Girl Giving Speech

Event: Leading Change Through Civic Action

Join Girl Scouts to hear from groundbreaking female leaders about the importance of civic engagement and to celebrate women and girls who lead positive change through their involvement in government, public policy, and the democratic process.

The event, G.I.R.L. Agenda 2018: Leading Change Through Civic Action, will be livestreamed May 14 from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. ET on Facebook Live from the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia, PA. 

G.I.R.L. Agenda 2018 will feature Dr. Jill Biden as a keynote speaker and discussions led by changemakers who have taken action locally, nationally, and globally to make the world a better place.

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Part One | Part Two

Want to hold a discussion? Check out the discussion guide (PDF).

Program Agenda

Welcoming Remarks | Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, National Board President, Girl Scouts of the USA

Introduction of Keynote Speaker | Alaka Deshpande, Girl Scout Ambassador, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay

Keynote Speech | Dr. Jill Biden

Panel 1: Change the World Like a G.I.R.L.—from City Council to Congress

  • Introduction: Kim Fraites-Dow, CEO, Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania
  • Moderator: Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry
  • Panelists: Former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym, Pennsylvania State Representative Katharine Watson, and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman

Panel 2: Change-Makers: Mobilizing Communities to Take Action

  • Introduction: Ginny Marino, CEO, Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey
  • Moderator: Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry
  • Panelists: Ashley Biden, Carolyn DeWitt, Anna Holemans, and Destiny Watford

Closing remarks | Sylvia Acevedo, CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA


Dr. Jill Biden



Dr. Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Biden is a lifelong educator and served as Second Lady of the United States from 2009—2017.

As Dr. Biden often says, being a teacher isn’t just what she does — it’s who she is. She spent over three decades teaching in community colleges, high schools, and a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. She has two master’s degrees — both of which she earned while working and raising a family — and she earned her Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware in January of 2007. Her dissertation focused on maximizing student retention in community colleges.

As Second Lady, she worked to underscore the critical role of community colleges in creating the best, most educated workforce in the world. She hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama and led the Community College to Career Tour across the country to highlight industry partnerships between community colleges and employers. Today, she continues to teach at a community college in Northern Virginia — a position she held throughout her time in the White House — and is the honorary chair of the College Promise National Advisory Board, leading the effort to make community colleges free for responsible students.

As a military mom, Dr. Biden understands the experiences of military families: supporting their service members, feeling incredible pride for their work, and carrying the fear that comes with this sacrifice. In her role as Second Lady, she brought significant attention to the struggles of military families, in part through her and former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces initiative to support military families worldwide. Dr. Biden also released a children’s book in 2012 — Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops — about how her family dealt with her son Beau’s deployment to Iraq.

Dr. Biden has also been a prominent voice on the rights and welfare of women and girls, especially as related to education. During her White House tenure, she traveled to nearly 40 countries, visiting almost every region of the world. She now serves as the Board Chair of Save the Children US.

In 1993, after four of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. Biden started the Biden Breast Health Initiative in Delaware, which has educated more than 10,000 high school girls about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. And after Dr. Biden and former Vice President Joe Biden lost their son Beau to brain cancer in 2015, they helped push for a national commitment to ending cancer as we know it. Today, they continue the mission that started as the White House Cancer Moonshot through the Biden Cancer Initiative to inject a sense of urgency into cancer research and care and to deliver better outcomes for patients.

Following their time in the Administration, Dr. Biden and Vice President Biden launched the Biden Foundation, continuing their work to strengthen the middle class, protect women and children against violence, advocate for community colleges, and support military families.

Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry



Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry

Professor Melissa Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. There she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center and co-director of Wake the Vote.

Melissa is editor-at-large of and a contributing editor at The Nation. Along with Dorian Warren, Harris-Perry is principal and co-host of Freedom on Tap, an independent media project combining live events, digital, and audio content. From 2012-2016 she hosted the television show “Melissa Harris-Perry” on weekend mornings on MSNBC and was awarded the Hillman Prize for broadcast journalism.

She is an award-winning author and sought after public speaker, lecturing widely throughout the United States and abroad. Harris-Perry received her B.A. degree in English from Wake Forest University and her Ph.D. degree in political science from Duke University. She also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Harris-Perry previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Tulane University. Professor Harris-Perry has been awarded honorary degrees from many universities including Meadville Lombard Theological School, Winston-Salem State University, Eckerd College, and New York University.

She and her family live in North Carolina.

