This past week two completely separate events—the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and my first full week teaching public speaking at Georgia Southern University—got me thinking about something many of us take for granted in America: opportunity.

Reading the news coming out of Afghanistan and knowing the brutal history of the Taliban made my heart ache for the women and girls whose opportunity will likely be seriously limited, if not completely eradicated.

On the other hand, I have women in my public speaking class who have the opportunity to express their thoughts and speak their mind, but they are afraid to do so because of what other people will think.

I can’t help but think that this is such a waste of opportunity!

In America, everyone has opportunity. The opportunities may not be equal, but they exist, unlike I fear they will not in Afghanistan.

When speaking with my students this past week and framing the situation for them I said, “In America, the Declaration of Independence recognizes our unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We have the right—and the responsibility—to do something with that guarantee. We have the right—and the responsibility—to use the opportunities given to us to speak our minds and share our thoughts so we can help make the world a better place. People throughout the world—especially the women and girls in Afghanistan—do not have that right or opportunity. We do, so we must learn to use our voices to speak up. Everyone was created for a unique purpose, and in this classroom in America, we want to hear what you have to say.”

I saw some heads nod in agreement, but since it is just the beginning of the semester, not every student believes in themselves and trusts what they have to say. I hope and pray that by the end of the semester, everyone with have found their voice.

We in America are blessed with opportunity. We do not know when the next opportunity will come around, but we know it will.

We should treat every moment like it is our last.

We should live life to the fullest.

We should take every opportunity to try something new.

We have that right—and responsibility.

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