Matthew traveled with Mikva Challenge to Washington DC this past January to participate in a national Youth Summit as one of five Action Civics LA youth to win the 2016 American Soapbox Video Competition with his speech on climate change. Click here to learn more about American Soapbox Initiative and watch Matthew’s winning speech.

On the Power of Speaking Up

by Matthew Kempfer

My name is Matthew Kempfer, and I am 16 years old. I am from Long Beach, California, and I am currently a junior in the CIC Program, which stands for the Center of International Curriculum. Throughout my high school career I have done many research papers and have been passionate about many of the topics I have researched. One of those topics is Climate Change. This issue is very important to me because it is something that affects literally everybody, no matter who you are, and no matter where you go you cannot escape it. This is why I chose Climate Change as my Project Soapbox topic to bring awareness.

Never in my life would I envision myself traveling to the other side of the country for a speech I wrote and said due to an online speech competition. Out of a whole nation of applicants, I was one of 30 selected to be apart of this awesome American Soapbox weekend in Washington DC. When I wrote this speech, I thought it was great, but I could’ve never imagined that it would lead me to DC, no matter how much I rehearsed and changed up lines to make it sound better. Due to that, I would like to thank my economics teacher Mr. Adler for notifying me and submitting my speech into the competition, and also for helping me with my speech. My experience over that weekend in DC was one that I will never forget. Seeing young people committed to making change and being active in local civics was amazing. Aside from the speeches, the fun activities, making new friends, and touring Washington DC made that weekend one of the best experiences of my life.

My favorite memory from the weekend was giving my speech right across the street from the White House. Giving my speech at that location meant a lot to me. I have given speeches in auditoriums before, but seeing people without a stake in my speech take the time out of their day to listen to me meant a lot, all while being in front of one of the world’s most recognized buildings is something I will never forget.

A funny story I have is from the first night we were there. Due to the different time zones, we all couldn’t sleep. Due to that, we were all talking and having fun late into the night, which of course makes noise. So when the trip leaders had to knock on our door to remind us it was time for sleep, we couldn’t stop laughing for a good ten minutes.

My experience with Action Civics LA has made me much more informed and aware of issues that face me and others my age. It also let me know how people view issues depending on their location in the country, such as the issue of police brutality in Chicago.

Some advice I would give to those who believe their voice isn’t important enough to make a difference is that if you believe that then you obviously don’t care enough about the issue. If you truly care about an issue and want to make serious change then you will exercise any option you can to make that change happen and make your voice one that people listen to.

I still am actively involved in Civics by informing and encouraging my friends and those around me to speak up on what they care about. In the summer I took part in a business “Veritus,” which was a debate app designed for users to learn, get informed, and debate amongst the issues that affect them the most. The trip to DC to give my speech definitely helped with my business skills. I was the person who had to give the presentations to investors or VC’s, and being on stage felt natural at that point because of my giving speeches, especially the one in Washington DC.

Thank you to Mikva Challenge and Action Civics LA for choosing me and making this very memorable weekend happen.

Watch a clip from Matthew’s Soapbox speech in Lafayette Square!

Matt speaking on climate change. American Soapbox in Lafayette Square, Washington DC, January 15th, 2017

Posted by Action Civics CA on Friday, January 20, 2017