Power to the People: The Power of Youth Activism

Article by Kirsten Fedorowicz, Opinion Editor

It’s impossible not to know about the Parkland students. In the face of the mass school shooting on February 14th, where seventeen people died, the victims of the shooting have taken to activism. From confronting politicians at town halls to powerful tweets, these teenagers have rallied under a call of #NeverAgain. They have taken control of the full political powers they, as seventeen and eighteen-year-olds, can harness.

To mixed reactions.

Many applaud these teenagers for their bravery and action in the face of their personal tragedy. Others belittle the student for the fact that they are young, and therefore “clueless” about policies and their own moral groundings.

It’s a common narrative to belittle the youngest generation. If Millennials have a bad rap, these post-2000 kids have it even rougher. They are shamed for their addictions to their phones, for being the same shallow and careless generation the Millennials are. The Parkland teenagers are using what they know, turning twitter into a place to launch battle cries. Part of what makes their activism so effective is that they are fully being themselves in it; the faces of this movement are vocal theater kids, harnessing voices already used to projecting across the auditorium.

No matter who you are, you can’t watch Emma Gonzalez give her speech “We call BS” and not value her powerful oration skills. In this speech, you can see how emotional she feels, and how she persists through her shakiness to deliver a speech that speaks to a nation.

In this essay, I have referred to the Parkland victims as “teenagers” and “kids,” and that language is part of the part of the problem. The accomplishments of the Parkland victims go beyond the accomplishments of teenagers. As a teenager, my accomplishments were becoming an all-conference athlete and graduating top ten in my class. I think, for most teenagers, that’s what constitutes an accomplishment. And that’s okay. What the Parkland victims are doing, the way they are organizing and advocating, is not an accomplishment for a teenager. It’s an accomplishment for a human being, and for all of us as a nation.

The Parkland victims are attempting to speak to a common humanity, and are expecting to be spoken to as people. To deprive them of that is to deprive ourselves of a group of genuine, hardworking individuals.

The work of these young people calls our own activism into question. Though we, as Aquinas students, are older than the Parkland victims, it’s only by a handful of years. We have lessons to learn from their empathy, their humanity. It’s time to put aside our image of what a teenager is, or should be, and listen to the voices of individuals who have endured a tragedy.  No matter what side of the political spectrum, listening to people so deeply rooted in passion and energy for humanity will revitalize your hopes for an engaged citizenship… or, at the very least, your hope in the next generation.

About the writer: 
Kirsten opinion editorKirsten Fedorowicz is a junior who is pursuing an English major with a writing emphasis and a Women’s Studies minor. She enjoys embroidering and social justice, particularly when the two are combined. 

Categories: Opinion, Uncategorized

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