Hundreds of young, eager, and fashion-forward activists from all over the country flocked to Playa Vista on December 3rd for the second day of Teen Vogue Summit, and HelloGiggles was lucky enough to attend. A keynote session — which featured 17-year-old blackish actress Yara Shahidi interviewing former secretary of state Hillary Clinton — kicked off a day filled with empowering words from change-makers across all industries. Shahidi spoke to Clinton about the purpose of civic engagement, the power of standing up for other women, the importance of midterm elections, and whether the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine people’s rights can be stopped.
The Teen Vogue Summit brought together a perfect blend of diverse scholars, innovators, activists, and creatives. The two-day event included panels, mentorship workshops and keynotes from leaders in business, politics, tech, media, and the entertainment industry, including director Ava DuVernay, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Black Lives Matter Leader DeRay Mckesson, CEO of Blavity Morgan Debaun, author Luvvie Ajayi, and co-chair of Women’s March 2017 Carmen Perez.
Shahidi began the keynote with a question many of us have on our minds, but she prefaced it with a quote from writer and social critic James Baldwin that speaks volumes about the Trump Administration, “Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?”
“Is there a way to set out this fire?” Shahidi asked the former presidential nominee.
“This is a burning house,” Clinton agreed. “But hopefully the fire isn’t that big yet, and there is still a lot of time to put it out […] by people standing up and claiming their rights, claiming their values again, and voting.”
Clinton, who came of age in the civil rights moment and the women’s rights movement saw, as we’re seeing now, “[…] all the amazing progress that was made under the gay rights movement, that didn’t happen by accident. It happened because people marched and protested. They stood up, they spoke out. They defended their views and their values, their very core beings. They also helped to pass laws and enforce those laws. Make no mistake that the current administration and their allies in Congress want to undo a lot of that progress.”
Clinton, who is a guest-editor for Teen Vogue‘s December issue, also opened up to the black-ish actress about the uncomfortable second presidential debate held at Washington University, where Donald Trump hovered and stalked her around the stage. In hindsight, Clinton says it would have been satisfying to call him out on his stage-stalking.
Despite Trump looming over her during that debate, she maintained her composure. “But afterward, I thought about that, and what would have happened if I spun around and said, ‘You love to intimidate women, but back up you creep.’ It would have been really satisfying.”
But given the way women are covered, the backlash would have outweighed the satisfaction.
“When you’re the first woman nominated to be president by a major party you have no margin for error. People are watching and judging, literally 24/7,” Clinton said. “They would have said she can’t take it [or] we don’t want an angry woman in the oval office.”
Shahidi and Clinton’s conversation then shifted to the importance of standing up and showing up for not only ourselves but other women, other marginalized voices, and other communities.
“We have to make [the world] not only safe for women, we have to make it possible for us to be able to express the full range of human feeling and emotion,” Clinton said. And she revisited the “nasty” things Trump said to her and about her (“Remember when he called me a nasty woman?”).
Beyond voting and politics, Clinton urged Gen Z to also become involved and support the causes and issues they feel passionately about. Shahidi added that it’s vital to take advantage of intergenerational support and to “reach out to generations before and after you,” to both know your history and be better equipped to spark change.
In ending the keynote, Shahidi quoted Baldwin once more, citing the “moment in which you realize the flag to which you have pledged allegiance…has not pledged allegiance to you.” This generation represents the ability to change that, she insisted, “and the ability to make sure that the America and the flag that we are supposed to respect, respect our existence as well.”