You get a bad rap much of the time. You can be selfish, impulsive, and make really poor decisions. Also, you can be moody, lazy and flat out rude, which likely drives your parents crazy. But, all of that being said, I have to hand it to you. The voices that I’ve heard recently and ways in which I’ve watched you speak, organize, defend, motivate, and care have been very impressive. You’ve captured the attention of the entire nation, all the way to the top. Congratulations, and please don’t stop.
For many of you, it seems easy and like a no-brainer to get involved and to know which issues in particular you want to fight for. In today’s climate of #StandUp, #SpeakUp, and #NeverAgain, it can be difficult to navigate where you stand or what your involvement in these movements ought to be.
Sometimes, you might feel like you don’t even really know what’s going on, but you just go along because everyone else is doing something, or because your school is supporting something. For example, many schools actually actively planned and participated in the recent “walk-out”. Many teens fully understood what this was all about, but others didn’t really.
While it is honorable and noble to stand up and get involved in change, there are some things you should know about doing so. I’ve come up with a few tips to help you stand up, speak up and get involved.
- Don’t just blindly follow along with whatever everyone else is doing. Listen to what they have to say about what they are doing and why, but don’t allow yourself to be persuaded to agree with something that doesn’t feel right to you. Trust yourself. Not every issue will be important enough to you to fight for it. Pick those that really speak to you and that you are passionate about. Not ALL teenagers participated in the walkout. Some did it just to get out of class, others felt passionate about it, and some were really opposed to it. And that’s okay.
- Educate yourself about current events and topics in the news. Form your own views and opinions about things. Only you know what you believe in, what you feel is right or wrong, and what you would like to see changed in the world. Don’t let others tell you what you believe. The best example of this that I’ve seen recently was a video of a teenager speaking out before the walk out began. This teen pleaded for people to be kinder and stop bullying and help people by actually caring about them and being their friends. She spoke to the pain that so many people who do bad things have experienced, and expressed true passion about being part of the solution.
- Know what it is that you are fighting for. For example, the kids that organized and participated in the walk-out are fighting for better gun control laws. But what does that mean, both to the movement and to you? Some say it means that you want all of the guns in our country gone, that nobody in the U.S. would still be allowed to own any types of guns, and that the 2nd amendment would be abolished. Others think it means that you want assault rifles outlawed, better background checks, longer waiting periods, and older required age to purchase. Some people want bump stocks outlawed, or magazines with many rounds of ammunition. You can fele strongly for the case, but everyone’s opinions, goals and desires can still look different. Things don’t always have to be black or white.
You really are the future leaders of our country and of the world. Make sure your voice counts, and that you make the difference that you want to make. Participate in any and all ways that you feel comfortable with. One day soon, you will be the adults raising your own children in this society. Don’t sit idly by; rather stand up, speak up, and do everything in your power to not allow history to repeat itself in negative ways.