My fellow teenagers,
Our generation has caught flak for many things.
We are “too loud.” “too narcissistic,” “too lazy” and “too sheltered.” We are the “Strawberry Generation” – characterized by our easily bruised self-esteem, inability to weather hardships, and over-reliance on the shelter of our parents. As tech natives born in the unique time where we remember life with phones and feel more at ease with a touchscreen than a keyboard, we’ve been subjected to endless “when I was your age…” lectures that berate our seeming attachment to our iPhones and our lack of exposure to the “real world.”
We are easy targets, and I can find many faults with us myself. Case in point: by most measures, we are the most educated yet entitled generation in history. However, I don’t think we should be too disheartened just yet – we have something the adults don’t. Our “weaknesses” have morphed us into a force to be reckoned with.
Our “weaknesses” have morphed us into a force to be reckoned with
Before you get too excited, the power to make change isn’t a special ability isolated to just our generation. Look to any era and you’ll find dynamos that changed their communities, and history, forever.
In the 1950s and 60s, student committees played an essential role in the civil rights movement in the United States, fighting for blacks to gain equal rights under the law. Students were involved in all levels of the movement, from pushing for desegregation of schools to the organization of non-violent protests, and were instrumental to its success.
The movement in America against the Vietnam War was started by a small but passionate group of left-leaning students on a college campus. As public dissent over the war grew, over 100,000 students marched, conducted sit-ins, and agitated against the war. There were casualties from the violent protests, but ultimately, the pressure from the protests helped motivate America’s withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973.
The Arab Spring of 2010 could never have occurred without the involvement of furious and fearless youths. Frustrated with endemic corruption, systemic injustice, government oppression and a mangled economy, youths took to the streets to protest tyrannical regimes. While youths were not the only ones carrying out mass demonstrations, it is widely acknowledged that they were vital in sparking the protests.
On March 24, the March for Our Lives movement held a rally of 800,000 people in Washington, DC to campaign for stricter gun control measures. It was spearheaded by five 17-year-old survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shootings, which claimed 17 lives. These youths were tired of the “thoughts and prayers” often sent by politicians and demanded tighter gun control.
These youths from the 1950s until now are proof that we have it in us to do more for our communities. They show us that our young people are an asset to society. We have wider social circles, a better grasp of new media, more time, fewer considerations that hold us back, and more chances to take risks and upend the status quo – let’s take advantage of that.
Deep within you, there must be an idea that makes your heart race with excitement, an aspect of your community that makes you furious, or a policy that you think can be improved. Find that cause within you and act on it, so that you can enrich your life with a purpose greater than yourself.
I believe that a life that has purpose is one well lived. Our youth has equipped us with invaluable skills that will make us formidable change-makers.
Create that petition. Call up that organization. Campaign for that cause.
The time for youth activism is now.