If you’ve spent any time on social media this past week you’ve probably seen something amazing: teenagers organizing on a massive level. They are coordinating school walkouts, organizing rallies and speaking in front of massive crowds at town halls. All of this comes in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on Feb. 14, 2018. On that horrible Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school walked into the school, pulled a fire alarm and then fired an AR-15 into the crowd of students and teachers. Seventeen students and teachers died as a result of Cruz’s rampage and at least 14 others were left wounded. Cruz was arrested the same day as the shooting.
Following the shooting and subsequent political response, a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school have begun organizing to keep these kinds of events from happening again. They have aptly named their movement, #NeverAgain. In the time since the shooting they have appeared on numerous news networks, attended a town hall where they debated a sitting U.S. Senator and the NRA and have planned two future events. Their activism shows that youth in action is the best catalyst for change.
Youth activism is nothing new. The famous civil rights movements of the mid-1900s were led in part by students on college campuses protesting discriminaory laws. The sit-ins at lunch counters were first led by students from a local college in Greensboro, North Carolina. The violent reaction and resulting media attention eventually led to the end of discrimination at the lunch counter. Throughout the civil rights movement, college students from around the country joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his marches and were on the front lines as the movement faced physical attacks.
Youth activism did not end there. Young adult activists in the Middle East used their power to tackle to oppressive regimes in Egypt and Tunisia as a part of the Arab Spring. Young Americans who felt powerless against the big banks staged the Occupy Wall Street Movement to demand financial regulation after the recession. The Black Lives Matter movement was born on social media after the unjust slayings of young black people by police officers. The Clean Dream bill immigration activists are led by the current and former DACA recipients who want to make America their permanent home.
Within the United States there is an odd divide between the older and younger generations. The older generation is mostly made up of Generation X and Baby Boomers. They have been in control since post World War II and are, generally speaking, responsible for most of the modern laws on the books. Then there’s the younger generation: the millennials (also known as Generation Y and the iGeneration). This the generation that grew up with the internet and technology. They value independence and diversity. They are slightly selfish and very highly educated. And currently, they are the ones stuck trying to fix the problems created by the past two generations.
A huge criticism of youth activists and the millennial generation as a whole is that they are too lazy and too young. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers feel that the younger generation doesn’t really know what’s going on and are just being influenced by the older generations. You can see this in the negative reactions to the #NeverAgain movement. Members of conservative media and the NRA are basically telling the students to sit down because they are too young to be dictating policy. This would all be well and good, except the millennial generation isn’t that young.
There is no exact start for the millennial generation but a fairly agreed upon starting birth year is 1985. For those not good at math that means the oldest millennials are in their early thirties. The oldest can start running for president by 2020, a.k.a. the next election cycle. They are very informed of everything happening as is the younger end of this generation. They literally grew up with the internet. They understand its dangers and its benefits. They have unlimited knowledge at their fingertips and they know how to use it. Millennials aren’t uninformed, they are empowered. And they are ready for change.
The previous generations have caused so many problems. They have destroyed the earth, they have destroyed the economy and they have destroyed other countries through war and exploitation. Now, by not changing the laws that govern how America is run, they are killing their children too. It’s time for a change in leadership. Whether the older generation wants to admit it or not, these youth activists are not too young. They are the future leaders of society and it is time for them to take over that mantle.