The past year since the inauguration has been challenging for me. Everyday seems to bring a new challenge or worry as the White House makes new rules and rolls back others. But recently, I have begun to feel more hopeful because a change is coming, and that change is coming from our youth. While it is certainly right to worry that the current young generation has grown up in a world with terrorism both homegrown and international being a real threat to their bodies, they have also grown up during a time of significant cultural shifts in the ways that underrepresented segments of our society are viewed. They are learning how to leverage the power of social media to attempt make the world reflect their values and have their voices heard.
One reason I have great hope is a result of attending the March for Our Lives in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 24. I had the pleasure of attending the march with a group of middle school students from the school where I teach. These twelve to fourteen year olds participated in the student walk out on March 14 and have found their own passionate voices as they learn to organize their friends and move forward.
I interviewed several of the students to find out what drove them to attend the event. Some students came from a place of sadness and worry.
“I think it’s very sad that parents and kids have to worry that when they say goodbye in the morning they might not see each other again,” said one 6th grade girl.
Others were feeling more empowered saying, “This movement is youth front and center. Everything about this movement is important and appeals to me,” and “It’s important to show up for events so that people can see you really care.”
Soren Potthoff, a seventh grader said he came for, “My future, his future, and the future of everyone here.”
Max Coble, another seventh grader noted that we are “asking little kids to be brave and hide and that just shouldn’t be a thing. As a kid and a student, I need to step up because obviously the adults haven’t done anything about it.”
We watched several of the speakers at the event including Aaron Wolff who is currently a veterinarian but ten years ago survived the shooting at Virginia Tech. He now has his own child in kindergarten and is saddened by the safety drills she has to participate in. Perhaps the most impassioned speaker was Kaaren Haldeman of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She spoke with incredible urgency and intensity of the need to change gun laws.
Another positive experience from the day was hearing our student organizers talk about how they had become friends with new people as a result of organizing. Amelia Posner-Hess said that “there were some people who I didn’t get along with….while we were organizing and going to the march so many people were here.. but after that I realized that the little, small things that I didn’t like didn’t matter anymore because we all agree on the same big thing.”
Another organizer said, “This is what we want and this is what we need. It’s great!” Watching these young people find their voices, figure out how to organize, and their courage gives me great hope for our world. I am reminded that change takes time and knowing these young people will lead the charge is all I need right now.