(Remarks to the Jewish Federations of North America, Sunday, November 8, 2009.)
I'm Marisa Johnson, I am a senior at Northwestern University, a history major, a figure skater, and a Jew. I'd like to tell you a story about two people.
The first is shy, unsure how she fits in on campus or in the Jewish community, and spends Friday nights at frat parties, not Hillel. She doesn't consider what might be possible.
The second is a confident leader -- a mentor to peers and younger students. She feels at home in the Jewish campus community, and is a member of the Hillel Leadership Council. She believes anything is possible and strives to make it so. She should really get more sleep.
These are two distinct stories. Two distinct people. And both of them are me.
I can't pinpoint one precise moment when I suddenly understood my role in the Jewish community. The journey began with my year as an intern for Hillel's Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative, my first glimpse of the Jewish community's most pressing mission: to engage the uninvolved, show them a world of Jewish possibilities, and give them the tools to build a meaningful Jewish life.
Now, as an advisor to the current interns, I have mentored a young woman who led a 28-student humanitarian mission that brought 1000 lbs of medical aid to Cuba. Another intern reignited the Holocaust Awareness group on campus, bringing together more than 100 students for the opening of the Illinois Holocaust Museum, a Yom Hashoah walk and a memorial service on campus.
I have learned that my actions can have a much broader impact beyond my direct reach. And I continue to realize how much is possible, not only for the Jewish community, but also for myself.
I approach the future with enthusiasm and confidence that I have gained through my experiences with Hillel. Ready to be part of our Jewish community wherever my journey takes me, I go forward with the knowledge that everything is possible.
Now... all I need is a job!
View a videotape of Marisa's presentation.