Interviewed by Violeta Salazar
Tell the readers a little bit about yourself!
Hello! My name is Emily Han, and I am a Sophomore in Bay Area, CA. As a 4-year Debate Competitor, a 3-year Model United Nations Competitor, and a Teen Entrepreneur, my passion for public speaking has led me to co-found a worldwide nonprofit, Make a Statement (@projectmakeastatement), focusing on educating youth and low-income students about public speaking, in order to tackle the lack of public speaking education in the public school curriculum. We hold interactive workshops, summer camps, debate tournaments with a total audience of 650+ students from 25+ countries and 25+ states. During the summer, I also worked as a part-time Debate Coach Assistant, and I was selected to attend the MIT LaunchX, a highly selective Entrepreneurship Program, in the summer of 2021.
As a political activist, I am an intern at Congressional Candidate Rishi Kumar’s campaign, currently leading multiple projects. In one of which, the Water Project, our team successfully reduced the San Jose Water Company’s Water General Rate Case Increase by around eight percent, decreasing the cost of water bills for citizens during the pandemic.
As an artist, I am passionate about Digital Art and Design. I have managed and designed Social Media Posts for five different organizations. I also work as a marketing intern at a Real Estate Company, focusing on Facebook Marketing.
What inspired you to start Project Make a Statement?
My background as an immigrant who moved to California at the age of 10 compelled me to start Make a Statement. Due to the language barrier, I had to work a lot harder than others to achieve the same amount of accomplishments. Specifically, in my Speech & Debate journey, I felt hopeless and despair because no one was there to teach me the basics step by step. I recognized the lack of access to Speech & Debate education, especially for international and low-income students, which is why I started Make a Statement.
What have you learned from your experience in the National Speech & Debate Association? What about Model UN?
My experiences in both Speech & Debate and Model United Nations really broadened my knowledge on domestic and international issues. Through these activities, I regained my confidence after moving to a completely new environment, and I learned vulnerable, life-long skills, such as thinking on the spot and rebuttal, that will benefit me for the years to come.
What has been your most interesting or fulfilling political experience?
The most fulfilling political experience thus far was when I got to moderate Congressional Candidate Rishi Kumar’s monthly Town Hall Meeting. When Rishi reached out to me and offered such an amazing opportunity, I was thrilled and excited. During the meeting, we had a very engaging conversation on various topics such as Neighborhood Safety, Biotech Companies, Healthcare, and more. It was a sacred opportunity and I am really glad to take a part in it.
How has your identity impacted the way you think about politics?
Coming from someone who has witnessed the subtle racial discrimination in high school and elsewhere, when I think about politics, I think from the perspective of the poor. If I am homeless or if I cannot afford prescription drugs, what would I want the government to do. I believe that the world would only become a better place if all of us are thinking from the perspective of the poorest.
What’s one misconception you want to disprove about debate?
People tend to think that Speech & Debate is only for those who can naturally speak confidently or fast. That is completely false. As an immigrant who barely spoke any English, I am able to compete at Invitationals just like those who are naturally talented. Confidence and public speaking skills come with practice and time, however, if you never take the first step out of your comfort zone, you will never know what you are capable of achieving.
What do you hope to gain from the MIT LaunchX Summer Program?
I really look forward to meeting some awesome and like-minded peers who also have a passion for problems solving. Additionally, I look forward to hearing from and speaking to experts and professors from prestigious Universities. I think I will be able to learn a lot more skills and expand my network at the MIT LaunchX Program.
Has it been a struggle to manage your schoolwork and various activities during the pandemic? How have you handled problems that may have arisen?
To be bluntly honest, I am not the most productive person you will meet. Like any other teenager, I procrastinate and feel discouraged at times. And that’s completely fine. I try to keep myself on track by using Google Calendar and making to-do lists for both the week and the day. I have been pushing myself a lot in the past year, and at some point, I had too many things on my plate. I just couldn’t handle it. Since then, I have been really prioritizing my commitments and dedicating my time to what really interests me.