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January 26, 2017 by Speakers' Spotlight

Speak of the Week: America Ferrera

On Saturday, the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hundreds of thousands of women from around the world took to the streets to a message to the newly minted “most powerful man on earth.”

While powerful speeches were made by dozens of women — including by the likes of Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, and Madonna — few words were as strong as those spoken by the woman named after America itself — the actress America Ferrera.

Ferrera, a first generation American (she was born to Honduran parents), spoke out against the rupture of American values that President Trump’s campaign and election has fuelled, urging the crowd to stand in solidarity with all Americans regardless of differences in race, age, gender, sexuality, or nation of origin.

“It’s been a heart-wrenching time to be a woman and an immigrant in this country,” she said, opening her talk. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay.”

Ferrera reminded the marchers that they were gathered to send a message to the president, to say to him, “Mr. Trump, we refuse. We reject the demonization of our Muslim brothers and sisters. We demand an end to the systemic murder and incarceration of our black brothers and sisters. We will not give up our right to safe and legal abortions. We will not ask our LGBTQ families to go backwards. We will not go from being a nation of immigrants, to a nation of ignorance.”

She went on to talk about the importance of the rights of undocumented minors to defer deportation. “They are hard-working, upstanding, courageous individuals who refuse to live in the shadow of fear and isolation. They bravely took to the streets to declare themselves and to provide a voice and hope for their community. Today, we march with and for them.”

Ferrera then issued a rallying cry in her closing: “If we do not stand together, march together, fight together, for the next four years, then we will lose together….But if we commit to what aligns us, if we stand together steadfast and determined then we stand a chance at saving the soul of our country.”

The next day, the President’s press secretary Sean Spicer made headlines blasting the media for what he called “false reporting”, leading Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway to later create her own media storm when she retorted to a journalist that President Trump adheres to “alternate facts” instead of, well, actual facts.

Since then, Trump has now moved forward on issuing executive orders intended to follow through on many of his campaign promises, including deporting the undocumented; barring international NGOs that perform abortions from receiving US funding; and his intention to build a wall along the border of the USA and Mexico.

For her prescient words, her courage in speaking out, and her determination to see Americans unified rather than divided, we choose America Ferrera as our Speak of the Week.