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Amanda Nguyen tells Trevor Noah about being Nobel-nominated for "helping people pen their civil rights"

Amanda Nguyen, Trevor Noah
Screenshot: The Daily Show

On Monday’s Daily Show, Trevor Noah welcomed Amanda Nguyen, who he claimed was the first-ever Nobel Prize nominee he’s ever chatted with. And while the 27-year-old Nguyen demurred when Noah described the Nobel Peace Prize as an award for “the best people in our world,” Noah then ran down Nguyen’s accomplishments, and there’s a case to be made. Founding the non-profit civil rights organization on behalf of sexual assault and rape survivors RISE in 2014, Nguyen was instrumental in getting the notoriously gridlocked Congress to unanimously pass the federal Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act. Signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2016, the law extends protections for sexual assault survivors that have been lacking in a criminal justice system Nguyen calls “pretty broken.”

If anything, she’s underselling it there, as Nguyen told Noah that, after her own rape as a Harvard undergraduate in 2013, she was informed that, in Massachusetts, rape kits are destroyed every six months unless a criminal charge is filed. That, despite the statute of limitations on rape cases being 15 years. Shocked and stonewalled by an unjust and opaque process, Nguyen founded RISE to advocate for sexual assault survivors across the country, telling Noah that, faced with the full waiting room at a rape crisis center following her own assault, she could either “accept the injustice or rewrite the law.” Explaining to Noah that RISE has grown its civil rights mission in the interim, Nguyen announced that her organization is currently helping other activists (like the Parkland school shooting survivors group, ZeroUSA) craft their own legislative solutions through a RISE’s new civil rights incubator, RISE Justice Labs. Explaining to Noah that the 22 pieces of legislation her group has helped pass in its brief existence represent “22 proved points,” the activist (and aspiring astronaut, for added impressiveness) said that, in a “time of frustration and waning faith in our democracy,” the citizen activism of RISE is one effective way to fight back.

As to the way that the criminal justice system (especially but not exclusively those aspects under the control of those like cartoonishly villainous plutocrat dilettante Betsy DeVos) treats women, Nguyen was unsparing. Noting that, in a functioning legal system, issues like Title IX, the confirmation of boozy, belligerent accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and the reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act “would be litigated differently,” Nguyen said, “There’s never been a more vital moment in our history for everyday people to understand that they hold the power.”

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.