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The importance of young activists

Apr. 26, 2018
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On February 14th, 2018, a teenage boy killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida. Saddened and outraged by another tragedy that could have been prevented, teens and children alike have decided to take matters into their own hands via protest. Their biggest opponent seems to be the NRA, who has since stated that these “kids” lack the maturity to be able to fully comprehend the problem. It’s not just the NRA, though; in my opinion, everyone who underestimates the integrity of a young person is highly naive and ignorant. It is ignorant to reject the youth’s capability to possess a strong sense of morality or their ability to withhold a strong political stance. 

Historically speaking, young people have been the driving force of change. For example, the 1960s student protests of the Vietnam War were famous for their youth-led activism. There have been so many instances in which young people have been shut down by the government or an older generation that will not have to live with the consequences of its decisions. The latest and more obvious example of that would be Brexit. 58% of individuals aged 65 years or older voted to leave, whereas 64% of people between the ages of 18 to 21 voted to stay. It opens up a difficult discussion about how people’s opinions should be taken into account when they may not live to see the long-term consequences. Every voice should have the same worth and power, but still there’s that feeling of “is this right?” There’s no clear answer, but I think young people should be given much more credit and credibility than they’re currently being given. Teens and young adults are not yet fully influenced by external sources like money, investment, and profit influences, and therefore are able to view problems in a much more diplomatic sense. Overall, I think it’s clear that this generation is more economically, globally, and mentally aware, outspoken, and fearless in fighting for its rights. If more people were to show that kind of compassion, bravery, and enthusiasm, the world would experience positive, rapid change. 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Don’t think it’s enough to… sit there like a lump. Be a nuisance where it counts… Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption, and bad politics… but never give up.

Here are a few young activists that should inspire you to stand up for what you think is right. Their selfless activism has not been forgotten.

Malala Yousafzai is probably one of the most well-known human rights activists. She started her political journey at the age of 11, continuously advocating for female education. Now, Malala is the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. She is only 20 years old today. 

Elizabeth Eckford was only 15 years old when she walked fearlessly to her first racially integrated class, all while being harassed by an aggressive white mob. She is a symbol for the civil rights movement, and her courage remains an inspiration to this day. 

Sophie & Hans Scholl were brave anti-Nazi activists and part of the nonviolent resistance group White Rose. Their selflessness and courage to fight for the right cause has not been forgotten. Both siblings were executed by guillotine at the ages of 21 and 24.     

Susan B. Anthony started her political activism at the age of 17 by collecting anti-slavery petitions, fighting for social equality and women’s rights.