From long before the Vietnam War protests, to the history-changing strides of the Little Rock Nine, to March for Our Lives and the thousands upon thousands of students advocating for gun control amid countless acts of violence on American schools, youth activism has been an integral part of this nation’s history. Organized protests fronted by the youth of America have critically shaped many watershed moments of this country’s growth. They have powered the voice of change, an ever-evolving and sensitively accountable body advocating for a government held responsible, a people more accepting and a future more viable.
Iconically inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teen who protested outside her country’s parliament every Friday throughout 2018, young people in more than 100 countries left their classrooms to protest climate change. This incited the now-annual climate strikes geared toward empowering the voice of the youth in demanding policy change. With several organized school and workplace walkouts from Sept. 20 to Sept. 27 in the name of justice for our planet, global recognition has already seen progress in promoting awareness for the fight against climate change. New York City public schools officially released a statement excusing the absences of students participating in those walkouts on Friday, Sept. 20, promoting not only student advocacy but faculty support in this fight.
While it is undeniable how powerful the youth movement can and will be, it would also be remiss not to comment on the infuriating control of misplaced paternalism in limiting expression and silencing voiced messages. Older generations created the base that gives youth their moral platform, yet are often patronizing, dismissive and targeting toward the messengers rather than confronting the message. This is a very active form of oppression and aversion to claiming responsibility — a “cop-out” in the face of scientific fact. It is easier to claim, of course, that children advocating for policy change have no “real life experience” rather than acknowledge the generations of indifference that have delayed a movement emphasizing the destruction of our planet, the ignorance of our policies and climate change in the scope of racial and economic inequality — and this barely even scrapes the top of a long list of injustices fueled by intentional oblivion.
Young people and their allies continually bring new life to activism, forming youth with facilitative leadership capabilities that empower all members of their organizations and communities, expand leadership and create greater sustainability. They are the community messengers, acting as cross fertilizers in organizing cultural recognition of issues and expanding awareness. They are the children of tomorrow who are expected to help see our society thrive, and they are doing incredible and severely underappreciated work.
So listen to your students, your children, your dignified members of the workforce, and instead of dissipating precious time, resources and wasted breath on quieting them, join them, teach them and empower them in helping to shape the future you hope they get to see.
To all the local Pipe Dream readers, the Binghamton Climate Strike will start at 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20 in front of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office at 15 Henry St., followed by a globally supported “climate week” — with lectures, events and other forms of activism opportunities open to the public throughout the following week.
Hannah Gulko is a senior majoring in human development.