Renewing Hope for the Future at White House’s SXSL Festival

The following reflection was written by Christopher Sullivan, a 2015 Summer Intensive alumnus. Christopher is currently a freshman at the University of Maryland College Park majoring in Computer Science.

It was a really great experience to have the opportunity to represent All Star Code at South by South Lawn (SXSL), the first White House festival on innovation in the face of some of the world’s toughest challenges. With so many important issues ahead of us in the coming years, it was awesome to see how younger generations were tackling problems in new and creative ways. Not only was it great to see all the innovative ideas, but also to see it coming from so many diverse people from different backgrounds. South by South Lawn was not just a festival of art, ideas and action, but it was a celebration of diversity and a reminder of what a group of diverse and socially committed citizens can do for this country.

During the interactive part of SXSL, I got to see exhibits ranging from how virtual reality is being used in educating people about cancer care, to seeing how food can be produced using sustainable cooking methods. It was also cool to get to see how people are tackling the issues around social justice and the criminal justice system. I got to see Common talk about his campaign to help support urban youth, and saw a powerful exhibit about the conditions of prisoners in solitary confinement.

I really enjoyed watching some of the final selections from the White House Student Film Festival, as the younger generation shared their views on current events, and their perspectives on the world they would want to live in. And of course, hearing the conversation around climate change between President Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Dr. Katharine Hayhoe ahead of the screening of the documentary, Before the Flood, was also one of my favorite moments.

I look forward to see what changes come out of this event and how it shapes the future around us.