On Friday 22 April, Forest Whitaker had a conversation with students at the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how individuals can contribute to achieving them. The event was organized as part of Mr. Whitaker’s role as UNESCO Special Envoy and a member of the UN Secretary-General’s SDG Advocacy Group. He was joined at the event by Thomas Gass, UN Assistant Secretary-General in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
The Bronx Center was chosen for the visit because of its reputation for academic excellence—despite its location in one of the poorest congressional district’s in the nation—and because of its emphasis on service and giving back.
The students were engaged in the conversation and asked several questions about how they could participate in the SDGs when many of them came from disadvantaged backgrounds. Mr. Whitaker stressed to the youth that they had to realize their individual power and that even seemingly small acts could make a big difference. “All the SDGs are connected,” Mr. Whitaker said, “and every person can start with small a small act or join a big movement. You have to be aware that you have the power to make a difference and decide how you want to be involved.”
During the conversation, Mr. Whitaker spoke candidly to the students about his own childhood, coming of age in Los Angeles during the birth of many gangs and the challenges that posed. He noted similarities he observed between gang members he knew in Los Angeles and former child soldiers he’s worked with in Uganda, and he told the students that this has motivated him to help young people overcome the obstacles they face.