The youngest generation is a driven, opinionated, connected group of people who deserve to be respected and listened to
Today, young people all over the world are finding their voice. The awesome power of the people is being embraced and exercised by these young people. In our own nation young people are advocating for change. It is necessary to let them to grow and act in the world they will inherit.
I have noticed a significant social change in this current generation. Rather than be influenced by the nurturing of their parents, many young people have taken it upon themselves to teach and influence one another to an unprecedented degree. High school students have begun to grasp lessons in critical thinking. The opinions of others are taken with a grain of salt. Society’s status quo is being criticized by very loud voices. Young people are taking a stand for what they believe in and they are taking action to make it happen.
Listen to young people, or else the foundation under the feet of leaders worldwide shall be shook by their determination. In 2018 the average age of representatives in the U.S. Senate was 61 and the average age in Congress was 57. The midterm elections in 2019 ushered in a fresh group of 25 representatives who are under 40 years old. The youngest elected was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at 29 years old is the youngest person elected to Congress. She has tremendous support from young people as they organize behind her in the Sunrise Movement.
For too many years the establishment has been dominated by stubborn old men and women who, in the immortal words of Diane Feinstein, have been doing this for 30 years and know what they’re doing.
“I’ve gotten elected. I just ran,” Feinstein said. “I was elected by almost a million-vote plurality, and I know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit.”
She was responding to a group of children who were advocating for the Green New Deal. These children were excluded from the democratic process on the basis of their age yet work to advocate for policies they believe in.
I had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with a group of high school students from the North Coast Preparatory Academy. Melissa Horne and Autumn Wright had joined their fellow classmates walking out for the “Youth Strike 4 Climate Change.” Seven of them were sitting in front of Arcata City Hall with signs advocating for a shift in climate policy. They said they were inspired by Greta Thunberg, an individual who is a mover in the 21st century.
While we were sitting in front of City Hall the group got a bunch of different reactions from people passing by. There were a lot of horns honking. Some guy walked up and shouted about how oil is the only reason the world runs. Mark Andre, the director of Arcata Environmental Services came out personally to talk with the students about Arcata’s goal to be gasoline free by 2020. Aaron Heart, a wandering thinker, made a point to sit down with everyone and talk about what he had learned throughout his life.
Heart was interesting and engaging. He was an older man, well experienced in the ways of the world, but he would not listen to these young people. He had seen Leo Peerson’s sign which read “Grow up. Save the planet.” Heart wanted to encourage everybody to grow their spirit “vertically” rather than “horizontally.” He spent a solid hour talking about things he knew, rarely asking questions of Peerson who had caught his attention in the first place. After awhile he stopped and said, “I am not a lecturer, I am a facilitator.”
I jumped on this, posing a challenge to Heart by saying, “How about we do this like Socrates and ask each other questions rather than just listen to you talk. Let’s begin with Autumn Wright. Autumn, how do you want to see the world change?” And then, believe it or not, she began to talk.