Amal Clooney is all smiles as she arrives onstage at the 2018 Watermark Conference for Women held at the San Jose Convention Center on Friday (February 23) in San Jose, Calififornia, USA.
Amal Clooney was only 4 when her family fled the Lebanese Civil War, so she doesn’t remember much about its horrors. But her mother has told her of the afternoon when the small school bus she and her sister were riding was hours late. The bus had to veer off the road near their Beirut home, because of shelling ahead.
“As a parent now, I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been,” Amal Clooney said Friday at the Watermark Conference for Women Silicon Valley in San Jose.
As Amal Clooney acknowledged, the experience of being a refugee from a war-torn area, as well as a mother, has informed her activism on behalf of victims of violence. Now Clooney’s support extends to the students who survived last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She and George Clooney plan to attend the students’ anti-gun violence march in Washington, D.C., on March 24.
Moreover, the couple have pledged $500,000 to help fund the event. They announced their donation this week in the name of their children, Ella and Alexander.
“I’m just blown away by these students,” Clooney said, during an onstage conversation with “All Things Considered” co-host Kelly McEvers at the San Jose Convention Center.
“They are turning a tragedy into advocacy,” said Clooney, whose clients have included journalists imprisoned by governments in Egypt and Azerbaijan, as well as an Iraqi woman whose family and ethnic Yazidi community were targeted by ISIS for genocide, rape and sex slavery.
She noted that it’s only been a little over a week since the Parkland shooting, when a 19-year-old former student, Nikolas Cruz, opened fire at the suburban high school, killing 14 students and three staff members.
Students reported hiding in closets, listening to gunfire in nearby classrooms, texting their parents to say good-bye and then surviving, only to learn that friends and classmates had died.
“I’m in awe of how courageous they are and how effective they are,” Clooney said. In the last week, the students have started a national conversation about gun control and school safety that could bring about a reckoning over gun violence in America.
These students notably have called out President Donald Trump, members of congress and the National Rifle Association for their refusal to acknowledge what the students see as the key factor in mass shootings: the accessibility of guns in America, especially of high-powered rifles like the AR-15, which was used by Cruz.
NPR host Kelly McEvers and Amal Clooney in conversation at the Watermark Conference for Women 2018 Friday. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Watermark Conference for Women 2018)
“I don’t think I would have had the presence of mind or the courage to do what they are doing at age 16, let alone having gone through what they have,” Clooney said.
She also praised the students for the way they have spoken passionately and intelligently and asked the “tough questions” in their appearances on national television and in face-to-face encounters with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and with Trump at the White House.
“They are the best vehicle (for change),” Clooney said. “They are our best hope.”
As someone not born in the United States, Clooney said she has always looked at this country as one that provides a “great example to others.” Clooney grew up in the United Kingdom, but got her law degree at New York University, worked for a time on Wall Street and lives with her husband in Los Angeles part-time.
But in one way, She suggested, America is not living up to its best self.
“The idea that children are scared to go to school, bullet-proof backpacks are being sold out and that students have to go through these live shooter drills,” she said. “And the conclusion is, ‘Let’s start arming teachers.’ It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
She also disputed other ideas being floated about how to address mass shootings.
People say maybe it’s because there is violence in films or there is a mental health issue,” she said. “But there’s violence in films and mental health issues in other countries. This is the only country where this kind of problem exists.”
Amal Clooney emphasized why this issue has become personal to her, and why she and her family will attend the march to support efforts to bring about change: “It’s likely that my children will go to school here. I know their lives literally depend on (change happening).”
Amal Clooney wore a geometric dress by DIANE VON FURSTENBERG DVF
From the Fall collection 2018
The DVF Elly dress in a Diamond squares Meyer print is available here
Ayse Hafsa earrings
And GIVENCHY pumps
Was available here
Credits Getty Images