Poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner receives a standing ovation with her family after addressing the U.N. on Sept. 23. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
The United Nations just wrapped up a major climate change summit in New York City, where world leaders made various pledges in hopes of building steam for an even bigger summit in Paris next year. It was a rare day of optimism about climate change, even if the event itself was relatively uneventful.
That doesn't mean it wasn't a big deal, though. The summit's full impact may not be seen until Paris 2015, but combined with the People's Climate March, it provided a global stage for the planet's biggest problem. The U.N. summit brimmed with stirring words meant to rally humanity against the monster we're creating, including speeches by some of Earth's most powerful and famous people.
The most poignant speech, however, was given not by a president, prime minister or movie star. It was given by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a 26-year-old poet from the Marshall Islands. Titled "Dear Matafele Peinem," it addresses Jetnil-Kijiner's infant daughter with a defiantly optimistic promise that "We won't let you down. You'll see." The poem would be moving in almost any context, but when read in person before the very people most capable of stopping climate change, it was downright cinematic.
That drama wasn't lost on many U.N. delegates. Jetnil-Kijiner received a standing ovation after she spoke, joined onstage by her husband and daughter, and her poem even "brought world leaders to tears," according to a tweet by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Watch the video below to see her address the U.N., or scroll down for a higher-quality version of just the poem itself.
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