Affirming the action she wants to politically pursue, Rocklin High School senior Amanda Wong represented the state of California through delivery of her speech on affirmative action and federalism at the National Foundation for Women Legislators Conference at Atlanta’s Ritz-Carlton.
“It was an honor to be there for Amanda during the conference,” said Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, who accompanied Wong to the conference Nov. 15-19. “This was a gathering of some of the strongest women in the nation and I encouraged Amanda to soak it all up and be immersed in the devotion of the influential women at this event.”
The two women saw many “inspiring” speeches, including that of Brigadier Gen. Rebecca Halstead on the need for steadfast leadership, presented in the presence of more than 80 legislators and Millie Hallow of the National Rifle Association.
Wong’s essay ranks her as one of the top seven finalists in the National Federation of Women Legislators and NRA’s Bill of Rights Essay Scholarship contest. She didn’t think she would win when she applied, she said.
“It is rare to meet your representatives in such an open environment, so it was eye-opening to see how human they were,” said Wong, who admires Gaines for being an “amazingly strong” woman.
During the third day, before the entire convention, the high school speech and debate champion delivered her speech. The experience, she said, despite the butterflies in her stomach, was not difficult.
“I found myself wanting to emulate these women – the legislators present. I am now more open to having a career in politics, whereas I denied ever wanting to before going,” said Wong, who was offered an internship with the NRA.
Wong also befriended John Bryant, president of President Obama’s HOPE project.
The “once in a lifetime” opportunity taught Wong about politics from real-world situations, something she finds applicable to her Advanced Placement Government studies at Rocklin High. Particularly, she learned that cooperation between parties is key, an idea modeled by the bipartisan NFWL.
“I was expecting it to be more heated because of that, but if anything, it inspired these women more to get things done,” said Wong, who woke at 6 a.m. to prepare for 12-hour days at the conference.
When Wong wasn’t connecting with legislators and political figures, she enjoyed bonding with the other finalists at a movie night. She also liked sight-seeing at the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza in Atlanta.
Gaines said Wong impressed her at the “em-powering” event. Wong has a “very bright future” ahead of her, she added.
Wong thanks Gaines, the NFWL and the NRA for enriching her life with the convention. Her Rocklin High teachers, she said, were also supportive.
“I want to make the people I met proud,” she said. “One of the legislators who I was close to told me, ‘I expect you to do big things.’ I plan to fulfill that.”