It isn't every day that a former vice president speaks at a high school.
Tuesday, Oct. 4 , was one of those days. Al Gore — Nobel laureate, Oscar winner, and environmental activist — visited Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, and spoke to an audience of 700 students, faculty and guests.
Mr. Gore was introduced by his friend Ray Lane, a Sacred Heart Schools parent. Mr. Lane and Mr. Gore work together on the Kleiner Perkins "Green Tech Fund," which has had much success promoting environmental sustainability. Mr. Lane's heartfelt personal introduction lightened the mood and set the standard for an engaging, interesting discourse.
Mr. Gore's remarks to the students, who ranged from eighth- to 12th-graders, focused on global climate change and what young people can do to help. He urged the students to be "leaders of change" who work to promote ethical choices.
He added that while most students cannot vote, they can participate in the fight against global warming by making adults question their beliefs on global warming, how they vote, what resources they use, and what businesses they purchase goods from.
Mr. Gore emphasized the difference between "the hard right and the easy wrong" and the consequences that can come from cutting corners.
Our biggest problem today, Mr. Gore said, is that many aspects of our society are accepted just because "they've always been that way." Youth brings a unique perspective that's open and receptive to change. It is the job of the young people to question unethical, non-environmental aspects of our society and to ask adults, "Why do we do that?" By working as a whole, Mr. Gore said, students can force our leaders to reevaluate out-of-date ideas and customs.
After 45 minutes, Mr. Gore concluded his address and opened the floor to questions from the audience. Questions ranged from "Will you run for president again?" to a philosophical discussion about motivation and leadership. Much of the half-hour Q&A session focused on global warming, its projected effects, and what students can do to protect the environment.
Before leaving the stage, Mr. Gore closed by saying, "The character of an individual, of a nation, and ultimately of the human spirit is being tested today," referring to the declining state of the environment. He maintained that businesses and individuals are doing their part, but each person can always do more.
Mostly, Mr. Gore argued, society lacks a commitment from the government to take an environmentally friendly path. "But after all," he said, "government commitment is a renewable resource."
Students reacted positively to the presentation. Sophomore Lauren Mohrman said: "Hearing his advice about making a difference really spoke out to me. Having someone you don't see everyday tell you that you can make a change really makes you believe that you can."
Senior Andrew Liotta described the speech as "very impressive and well articulated. He presented his key ideas in a comprehensive and honest manner."
Most students were very excited in the days leading up to the event. Mr. Gore didn't disappoint. "I'm really glad I had the opportunity to hear the vice president speak. It's an experience I won't forget," said Andrew.
In addition to Al Gore, Sacred Heart Schools has invited several other guests during the Excellence Series, a program that prompts discussion and debate through thought-provoking lectures and speeches. Featured last year were Emmy-winning songwriter Peter Buffet and Senior Advisor to Google Omid Kordestani.
For more information on the Excellence Series, contact Millie Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sloane Sturzenegger, a senior at Sacred Heart Preparatory, is co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper.