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March 24, 2012 — More than 140 people packed the Redwood City Public Library March 24 for the "When I Grow Up" Women's History Month event hosted by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo). Congresswoman Speier welcomed the girls by reading off a list of the girls' responses about their career interests that they sent to her office: scientist, marine biologist, Air Force pilot, stylist, teacher, doctor, chef, optometrist, spy, nurse, physical therapist, gymnast, entrepreneur, coach, writer, veterinarian. Congresswoman Speier asked the girls who wanted to be "an important and influential leader?" "Every single hand should go up now!"
"The first step to make your dream come true is to have one," Congresswoman Speier said. "I want to encourage girls to reach for the stars, whether they want to become a doctor, scientist, athlete or activist."
Congresswoman Speier quoted Girl Scout research that shows that only 1 in 5 girls today thinks she has what it takes to become a leader, and she said it's time to change that.
The group of diverse Girl Scouts sitting together in the room warmed the heart of one of the speakers, Minniejean Brown Trickey. Brown Trickey was only 16 years old in 1957 when she became part of a national civil rights battle as one of 9 African American students attending the segregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and she praised the girls for their inclusiveness.
"At my age, we couldn't sit together," Brown Trickey said. One Girl Scout asked her how she became part of the Little Rock Nine.
"We were told the school was going to be desegregated, and if you were interested, sign the sheet," she said. "Sometimes you don't know you are going to change the world when you just sign your name. None of us knew this was going to happen like that."
After Brown Trickey related how the crowd of more than 1,000 desegregation protestors became violently angry, another Girl Scout asked if she was scared. "Yes." Minniejean Brown said simply.
"Although you do not hear about it happening often, teenagers and children can make history," Trickey Brown said. "We are all capable of changing the world and making history."
Captain Wentworth, a pilot with United Airlines, told the girls about her challenges breaking the gender barrier 21 years ago to become a pilot, and she encouraged them to take as much math and science as they could. Journalist Jan Yanehiro used her time with the girls to let them use hand-held cameras and interview each other. One Girl Scout, as she was being interviewed by another, said, "We are learning about power for Girl Scouts! I've learned there are many things you can do for a job and you're not limited."