Wild applause for teen’s 2 a.m. speech for libraries
TheStar.com – news/torontocouncil – videozone
Published on July 30, 2011. Jayme Poisson, Staff Reporter
Fourteen-year-old Anika Tabovaradan can hardly believe all the fuss around an emotional 2 a.m. speech she gave at this week’s executive committee meeting.
The teen sobbed while telling Mayor Rob Ford how much she loved her local library. When she was finished, uttering the words “I’m not making much sense anymore,” the gallery erupted into applause and cheers. It was the emotional high point of a very, very long day and night.
But if you ask Anika, the shy teen thinks a sock puppet named Roy, who took to the microphone around 3 a.m., and “Those senior ladies, so powerful and sarcastic in their speeches,” are the ones who deserve the spotlight.
“Totally, it’s a sock puppet!” she says, laughing in her living room on Friday, a curly black mop of hair shaking back and forth.
While those who watched her from the gallery and overflow rooms would likely disagree, Anika doesn’t think she’s a very good public speaker.
It makes her nervous. She once cried while making a class presentation about Martin Luther King.
By 2 a.m. Friday, the teen had been waiting four hours for her turn to address the mayor. As soon as she began to speak the tears came.
Her aunt, who spoke right before her, placed an arm around her shoulder. Strangers offered a “mountain of tissues.”
Earlier in the week, the Grade 10 student at Albert Campbell High School wrote out what she wanted to say about her beloved Woodside Square library, which she visits almost daily. Instead, she couldn’t get it all out, so she spoke off the cuff and from the heart.
“I’m no taxpayer,” she said, gasping for air, “but when I get to use the computers in the library and do my homework, I’ll be able to get a good job someday … and when the day comes to pay taxes, I’ll be glad that you supported people paying the extra taxes to keep the system going.”
She hasn’t watched a video of herself yet. Perhaps when she does, she’ll understand what all the fuss is about.
Anika lives in a modest Scarborough townhouse with her parents, grandparents and cat, Tuna. The smell of her grandmother’s red curry fills the living room. The family is Sri Lankan.
She’s a regular at Woodside Square, always with at least one book on hold to borrow. At first, she opted for classics like Anna Karenina. That was a little heavy, so she moved on toCatcher in the Rye.
For her, the library is a refuge. A place to download music from favourite bands like Arcade Fire, and, since she doesn’t have air conditioning, somewhere to escape the heat.
She doesn’t think her busy branch would be on the chopping block, but worries that if other branches in Scarborough close, the crowding in hers will be even worse. It’s hard enough to take out books and surf the Internet as it is, she explains.
It was her aunt, Amy Casipullai, who told her about the mayor’s invitation for citizens to come to city hall to tell him what they think about budget cuts. At first, her parents weren’t sure about the idea.
“She’s shy and very introverted. I was not sure she could do it,” says her father, Tabo Tabovaradan, adding that as he and his wife watched the deputations on television it was so interesting, they decided to go as a family.
“I’m proud that she went out there and faced the council. I don’t know if I could have done that,” he said, adding that while his daughter isn’t usually emotional, she seems to have made an impression.
Anika is just surprised she can now plug her name into Google and “Something actually pops up.”
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