 - 10:58
    What fuels a movement are
    the anonymous extraordinaries behind it.
  • 10:59 - 11:02
    You know, for me, what kept me
    pushing on through the rescue
  • 11:02 - 11:04
    was the thought of those child soldiers.
  • 11:04 - 11:07
    It became personal.
    I was able to go to Africa at one point.
  • 11:07 - 11:08
    I met these incredible people.
  • 11:08 - 11:12
    I have friends that have been
    living in this conflict their entire life,
  • 11:12 - 11:13
    and it was personal to me.
  • 11:13 - 11:15
    But that doesn't have to be
    what drives you.
  • 11:16 - 11:19
    You know, you may want
    to be the next Shepard Fairey
  • 11:19 - 11:21
    or the next JK Rowling
  • 11:21 - 11:23
    or the next whoever.
  • 11:23 - 11:25
    It doesn't matter, but whatever you want,
  • 11:25 - 11:27
    chase after it
    with everything that you have --
  • 11:27 - 11:29
    not because of the fame or the fortune,
  • 11:29 - 11:32
    but solely because
    that's what you believe in,
  • 11:32 - 11:34
    because that's what makes your heart sing.
  • 11:34 - 11:35
    That's what your dance is.
  • 11:36 - 11:39
    That's what is going
    to define our generation,
  • 11:39 - 11:42
    when we start chasing and fighting
    after the things that we love
  • 11:42 - 11:43
    and that we want to fight for.
  • 11:43 - 11:47
    I cared too much in high school
    about what people thought about me.
  • 11:47 - 11:49
    That's what so awesome
    about this conference,
  • 11:49 - 11:50
    is so many of you are so young.
  • 11:50 - 11:54
    Find that thing that inspires you
    that you love, and just chase after it.
  • 11:54 - 11:55
    You know, fight for that,
  • 11:55 - 11:57
    because that is what
    is going to change this world
  • 11:57 - 11:59
    and that is what defines us.
  • 11:59 - 12:00
    Despite what people think,
  • 12:00 - 12:04
    my Oprah moments,
    my being on TED, doesn't define me,
  • 12:04 - 12:06
    because if you were
    to follow me home to LA,
  • 12:06 - 12:09
    you would see me waiting tables
    and nannying to pay the bills
  • 12:09 - 12:11
    as I chase after my dream
    of becoming a filmmaker.
  • 12:12 - 12:15
    In the small, anonymous, monotonous
  • 12:16 - 12:17
    every-single-day acts,
  • 12:17 - 12:20
    I have to remind myself
    to be extraordinary.
  • 12:21 - 12:24
    And believe me, when the door
    is closed and the cameras are off,
  • 12:24 - 12:26
    it's tough.
  • 12:26 - 12:29
    But if there's one thing
    that I want to drive home to you,
  • 12:29 - 12:32
    one thing that I can say,
    not just to you but to myself,
  • 12:32 - 12:34
    is that it is the acts
    that make us extraordinary,
  • 12:34 - 12:36
    not the Oprah moments. Thank you.
Title:
Being young and making an impact
Speaker:
Natalie Warne
Description:

At 18, Natalie Warne's work with the Invisible Children movement made her a hero for young activists. She uses her inspiring story to remind us that no one is too young to change the world.

more » « less
Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
12:49

English subtitles

Revisions Compare revisions