Recently, our nation has seen an uprising of activism by young people like me. There has been a lot of talk about this generation being the future, and demanding change, and winning. There is also debate about whether young people should be called millennials or iGen or Gen Z. Regardless of what we are called, our generation has potential and power. From the March for Our Lives to Youth and Government, young people have already changed the current state of democracy and used their voices as active citizens. Unfortunately, there are kids in this generation who are addicted to their phones or juuls or who eat tide pods, but others—young activists and change agents—are trying to participate in conversations that affect them and not allow politicians to push them aside.
After 17 people were killed in Parkland, Florida, the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School began a movement, talking about their experience and demanding change in government policies. Youth and Government, a national program of the YMCA, allows students to participate in mock government, learning how democracy should work and giving young people the opportunity to have a voice and use it in the greater community. Both of these activities, as well as many other schools, organizations, and groups of young activists, have seen injustice. They want an opportunity to make differences in their communities and in the nation at-large. The Parkland survivors are on a Road to Change, traveling the country, having discussions with activists , and registering people to vote. Students participating in Youth and Government, Model UN, and the Conference on National Affairs are writing and debating pieces of proposed legislation and resolutions, addressing the issues of our world, and building a community of future lawyers, lawmakers, and citizens invested in bettering democracy. Young people are in the media, in the streets protesting, interning for politicians, representing states and countries, and becoming sources of active citizenship, world awareness and political power.
While many are inspired by young people and the work they are doing, others do not see a place for them in government. Some have criticized the Road to Change, saying that it does not do much, that it is only talk, that most people are registered to vote so there is no action that will create change, and that government should decide policy and law. Young people hear the arguments that they are too young, not mature enough, or incapable of having their own political views yet. Many are seen as being used by adults, politicians, or corporations. As a young person, I find that argument offensive, because we are fully able to have our own morals and stances and express them as we see fit; most of us are not being exploited by people who see opportunity in using young people to further an agenda.
As much as I love being an “activist” and going to town halls and marches and all of these events that are “demanding change,” I want to see action. I want to do something. I can talk with other like-minded people, make as many signs as I can, protest everywhere in my city, attend town halls and ask politicians questions, but our government and nation need to take action and let the young generation have a seat at the table. The best way we can do this is by voting, registering people to vote, trying to reform voting, voting corrupt politicians out and true public servants in, getting young people into the national debate, and carrying out our civic duty. We need to create an increase in voter turnout, pass laws that uphold our standards of democracy, expect accurate media reports, engage in civil discourse across party lines, support organizations that help minorities, and promote political actions that are more about human rights than money.
Young people are the future. We are starting now with this movement and activism, learning how to be leaders and then becoming them. We are being told that we can do great things, and change the world, and fix the problems of prior generations, but are we being given the resources and opportunities to prepare and to be effective? Whether people like it or not, young people’s voices will continue to call out party politics and focus on what is needed in society. Yes, we will continue to march and protest and talk, but we need to act and to not only demand change, but to make change happen. Our actions will make the difference.