Seen But Not Heard: Age should not define the credibility of activists

Josie Cruzan

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More and more often, young people are actively involved in the political conversation of the United States. While young people have been actively involved in politics since Joan of Arc, teenage leadership of discussions has become the norm. As one of those teenagers involved in the political workings of my country and my community, I look up to climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Mari Copeny who are making real palpable change in the world.

However, because they have the audacity to speak up about things  the majority of adults do not realize are pressing issues, they have faced a great deal of backlash. It’s important to note this backlash is worsened by the fact that they are young people, which is completely unfounded. To argue young people should not be listened to and should be overlooked because of their supposed inexperience is both ignorant and incompetent, and only serves to show just how disconnected and behind many adults are in regards to the political climate of the 21st century. Young people have carved out permanent spaces for themselves in political discussions in recent years, and we are not going anywhere.

In addition, the number of politically involved young people across the country grows every year. According to 350.org, an organization involved with global climate strikes, recent strikes garnered 7.6 million attendees. As someone who helped to plan the Indianapolis strike on Sept. 20 and has organized and attended previous strikes, the levels of efficiency, intelligence and capability I have seen from my peers far outweigh that which I have seen from adults in the same fields.

Historically speaking, this is not a new phenomenon. As mentioned before, Joan of Arc was able to radically influence the French army. The Newsboy strike of 1899 radically changed the journalistic workforce as well as the way that New York, and by extension the rest of the country, operated in regards to the working class. To act as though teenagers are, for some reason, any less able to achieve great change as a result of taking up issues that adults either cannot or will not take up, is to blatantly turn a blind eye to what has already happened, what is happening now and what will continue to happen.

Not only that, but the vast majority of adults who are the most vocal about their unfounded disdain for people like Thunberg and Copeny, as well as other activists such as David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, are the people who are actively ignoring the issues at hand, doing nothing to help or make a change in their own way. The lack of constructiveness in their actions is exacerbated by this and  their hypocrisy. Rather than do nothing to help make the change they wish to see in the world, these adults should consider supporting the youth who are leading that change. They should consider actively working within their community to help solve problems, rather than being a part of the problem.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Josie Cruzan at jcruzan@hilite.org

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