Loughrin’s commitment to social justice began when she was a child in Seattle, where her father owns a small accounting firm. At age 12, she read about a local foundation that educates poor girls in Mali, teaches them crafts, and helps them establish their own businesses with micro-loans. She asked if she could help, and is still involved with the program.
Her mother, Kelli, remembers Brooke, in middle school, talking the family into volunteering in Costa Rica, where they helped villagers build a community center, making concrete out of dirt and straw.
“When she saw the poverty there, it brought out the things she really cared about, the kids, the abuse of women,” said Kelli. “We could tell she wanted to do more.”
Her school required community service hours, and her mother says Brooke always exceeded the requirements. “She loved it. She’d rather go with her friends to the soup kitchen or get books for prisoners than go party.”
Loughrin attended the Lakeside School, Bill Gates’s alma mater. Because of programs he funded, Loughrin was able to work at an HIV clinic in Senegal one summer, studied for a semester in India, and lived in Iran, where she visited shrines to the Persian poets Hafiz and Rumi and fell in love with their words.
Loughrin has also read parts of the Shahnameh, or “The Book of Kings,” an epic poem that, at more than 50,000 lines, is three times longer than the Iliad, she notes.
What does she read outside of class? She loved “The Afrika Reich,” by Guy Saville, about “what would have happened if Germany had won World War II and the Nazis had extended their racial genocide to black Africans.”
“For fun” Loughrin just finished “Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the the Future of American Power and Why Civil Resistance Works: the Strategic Logic of Non-Violence.” She says she loves reading articles submitted for Al-Noor, the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies journal that she edits at BC because “I’ve learned so much about the Middle East from reading them.”
These days, her Youth Observer role is keeping her busy. Her duties include blogging and tweeting about her experience. At the General Assembly, Loughrin was scheduled to introduce a panel on how social media is being used for social good.
“At the last minute, they asked if I would be willing to be on the panel,” she recalled. “It was broadcast live in seven languages, around the world.” After Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin of Nigeria, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, spoke about educating youth to take over in the future, Loughrin replied: “I’m going to make the argument that we have taken over.” She then discussed the role of youth in the Arab Spring, and the conciliatory messages on social media between Israeli and Iranian youth, who don’t want war.
Next semester, Loughrin will speak to various chapters of the United Nations Association. “The most important thing is I’m now the first degree of separation between leaders and young people,” she said. “So I always ask leaders their advice on how young people can prepare for a career in international affairs.”
And as for her future? Loughrin hopes to attend graduate school in international affairs and then pursue a career in foreign service for the State Department. She smiles. “I’d love a career in the UN.”
Bella English can be reached at email@example.com