Jessica Ahlquist at Skepticon 5

In theater, it’s easy to tell if you have the audience when doing comedy (hint: they’re laughing a lot).  When doing more serious material, it’s much more difficult.  The way to determine if the audience is engaged is to stop speaking for a moment and listen.  If it’s quiet, if you could hear a pin drop because nobody is breathing, that’s when you know that something special is going on.

That’s what the audience is like watching Jessica Ahlquist.

It’s easy for people like me to sit back on our blogs, away from situations like the one that transpired in Cranton, and dissect the lousy arguments and hate.  Jessica had to live through it.  Surely, at time, it got to her.  I would’ve had to.  But Jessica never showed it.

When speaking about how her classmates put the school prayer on shirts to taunt her: “Good for them.  It belongs on a shirt not on the wall of a government building.”  I laughed my ass off.

I’ve gotten to watch Jessica grow up a lot over the last couple of years.  I always expected at some point she would start to turn bitter under the weight of the constant battle.  I also expected her to get a bit of an ego as the atheist world continued to lavish praise upon her.  Neither has happened.  If I have half the character at 90 as Jessica Ahlquist had at 16, I will consider my life a success.

I’m so proud of her.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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