LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Headlining a gathering designed to inspire teen girls to become society's next leaders, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a cheering crowd in downtown Los Angeles today that she believes girls and young women should aspire to affect change in their lives and their communities.
``I really believe that girls and women are the future,'' Clinton told about 10,000 girls from public schools across the county at LA Promise Fund's Girls Build Leadership Summit at the convention center. ``I really do believe that, but we have to believe it about ourselves. ... Take this excitement and don't let it just be for one day. Decide what you're going to do to make a difference -- make a difference in your school , make a difference in your community, in your church, whatever it is that you care about.''
The former Democratic presidential hopeful told the crowd stories about her days in high school, the friendships she developed and about the groups she was involved with, including a church group that gave her the chance to meet Martin Luther King Jr. when she was 14 years old.
``It was the time when all of a sudden the world was cracking open and groups we had never heard of came from England, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones,'' she said. ``And it was an exciting time to be young. And the civil rights movement and then eventually the women's rights movement -- all of it began to work and I got to be part of that starting in high school.''
Clinton stressed the importance of education, saying she benefited from public school teachers who encouraged her and gave her ``constructive criticism.''
She also talked about the importance of friendships and having a circle of support.
``When you run for political office, people aren't always really nice to you. Sometimes they're really mean to you. I can think of a few people that fit into that category,'' she said in a not-so-veiled dig at President Donald Trump. ``... So it's great to have your friends travel with you, and meet you and buck you up and give you, you know, just a lot of love. So my friends are a critical central part of my life.''
She also told girls in the crowd that while each of them is unique, they can seek out mentors who have shared their dreams and aspirations.
``I don't want anybody leaving here today feeling alone,'' she said. ``I want every one of you to know, that whatever has happened to you in your life has happened to other people too. Whatever dreams you have, there are people who have followed those dreams that you can learn from, and you can seek out mentors and advisers.
``I really want you to feel part of a community, and it's a community of girls building L.A. It's a community that's bigger even than your own school or your own group. ... I really have been focused on giving young people -- both boys and girls, but I've really been centrally focused on girls -- the chance to live up to your God-given potential. So that means good health care, good education, a safe environment. It means a level of security so that you aren't feeling endangered or at risk. It involves good housing so that you don't have to worry what kind of situation you go home to.
``So I believe strongly that every single young person, especially in this country, deserves all of the tools that are needed to build an educated, healthy, safe life and then launch you into the future, whatever that may be for you.''
Ending her remarks, Clinton wished the ground a happy new year and urged them to ``keep fighting for what is right and what you believe in.''
Also on the speaking agenda at the daylong event were Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Beautycon CEO Moj Mahdara, mitu founder Beatriz Acevedo and Latina magazine founder Christy Haubegger.
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