Featured Speakers
Sylvia Acevedo
Sylvia Acevedo, Chief Executive Officer
Sylvia Acevedo

A lifelong Girl Scout and career G.I.R.L. (Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk Taker and Leader), Sylvia Acevedo was appointed CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA in May 2017, after having served as a member of the GSUSA Board of Directors from 2009 to 2016 and an officer and member of its Executive Committee.  Sylvia’s Girl Scout journey began as a young girl growing up in New Mexico, where Girl Scouts provided her with skills and experiences not widely available to girls of her background at that time. The Girl Scout experience taught her how to create opportunities, dream big, and reach for the stars—both literally and figuratively. Girl Scouts nourished Sylvia’s love for math and science, eventually culminating in a career as a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she worked on the NASA’s Voyager II mission. She went on to serve in executive and engineering roles at leading technology companies and is also an award-winning STEM entrepreneur. One of the first Hispanic students, male or female, to earn a graduate engineering degree from Stanford University—a master of science in industrial engineering—she also holds a bachelor of science with honors in industrial engineering from New Mexico State University.  



Ashley Biden
Ashley Biden
Ashley Biden

Ashley previously served as Associate Executive Director at the Delaware Center for Justice for two years before being appointed as Executive Director. Ashley spent five years working with the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families in the Education Unit as the Education and Career Liaison for the Department. Prior to working with the state, she worked at West End Neighborhood House Life Lines Program with youth aging out of foster care and spent four years working at a children’s mental health clinic- Northwestern Human Services Children’s Reach Clinic-in Kensington, Pennsylvania as a clinical support staff member. She received her MSW at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice and received a BA in Cultural Anthropology for Tulane University. In 2010, Ashley received the John Hope Franklin Combating Racism Award from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice.

Alaka Deshpande
Alaka Deshpande

Alaka Deshpande is a Girl Scout Ambassador and junior at Mount Pleasant High School in Wilmington, Delaware. Through Girl Scouts, Alaka has become a passionate environmental steward for her community. As a Girl Scout for ten years, she has worked to improve the local environment through projects such as beach grass planting and removal of invasive species that are non-native to Delaware. Alaka is currently pursuing the Girl Scout Gold Award, which is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Her project aims to protect endangered butterfly species from extinction by ensuring the safety of their habitat and food sources. Alaka is also active in her high school—she is the captain of Mount Pleasant High School’s swim team, a student council officer, and a representative for the National Honor Society. She is a student in the International Baccalaureate program and an honor student. Her interests include swimming and playing the piano.

Carolyn DeWitt
Carolyn DeWitt
Carolyn DeWitt

Carolyn DeWitt is the President and Executive Director of Rock the Vote. A passionate and lifelong champion of the democratic process in the U.S. and abroad, DeWitt has a diverse background in government, politics, international development, education and in the financial sector.


It was during her time in South Africa, meeting with parties critical to the collapse of the apartheid system and the subsequent building of a democratic state, that DeWitt witnessed the power of youth movements and cultural organizing. Convinced of the absolute necessity of a health democracy for marginalized groups, she continued on to work in Kenya, participating on the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission and served as senior international advisor to a youth political movement and potential presidential candidate in Madagascar.


Back home in the U.S., DeWitt coordinated satellite media operations at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. On the local government level, DeWitt has worked as chief of staff at the Office of Chicago Alderman Daniel Solis, and as deputy campaign manager and finance director for the 25th Ward Regular Democratic Organization. Shortly after relocating to Washington, D.C., DeWitt took up the position of director of special projects for a start-up that leveraged technology to provide clinical services to persons with special education and development needs in less-developed countries. For the 2014 election cycle, DeWitt served as chief of staff at Pivot, a political communications firm.


Ms. DeWitt studied International and African Studies, Political Studies, Psychology and Women’s Studies and earned her BA from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. She sits on the board of

Fmr. Congresswoman Donna Edwards
Donna Edwards
Donna Edwards

Donna is a lifelong organizer, community leader, and mom.  Donna was born to a military family and her dad’s service in the U.S. Air Force led Donna to attend more than a dozen schools across the country and around the world before moving to Maryland. She earned her B.A. from Wake Forest University, where she was one of only six black women in the class of 1980.  Donna began work at Lockheed Corporation at the Goddard Space Flight Center, which sparked her passion for STEM.  Donna earned her law degree in 1989 from the University of New Hampshire and went on to become a consumer advocate for Public Citizen where she fought for campaign and ethics reform. She co-founded and led the National Network to End Domestic Violence, spearheading the campaign to pass the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, and successfully taking on the NRA to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Donna was elected to Congress in 2008, the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in Congress where she served for five terms. While in Congress, Donna led efforts to enable Maryland schools to provide dinner for hungry kids; young people to have access to college and career opportunities; to bring jobs to her community and was instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Care Act.  Now Donna is running for public office to serve as the County Executive of Prince George’s County in Maryland.


