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'I Just Want To Fix The World,' Says Flint Teen About Her Drive For Activism

Susan Bence
Activist Mari Copeny, a 13-year-old from Flint, Mich., will be the keynote speaker at Saturday's Alverno College’s State Of Wisconsin Girls Summit.";

In the spring of 2016, residents of Flint, Mich., were experiencing one of the country’s most devastating water crises. Flint-native Mari Copeny decided to do something about it. She wrote a letter to then-President Barack Obama which led to the president traveling to Flint and sitting down to talk with Mari. 

What might be most remarkable is that Mari was just 8 at the time. Now 13, she’s launched into a life of activism.

Mari will be the keynote speaker at Saturday's Alverno College’s State Of Wisconsin Girls Summit, timed to highlight International Day of the Girl. The goal is to nurture leadership skills and encourage girls to become civically engaged. Mari will be sharing her story and conviction that kids can bring about real change.

"The water crisis was really bad at the time and I was like, since I want to speak at the congressional hearings, how about I write to Mr. Obama to see, you know, if he'll respond back to me," she says. "I was like, wait, I have to tell him about the water crisis to see what he can do to help."

She says to this day, Flint is still struggling to replace lead pipes and that people are still having to buy cases of bottled water to avoid using lead-filled water. Mari has a long list of issues that need to be addressed, from environmental to racial justice.

"Look, I just want to fix the world, so these ideas come from up inside my mind and my mind only, with a little bit of help from my mom and a little bit of help from my team," she says. 

Mari's keynote will focus on the power that girls hold and through her undying optimism, tell people how every girl can make a difference like she did. 

"I am just going to be talking about, you know, girls and how they can just change the world, basically, just going to be an inspirational speech. Yeah!" she says. 

Now in eighth grade, Mari has set some long-range goals, including becoming president of the United States. “Don't forget to vote for me for president in 2044,” Mari says, with her customary enthusiasm.

Registration is free and still open for Saturday's State Of Wisconsin Girls Summit.

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.<br/>
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.