There is a perception that young people are not smart enough, informed enough or concerned enough to participate in government. This attitude is not only wrong, it is dangerous and detrimental to our democracy.
Young people have historically been the cause of change in America. The Civil Rights movement could not have occurred without young African Americans and their allies refusing to get up from restaurant counters and bus seats. The women’s movement would not have pushed the courts to the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade which legalized a woman’s right to choose without the young people who led marches and sit-ins throughout the country. America progressed because of young people who brought media attention to their causes and made the government listen.
The tragic shooting that occurred last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was felt by every American, but particularly by young people. The activism of the brave high school students who demanded common sense gun control after the tragedy was exemplified by Emma Gonzalez, an 18-year old student from Parkland who delivered a passionate speech calling out elected officials, who failed to pass common sense gun legislation because of the money pouring into their campaigns from powerful gun lobbyists.
“We call B.S.!” she iconically exclaimed.
In addition to Emma’s fervent address, students from Parkland successfully organized national school walkouts across the country and started to shift public opinion of the National Rifle Association, a massive accomplishment in the attempt to dismantle their political influence. Parkland students also drove the state to pass certain gun restrictions, including a gun purchase waiting period and a ban on bump stocks.
More recently, students from Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania organized a vigil in the wake of a synagogue shooting that killed 11 and injured six. Hundreds of people gathered after the shooting to grieve and protest divisive political rhetoric and the failure of Congress to pass common sense gun laws. High school students not only organized the event but stepped forward to speak movingly of their concerns.
The message of these brave students can be best summed up by a chant shouted by the crowd at the vigil in Squirrel Hill: “Vote! Vote! Vote!” In order to continue the impact of the efforts of these young activists, we must join together as a generation and elect officials who will put the issues we care about at the forefront. Critical issues such as gun control, women’s rights and healthcare are at stake. We have the power to change American society tomorrow; a chance to make it more inclusive and safe for everyone. It’s our time. It’s our turn. Vote!
Maggie McGuire is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.