Kim Fraites-Dow
Kim Fraites-Dow
Kim Fraites-Dow

Kim E. Fraites-Dow is the CEO for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, having joined in March 2011 as the Chief Development and Marketing Officer and then serving as COO. Kim is an executive non-profit leader with 20 years of professional experience managing operations, facilities, supply chain/inventory/product sales, personnel, partnerships, marketing, communications, and brand management, board relations, and individual, foundation, corporate, and government fundraising and relations for both world-class and mid-size non-profit institutions. Integral to her success has been Kim’s leadership in recruiting key personnel, building collaboration across diverse teams of people, leading organizational change management, and developing relationships across GSEP’s 9-county footprint. Together with the Board, staff and volunteers, GSEP earned Top Ten status nationally for girl and adult membership, growing membership locally, serving close to 40,000 girls with the help of more than 15,000 adult volunteers. Additionally, GSEP’s contributed revenue and camp registrations have increased double-digit percentages during her tenure, and the organization has developed more flexibility in dealing with administrative and financial complexities.

She serves on the board of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, and is a past board member of the Garces Foundation, the Asian Mosaic Fund, and the Cooperative Nursery School.


Councilmember Helen Gym
Helen Gym
Helen Gym

Seated in 2016, Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym is a community and education leader who spent more than two decades as an organizer in the areas of public education and immigrant rights. As chair of Council’s Children and Youth Committee, she has helped lead a public schools agenda that ended a 17-year state takeover of the Philadelphia public schools, expanded pre-K, and drove new investments in student supports. She established the city's first legal defense fund for tenants facing eviction and a fund to specifically address youth homelessness. She has also focused her legislative efforts on economic justice issues, including championing fair scheduling legislation, expanding the city’s living wage laws, and requiring disclosure for businesses accepting city subsidies.  She is Vice Chair of Local Progress, a network of progressive municipal leaders, where she has helped lead national efforts around public education and immigrant rights.


Dr. Kathy Hopinkah Hannan
Dr. Kathy Hopinkah Hannan

Dr. Kathy Hopinkah Hannan

Dr. Kathy Hopinkah Hannan is the National President and Chairman of the Board of Girl Scouts of the USA.  With unwavering dedication, Kathy has embraced a lifetime of leadership and philanthropy, as demonstrated by her extensive engagement with several influential civic and service-driven entities.

Kathy currently serves on the advisory board and as co-chairman of the Thought Leadership and Communication committee for the Women Corporate Directors Foundation (WCD), which promotes and advocates for women in the boardroom.  As a proud Native American and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation Tribe, she previously served on President George W. Bush’s National Advisory Council on Indian Education.

Her tenure in the accounting profession reflects over 30 years of expertise encompassing a series of leadership roles within KPMG, including Managing Partner of Tax, Vice Chairman of Human Resources, Chief Diversity Officer, and Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer.

Kathy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Political Science from Loras College, and is a graduate of the Institute of Comparative Political & Economic Systems at Georgetown University.  She is also a graduate of the Chicago Management Institute at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and recently earned her PhD at Benedictine University.

Anna Holemans
Anna Holemans
Anna Holemans  

Anna Holemans is a high school senior at Friends Select School in Philadelphia. She has been a Girl Scout for ten years and currently serves on the Girl Scout Social Action Committee as a representative for her council, Girl Scouts of Central and South New Jersey. Anna is an activist for feminism and has advocated for passing the Equal Rights Amendment for the past four years. Last year, she planned a march in Philadelphia for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment the day before President Donald Trump’s inauguration based on Alice Paul’s march for women’s suffrage the day before Woodrow Wilson’s Inauguration. Anna is also the leader of her high school’s service club, plays viola in her school’s orchestra, and leads discussions surrounding consent education. Next year Anna plans to attend Wellesley College and plans to double major in Political Science & Women’s Studies.


Ginny Marino
Ginny Marino
Ginny Marino

Genevieve “Ginny” Burke Marino has been CEO of the Girl Scouts of Central & Southern New Jersey since July 2013, and over the past five years, has led transformational change in the Council to better serve its 30,000+ adult and girl members. Prior to joining Girl Scouts, Ms. Marino had a twelve year tenure with YWCA Delaware, Inc., including 10 years as its CEO, leading the organization to growth and expansion.

Prior to joining the not-for-profit sector, Ms. Marino held senior level positions in the banking and IT industries. She successfully managed national marketing communications programs for Forte Systems, LLC (West Chester, PA) and served as Vice President, Retail Services at Delaware First Bank, overseeing the bank’s $97 million consumer banking business.

Marino earned a Bachelor of Arts- English/Business and Technical Writing from the University of Delaware and her MBA from Wilmington University. In addition to her role in New Jersey, she currently serves on the Girl Scout National Cookie Steering Committee. Among her honors, she was recognized by the National Association of Women Business Owners (Southern New Jersey) as the 2017 Community Advocate of the Year and as a “Woman to Watch” by South Jersey Biz magazine.


Destiny Watford
Destiny Watford
Destiny Watford

Destiny Watford is the cofounder of Free Your Voice, a student-led organization dedicated to fighting for social justice. Free Your Voice successfully stopped the construction of a giant garbage incinerator, which when completed would burn 4,000 tons of trash daily in the Curtis Bay neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Curtis Bay has the highest number of air pollution–related deaths in the country. After employing traditional methods to stop the construction, the Free Your Voice campaign was successful with tactics such as sharing information through music, poetry, video and other media to inspire people to change. In 2016, Destiny was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize which honors grassroots environmental heroes from the world’s six inhabited continental regions. The prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk, and defines “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world. Destiny has a movie about her efforts called “Destiny’s Bay” which is appearing at environmental film festivals around the country. Now Destiny continues to fight for her community’s future by creating a community land trust to perform truly democratic community-driven development in her neighborhood. 

Representative Katharine M. Watson
Representative Katharine M. Watson
Representative Katharine M. Watson

First elected to serve the 144th Legislative District in 2000, Rep. Katharine M. Watson has focused her legislative priorities on protection of children and families; health care and prescription drug affordability; improving highway safety and transportation; quality education for all children; and access to quality care services for older Pennsylvanians.

For her final term in office, she serves as the chairman of the House Children and Youth Committee, leading efforts to protect children and support families. Her tenure as committee chairman includes shepherding more than a dozen child protection bills into law and revisiting those laws to make any necessary updates.

As a state lawmaker, Watson draws on the wealth of knowledge gained from her experience working in Bucks County government, first as director of public information and later as deputy administrator overseeing many daily operations and special projects and initiatives of the county commissioners. She also served her community as a township supervisor, as a member of the Central Bucks School Board, as a high school English teacher, and as the operator of a home-based public relations firm.

She and her husband, James, reside in Warrington Township, Bucks County, and have one adult son, Derek.


Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman
Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman
Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman is currently serving her sophomore term in the United States Congress. Prior to her election as Representative for New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District, Watson Coleman served eight consecutive terms in the New Jersey General Assembly.

The daughter of legendary state legislator John S. Watson, Watson Coleman has continued a family legacy of public service. Watson Coleman shattered racial and gender barriers to become the first Black woman to serve as Majority Leader of the New Jersey General Assembly, and as the Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. Her election to the House of Representatives makes her the first Black woman to represent New Jersey in Congress.

Watson Coleman serves as the Vice Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee and Ranking Member on both the Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security.  She also serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Watson Coleman graduated from Thomas Edison State College and received honorary doctorate degrees from The College of New Jersey, Rider University and Stockton University. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and co-chair of the Girl Scouts of the USA Capitol Hill Honorary Troop.

Ready to lift your voice? Use these resources. 

The G.I.R.L. Agenda Powered by Girl Scouts is a nonpartisan initiative to inspire, prepare, and mobilize girls and those who care about them to lead positive change through civic action.

For the first time ever, GSUSA is sharing free, expert-curated civic engagement resources beyond its 2.6 million members. The resources are derived from Girl Scout programming that has driven generations of girls over the past century to become leaders.

Are you ready to encourage your girl to be civically engaged, or to take action yourself? Download these helpful tools to get started:

Thanks to Our Honorary Host Committee

  • United States Congress

    Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester
    Senator Cory Booker
    Congressman Robert Brady
    Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
    Congressman Ryan Costello
    Congressman Charlie Dent
    Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick
    Senator Robert Menendez
    Congressman Donald Norcross
    Congressman Lloyd Smucker
    Senator Pat Toomey
    Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman

    State Public Officials

    Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long
    Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver
    First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy
    Senator Dawn Addiego
    Representative Steve Barrar
    Senator Lisa Boscola
    Representative Matt Bradford
    Representative Tim Briggs
    Representative Ruth Briggs King
    Representative Donna Bullock
    Representative Thomas Caltagirone
    Senator Cathy Cloutier
    Representative Margo Davidson
    Representative Gene DiGirolamo
    Senator Andy Dinniman


  • Councilman Allan Domb
    Representative Maria Donatucci
    Representative Melanie George Smith
    Councilman Derek S. Green
    Councilwoman Helen Gym
    Representative Kate Harper
    Representative Debra Heffernan
    Representative Deborah Hudson
    Representative Warren Kampf
    Representative Helene Keeley
    Representative Kate Klunk
    Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt
    Assemblywoman Gabriela M. Mosquera
    Assemblywoman Carol Murphy
    Representative Thomas Murt
    Councilwoman Cherelle Parker
    Mayor Mike Purzycki
    Councilwoman María Quiñones Sánchez
    Representative Jack Rader, Jr.
    Senator John Rafferty
    Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown
    Representative James Santora
    Senator Judy Schwank
    Representative Brian K. Sims
    Representative Todd Stephens
    Senator Steve Sweeney
    Councilman Al Taubenberger
    Senator Bryan Townsend
    Representative Katharine Watson